POUGHKEEPSIE — Through the years, Cairo’s Robert Piano has learned the finer points of the game of basketball from some of the best in the business.
He played for his father — recent New York State High School Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Bob Piano — at Cairo-Durham, and most recently was an assistant on legendary coach Mike Long’s staff at Hudson Valley Community College.
Piano will now get to put all of the knowledge he’s soaked up to good use as earlier this week he was named head coach of the Dutchess Community College men’s basketball team.
Piano replaces Tirek Gayle, who stepped down at the end of the 2019-20 season.
“I’m super excited about the position at Dutchess,” Piano said. “They a very well known academic institution, provide a bunch of majors for students to study and have high standards and ethics for academic success. Great location in Poughkeepsie with a nice campus and environment.
“Athletically, I think it’s a sleeping giant. Being 10 minutes from metro north and about an hour and 30 minutes from the city. The school is just waiting to be a force in the basketball world.”
Born and raised in Cairo, Coach Piano graduated from Cairo-Durham High School in 2009. After high school he played college basketball at Columbia-Greene Community College. He then continued his education and graduated from Springfield College with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management in 2014. Coach Piano started his college coaching career at Columbia-Greene Community College as an assistant men’s basketball coach in 2016.
From 2018-2020 Coach Piano served as an assistant coach at Hudson Valley Community College, where the program posted a record of 45-16 in his two seasons there.
Piano comes highly recommended by Coach Gayle.
“It’s sad to leave after the many years I served as an Assistant Coach and Head Coach at Dutchess Community College,” Gayle said. “It was an honor and a privilege to work with so many great coaches and administrators and to serve as a role model and mentor to the students while teaching them the game of basketball.
“Coach Piano is an excellent coach and a great fit for Dutchess Community College. He has a coaching pedigree; he knows the game of basketball and is an excellent recruiter. I am confident that he will uphold the philosophy of Dutchess Athletics and work diligently to build a competitive Men’s Basketball Program. I wish Dutchess Community College and Coach Piano the best in the 2021-2022 season”.
Recruiting is the backbone of any successful college basketbll program and Piano has become one of the best at it.
“I’m a big time recruiter and looking to make an impact right away with not only good players but great kids,” Piano said. “With the on-campus housing alone in the juco world, that makes such a huge difference to assist me with my recruting niche.”
Dutchess Athletic Director Matthew Paquet is excited about the hiring of Piano.
“Dutchess Community College extends a warm welcome to Coach Robert Piano. I am confident that Coach Piano will transition smoothly into the position and carry on the positive culture and winning tradition that Coach Gayle established during his time at Dutchess Community College. Our next step is to surround Coach Piano with an experienced coaching staff and begin preparations for competition in the 2021-2022 season.”
Piano won’t get to enjoy the thrill of his first game as a college basketball head coach for another nine months, but he’s already looking ahead.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach with all man-to-man principles,” Piano said. “I have no choice since I’m a coach’s son who played man for over 40 years. Do I really have an option to play anything else, defensively? But my goals aren’t based on wins or records. I want to be tops in the region in defensive field goal percentage allowed and points per game game allowed. We get it done on the defensive end in every game, everything else will follow suit.”