Joe Lores’s long road to the Basketball Coaches Association of New York Hall of Fame began in seventh grade. The now 61-year-old ran with a rough crowd back then, prompting his father to take his 12-year-old son, already 6 feet tall, to the St. Raymond’s School gym in East Rockaway to join the basketball team.
“The coach said, ‘I want you to shoot layups,’” Lores recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ He asked me why not, and I said, ‘I don’t know what layups are.’”
Lores eventually learned the game of basketball — and learned it well. He eventually started coaching at East Rockaway High School, leading the boys’ team to 222 wins — more than any coach in school history — and five titles, including a Long Island championship when his son, Joseph, was on the team.
Lores’s success in shaping players, on and off the court, led to his Hall of Fame induction at the Glens Falls Civic Center on March 24. He became just the ninth coach in Nassau County history to receive the honor.
More than 40 family members, friends, colleagues and former players were on hand to see him inducted, including his wife, Eileen; sons Joey and Mikey; daughters Katie and Jennifer; and his brother, Jimmy, who coaches softball alongside him. Lores said he believed his late parents, Manuel and Lorayne, were looking down on him with pride that evening.
Lores became the Rocks’ head basketball coach in 1982, and stepped down after the 2016-17 season because, he said, he felt the timing was right. He turned the team over to longtime junior varsity coach Paul Collins, and Frank Altamore took on the JV coaching duties.
In addition to coaching, Lores has taught business at East Rockaway for 37 years, and will retire in June. He will continue, however, to coach the varsity girls’ soccer and softball teams in his retirement.
Recalling the time that his father took him to St. Raymond’s, Lores said he never imagined that he would be inducted into the coaching Hall of Fame. “Nobody ever thinks when they pick up a ball for the first time, nobody gives a thought to the Hall of Fame. That’s way out there,” he said. “I never thought it would happen.”
Lores graduated from Lynbrook High School in 1976 and attended SUNY Delhi for two years before transferring to SUNY Oswego and graduating with a degree in business administration. While working at Chemical Bank after graduation, he was inspired to try coaching by watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. He applied for a job as a substitute teacher in the East Rockaway School District, and later became a full-time teacher and the boys’ basketball head coach.
One of the many players Lores affected positively during his tenure was Alan Owens, who played under him in 1999 and 2000. During his senior year, Owens said, he didn’t know what direction to take in his life, and Lores urged him to follow his path and attend SUNY Delhi. While there, Owens met his future wife, Lindsay, and the couple now have six children, Shea, Oliver, Finn, Cormac, Amelia and Kane.
Lores “pointed me into the direction of college, and that changed my life forever,” Owens said. “He’ll not only be remembered as the best coach, but as the best person to come out of East Rockaway in terms of what he’s given back to the people and the community.”
Dom Vulpis, East Rockaway’s athletic director from 1995 to 2017, referred to Lores as his “right-hand man.” The many plaques, trophies and memorabilia in the athletic wing, Vulpis said, were mostly funded by Lores. Vulpis described Lores as a tough coach who sought to teach his players life lessons while holding them accountable.
“He did a lot of things behind the scenes,” Vulpis said. “He had a knack for keeping special relationships and doing special things to help others, and keeping them unsaid, not wanting any acknowledgement, but knowing that they meant a lot to somebody.”
Vulpis noted how Lores still keeps in touch with a former special education student who used to keep score during games. He recalled another student who played for Lores but had a tough home life, so the coach collected necessities and donated them to his family anonymously. In addition, Lores has hosted many fundraisers over the years for the families of former players who have died or were battling cancer and other diseases. “If there was a need, he would always want to get it done,” Vulpis said. “He was really a special guy with all that stuff.”
“I just hope that as far as the school goes, they always thought that I gave them 100 percent effort,” Lores said. “As far as my players go, I just hope they realize they’ve still got their coach if they ever need me.”