Matt Wilcox is a chip off the old block.
“My mom says you are the exact same person. You look exactly like my dad, like we look exactly alike and I guess we act a lot alike.”
He’s the head lacrosse coach at Baldwinsville High school.
“The reason I coach and teach is because of my dad.”
When he took over as the head man, he had to replace Peter Fiorini, Jr.— his dad’s best friend.
“Between JV one year, Varsity 36 years, and modified four years… so, it’s a long run.”
Fiorini Jr. and Tom Wilcox coached together. Matt and his classmates were a part of Fiorini’s endless list of proteges.
“He would actually take five or six of us to the sectional championship game.”
“They grew up as young kids in a program that started when they were quote tiny tots.”
“And he would say, you know, down the road, you’re gonna play. You’re gonna play here.”
“All kids that went on to colleges and did extremely well.”
Matt was hooked. He played all four years at B-Ville and went on to play college lacrosse at Herkimer and SUNY Cortland. Once he graduated, he wanted to come right back.
“Right out of graduation, I graduated, I called coach Fiorini up.”
“What I may have never told him, is that I was hoping he would end up here at B-Ville.”
“And I said I’d love to be at varsity and he says, you’re on. You’re helping with the defense.”
At that point, it had been 20 years since a member of the Wilcox family was on the coaching staff. And the apple still didn’t fall far from the tree.
“I see a lot of Tommy in Matt, you know, the way he carries himself and the kind of competitive spirit that he has. A lot of that stems from his dad and I saw that growing up with Tommy.”
In 1989, Tom Wilcox died in a car crash at age 34. Matt was just three years old, but Fiorini Jr. remembers where he was when he heard what happened.
“That was tragic news, I was down vacationing in Maine when I got that call from Matt’s grandma.”
“And my mom was pregnant with my younger sister when my dad died. I think she was eight months pregnant. I think it was tougher for my older sister obviously because she could comprehend it. You just wish you knew him. I didn’t. My older sister got to know him; I was only three.”
So not only did Fiorini junior guide Matt through the game of lacrosse… he also guided Matt through the game of life.
“I remember me telling Karen one time or Karen asking me, I can’t remember the conversation verbatim, but you know, don’t worry about Matty. You know, I’m gonna take care of him.”
Matt may have never gotten the chance to know his dad, but Tom Wilcox’s impact on the people around him and his players was profound.
“So I’ve had people come up to me and say your dad was my favorite coach. And they tell me these stories. So to hear that, his life still goes, his life still lives on through that.”
Now, the chip off the old block is at the helm of B-Ville lacrosse and looking for his own profound impact.
“Actions speak a lot louder than words, alright? Body language is everything too, we’ve said that before.”
Matt’s first protege stuck around in Central New York after graduating— and it’s another Fiorini.
“Ever since like, little as I could be, we were going to every game at Syracuse and it was always a big dream. And in the back of my mind, I think I always knew this was the spot I wanted to go.”
After graduating from Baldwinsville in 2018, Pete Fiorini the third swapped out B-Ville’s red and white for the orange of Syracuse University… and Matt saw his potential from the beginning.
“He’s probably the hardest working player I’ve ever coached, and he’s a great kid, which makes it even better.”
“I definitely owe him a lot to my success going through high school and then transitioning into college.”
“To see him leave it was really sad. It was kind of weird at first not having him around.”
But Pete the third’s home games are just down the road from Baldwinsville— where Matt, who is still inspired by his father, is living his dream, too.
“To hear all these great stories, it made me want to be him. And I wanted to get my teaching degree because he didn’t get to do that. And I wanted to be the varsity head lacrosse coach because he coached with Coach Fiorini at B-Ville. So it definitely sparked me to be what I want to be and I’m blessed that it worked out.”
Two families, two dreams, one game.
“Hey, bees on three, one two three bees”
I’m Adam Unger, NCC News.