Twenty-four games up and down the East Coast
By Dominick Pfisterer
The Syracuse Stallions are set to tip-off its third season in April.
The Stallions compete in The Basketball League (TBL) — a minor professional league giving players an opportunity to further their basketball careers and allows cities an opportunity to house a professional team.
The Stallions are coming off of a successful 2019-2020 campaign where the team held a 19-2 record, good for the No. 1 seed heading into the American Basketball Association (ABA) playoffs before the season was unfortunately cut short due to the novel coronavirus.
The previous year, the Stallions reached the National Final Four in its inaugural season.
This continued success has given team president, general manager and owner Mike Sugamosto much to be excited about heading into the 2021 season — the third year of the team’s existence. The Stallions were also recently promoted from the ABA to the TBL this offseason.
“We are excited to be in the TBL because we know the competition will be tough,” Sugamosto said. “We want to compete and know we can win.”
The Stallions have tallied a lot of wins in its first years but prides itself in its effectiveness, described by Sugamosto, by seeing players next move on to professional leagues in Australia, Morocco and Puerto Rico.
Sugamosto attributes the early success of the Stallions to the way he and the coaches run the organization in a player-friendly manner.
Some of the ways that Sugomosto has taken care of his players include bringing in motivational speakers while also providing financial literacy courses to protect them from the dangers associated with financial illiteracy.
“We want the players to have a good time first and foremost,” Sugamosto said. “We want to take the best care of our players, as well. I run the team with the mindset of what type of environment would I want to play in? We want the players to develop on and off the court. In year two we saw our fan base grow about 60% from year one and we expect that to continue to grow as we continue our success as an organization that cares about its players and community.”
Perhaps there is no better way to run a team that has a players-first priority than to have the head coach be a former player himself. While head coach Nick Perioli has played for the Stallions, his professional experience reaches all the way from Denmark to the Dominican Republic, and he has established connections all over Europe and even into Vietnam.
Through his connections he has helped players reach their goals of playing professional basketball. A key factor into why the Stallions are able to attract top talent year in and year out.
“Players that have played for us want to come back, and we attract new players every year,” Sugamosto said.
When asked about the early success in the team’s history, coach Pierioli referred to it as a “doubled-edged sword,” saying that the team cannot survive living off of past success. That being said, there are still plenty of reasons to why he and the staff are excited about the upcoming season.
“To have the group that we have to choose from going into the season is pretty exciting,” Perioli said. “I’m sure most teams would trade places with us so they could pick guys like we got to pick.”
Perioli and Sugamosto hold tryouts for the team each year; this year from Feb. 4 through 6. While some players have returned to the Stallions in previous years, there is a large amount of roster turnover experienced. To combat the lack of roster continuity, coach Perioli emphasized his role of being the “glue guy,” as if he was playing.
“The first thing I do is be the guy that brings it together,” coach Perioli said. “I have been very clear about attitudes. There have been guys that played for us last year that we did not invite to tryout this year. If they are not on board with what we are trying to do, then we need to make changes.”
The Stallions practice at the East Fayette Boys & Girls Club and play its games at Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central. Due to COVID-19 restrictions not allowing the presence of fans at games, Stallions games can be watched on the live stream found on the team’s website.
Excitement builds with every snowflake that falls across the city of Syracuse, the players and coaches ready to lace it up and compete. While the season does not begin until April and practice does not start until March, the team assures its fans of two things.
“We want the people to know that the Stallions will be back,” Sugamosto said. “A national championship is on the mind and that is what we are working towards.”
Dominick Pfisterer is a Newhouse School graduate student