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Basketball coach thankful to see his sports and gay lives merge

For years high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo felt he had to keep his basketball life and his gay life separate. He's now thankful they are becoming one.

Kevin, Derek Schell, Matt Kaplon and Anthony Nicodemo.
Kevin, Derek Schell, Matt Kaplon and Anthony Nicodemo.

For the past four Novembers I have made a pilgrimage to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to catch the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic tournament. It's always nice to get away before my season goes into full swing. The weekend tends to be filled with gambling, dinner with coaching buddies, and great hoops.

This year was a little different. Since coming out 18 months ago I have developed a new network of friends. I naturally asked some of them to come hang out for the weekend and partake in the fun. It happened to work out that UMASS would be part of the event and Derrick Gordon, the first active openly gay Div. I men's player, would play two games in the tournament. It would give us all an opportunity to catch up.

A few days before the trip, while I began planning dinner reservations, it dawned on me. For the first time my past and present would meet. My new gay friends would be socializing with my longtime straight friends.

In no way did I think this would be a problem. Instead, I saw it as an important moment for me. I have become comfortable enough to want these two aspects of my life to assimilate. I want my players to know my friends. I recently invited former Hillsdale College player Derek Schell to a practice. It was great watching him interact with my players and provide feedback on the team. My players are like my sons and it felt great to have them meet one of my best friends.

On Saturday, I had Schell, his boyfriend Kevin, and current Drew University assistant baseball coach (and former player) Matt Kaplon at the dinner. Next to them were Edgemont High School Coach Joe Galgano, his son Stephen, AAU coach Joe Leone and Charlie O'Rourke, an old friend and New York City basketball fan.

Jokes were told (most involving me as the punchline), wine was drunk and many stories were shared. The generation gap didn't matter. The sexual orientation didn't matter. All eight of us had a great time. The next day we sat together at the games, watched Derrick break barriers and again had a blast.

As I reflected on the weekend's events during my drive home, I came to  realize how thankful I needed to be. For years, I was living two separate lives. I did everything in my power to make sure they stayed separate. Fear did not allow them to intersect.

In many ways I now feel cheated. For so long a whole part of my life was only shared with my boyfriend of the time, and even that was a secret. This weekend I allowed my friends to meet. Next it needs to be my family: they still have not met so many important people in my life. That's coming this week: I have invited several friends over to my family's Thanksgiving dinner. My hope is that this will fulfill something that is missing from my life, and different people will finally interact, and not by just commenting on pictures of each other on Facebook.

The cliche that is often said around this time of year is about people sharing things they are thankful for. Well, here it goes: I am thankful for being able to live an authentic life. I am thankful for the support from friends, family and players. I am thankful that all aspects of my life are becoming intertwined. Soon, I will be able to live one complete life.

You can follow Anthony Nicodemo on Twitter @SaundersHoops.