When young, high school athletes join a team, they want two things success and love. It's actually pretty simple. The Saunders High School basketball team has been blessed with both.

Anthony Nicodemo has led the Saunders Blue Devils to a historic berth into the "Final Four" of New York section basketball. This matters a lot.

Just a few years ago, the Saunders Blue Devils were an average team at best. There was lots of talent in the halls, no purpose, no goals, no hope. Things changed when Nicodemo was hired. He may have seen the talent, he may have not.

What I do know is that Saunders basketball and Anthony Nicodemo were both lifted to new heights by the beauty that sports bring to us all.

Nicodemo's true engineering of the Blue Devils began when he learned to love himself. Any coach knows that in order to build a successful team, honesty, trust and love are non-negotiable. It took years for Nicodemo to find that, but he eventually did.

Anthony's journey to accept who he was began in 2013.

What is evident in the success of the Saunders Basketball team is that they have become a family. Families are never allowed to select who belongs. They are born. Athletes don't choose their coach. Coaches often never have the luxury of choosing who shows up to the first practice. Families and teams are stuck with each other.

Some families work. Some don't.

Some teams work. Some don't.

The Saunders family works and Nicodemo is the foundation for that success.

For those who know Anthony, they know that he is quite the personality. He is outspoken, confident, loud and sometimes abrasive – all the ingredients of a great coach.

While I did not know him before he came out, I doubt that many of the attributes that have catapulted his team to success were evident. I would bet that they were buried deep in side a closet somewhere.

The love that he now has of himself is a vital tenet of his team and all that his players and community see in everything that has been accomplished.

And now the Blue Devils are on to the "Final Four". Let us all celebrate the success of a great team, family and coach as they continue their journey to what we all want: success and love. Regardless of the outcome, Saunders has both.

Anthony's closet has become a ballroom. Let us all dance.

Edited by Cyd Zeigler

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