NEW PALESTINE — Sarah Gizzi won’t be leaving the gym.
She’s just moving from the sideline to spend more time in the stands.
After six seasons as New Palestine’s head girls basketball coach, Gizzi is stepping away from the program she led to six winning seasons, two sectional titles and five sectional championship game appearances. Gizzi’s teams went 98-51 overall (65.8 winning percentage) and 12-6 (66.7 percent) in the postseason.
She cited having a new position in the Southern Hancock School Corporation, and wanting to watch her sons and daughter play basketball, at both the college and high school level, as reasons for her decision.
It still didn’t make her choice an easy one.
“It was a tough decision, but I think it was the right time for me to step away,” Gizzi said. “It’s so near and dear to my heart. That’s what makes it hard.”
The coach had a lot of great memories during her time as head coach, including coaching her daughter, Isabella Gizzi, the last four seasons. Isabella became the high school’s all-time leading scorer (1,676), passing her mother (1,172) in November to become the girls’ program’s all-time leader and her brother, Maximus Gizzi (1,612), during this past sectional tournament, to be the overall top scorer.
Sarah (Haynes) Gizzi was a standout player for the Dragons, playing for current athletic director Al Cooper and graduating in 1994.
“It was so special for me to get to coach where I played,” Sarah, who was an Indiana All-Star for the Dragons and played collegiately at LaSalle, said. “To coach my alma mater was really incredible. I felt like I got to be another piece of that program, historically, and that was really special to me. I had such a good experience here as a student-athlete.”
“Her impact on our program has been huge. (Someone like Sarah) doesn’t come around that often, that kind of person, that kind of leader for your program” Cooper said. “I know she loved it and it was a difficult decision for her. We’re going to miss her leadership and what she provided for us.”
Along with coaching her daughter, she got to coach alongside her dad, Bruce Haynes, who was formerly the boys coach at NPHS. He was one of coach Gizzi’s assistant coaches.
Sarah said she plans on coming back when she can to watch the girls play, but you can bet she’ll continue to be at the gym for the Dragons’ boys games. Her son, Julius Gizzi was a sophomore on this year’s team, as was her nephew, Moses Haynes.
She’ll also be spending time during basketball season at college gymnasiums. Maximus plays at Marian University. Isabella will be a freshman women’s basketball player next school year at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
“There will be a little bit less pressure and a little less planning, but I’ll definitely be in the gym a lot,” Sarah said. “I told the girls I will be at a lot of their games, and look forward to coming back and watching them and making sure they’re doing OK.”
She added, “I was in that role of varsity coach for six years and loved it, so much of it was wonderful and positive. Anything even somewhat negative, was so far outweighed by the positives and made it really a great experience.
“With having two kids that are going to be playing in college, I wanted to make sure I could get to all of their things as much as possible. And, with Julius, being a junior next year, I just really want to make sure I can enjoy, as they move on with their careers. I am realizing the time to watch them play and be there with them is limited. I felt like, with Bella moving on, it was definitely a time for me to reflect on how I felt about continuing (coaching). It’s going to be good for our family.”
Along with the successes on the floor and to be able to coach with her father and coach her daughter, Sarah said she was proud of the relationships gained through the years with her players and other coaches. It’s among the things she’ll miss most.
“It was amazing to coach with my dad, that built in time and it was truly a gift (to coach Isabella), you could never get the gift of that much time together. It’s challenging at times, too. Overall, it was probably the most special thing you can do if you are into sports and if you are into coaching and your kids are athletes. It’s just really special.
“I enjoyed being the leader of the program, not that it’s mine, but I was proud to be known as the girls basketball coach from New Pal.”
Sarah Gizzi Year-by-Year
Six seasons;98-51 (12-6 in postseason)