High School Coach
Frank Lombardo, who recently completed his 25th season at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, is one of the most successful girls' basketball coaches in Connecticut history, earning his 500th career victory on Jan. 3, 2018. Even Frank didn't realize the amount of success he would claim with the Crusaders. Under Frank, Holy Cross has won 12 Naugatuck Valley League championships and 12 NVL tournament titles. The Crusaders have been to the state semifinals eight times and to the state final four times, winning the Class M championship in 2007 with a 67-58 victory over Career. Frank, also a Holy Cross graduate, had a career record of 514-86 entering the 2018-19 season, ranking him seventh on the state's all-time wins’ list among girls' basketball coaches.
"The goal was to take over the girls' program, get some experience as a head coach and then move over to the boys when Mr. (Ed) General retired," Frank told the Waterbury Republican-American following his 500th win. "I think Mr. General stayed another 30 years. But even if he stayed another three to four more years, I don't think I would have moved to the boys. I enjoy teaching and coaching the fundamentals. I think my strength as a coach is what I do in practice with the girls. We really work as a team and build through fundamentals. Right now, this is the right spot for me."
Frank's advice when it comes to basketball is "be passionate and be patient." He was introduced to the sport at a young age by his parents and went on to play for coach Tim McDonald at Holy Cross, graduating in 1985, as well as for coach Martin Schaefer at Connecticut College. At Conn College, Frank was a three-year starter, captain and named Most Valuable Player during his senior season. He returned to serve as an assistant under Schaefer and coached fifth- and -sixth-grade boys' basketball at the middle school level before returning to Holy Cross as the boys' junior varsity coach under General.
"I loved playing and was given an opportunity to coach and it became my passion," said Frank, a math teacher at Holy Cross. "It gives me an opportunity to work with kids. I was fortunate enough to have influential people in basketball at a young age that impacted my life.
"Try each year to motivate the players to be the best they can be," Frank said of his goals in the game. "Be a role model for all players. Be someone that when the players graduate from your program, they feel they are a part of your family."
Frank lists the 2007 season as one of his career highlights and for good reason. The Crusaders finished 26-0 with the Class M title, earning the state's No. 1 ranking in both the New Haven Register and Hartford Courant. That season, Holy Cross was named Connecticut Sun Team of the Week and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Team of the Year. Frank was honored as 2007's New Haven Tap Off Club Coach of the Year and New Haven Register Coach of the Year. He was recognized with a CIAC Merit Award in 2012 and was named 2013 Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Coach of the Year, was a national coach of the year finalist in 2013, and was inducted into the New Haven Tap Off Club in 2017. Frank also led his teams to state finals in 2002, 2006 and 2017. Of the 38 Crusader players who have gone on to play in college, four players competed at the Division I level in college.
Frank and his wife Cheryl, who live in Watertown, have three children, Nicolette, Isabella and Brady. - "My parents have supported me throughout my life as a player and as a coach," he said. "I would not be who I am without them."