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Hinsdale Named Panama Girls Coach

As Falconer varsity girls basketball coach Emily Scholeno looks on, assistant coach Dennis Hinsdale yells out instructions to the players during a Section VI playoff game at Jamestown Community College earlier this year. P-J file photo

Admittedly, it was going to be hard for Panama’s athletic department to find someone to lead their girls basketball team with the resume to match Jeff Angeletti’s.

In the end, they may have done it.

Dennis Hinsdale was appointed the new varsity head coach at Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting.

Yes, that Dennis Hinsdale.

Beginning in 1990, Hinsdale served as Clymer’s junior varsity coach for 10 years and then took over the varsity reins through the 2010-11 season, during which the Pirates were one of the more successful teams in Chautauqua County.

Locked into Class D battles with neighboring Sherman, Clymer finally got over the hump in 2010 when it won a Section VI championship. After the claiming the Far West Regional, the Pirates went on to beat Coleman Catholic, 31-26, in the state semifinals and Harrisville, 49-35, in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship game for the school’s first — and only — state title.

“I was really hoping that I would get another head coaching job, but not working in a school district and being in the private sector, that was going to be tough,” Hinsdale said Tuesday morning. “It was going to have to be an ideal situation.”

Hinsdale stepped down after the 2010-11 season and spent the next two years out of the coaching field. He then joined the Falconer program before the start of the 2013-14 season and had been an assistant for head coach Emily Scholeno and the Golden Falcons until Monday’s appointment at Panama.

“When I started at Falconer, I said it was going to be as needed and as I was available,” Hinsdale said. “Once I got back in the gym, I realized how much I really missed it.”

Falconer’s success grew slowly under Scholeno and Hinsdale to the point where this past season, the Class C-1 Golden Falcons won their first sectional since claiming the Class B-2 crown in 2008.

“I’ve had a great ride at Falconer. The kids have been terrific, the coaching staff is awesome and the administration was very supportive,” Hinsdale said of his seven years with the Golden Falcons. “I really, really struggled with this decision because I really had a great opportunity there. Emily let me do a lot of things and at the end of the day I could throw my stuff in my bag and walk out of the gym.

“She’s a great coach and an even better person,” Hinsdale added of Scholeno. “I know that she’ll do great things there. They are going to be exceptionally tough this year. The girls work hard at it, they’re good kids and she’s a good coach. I’ll be their biggest supporter.”

Even with all of Hinsdale’s previous success, it may be hard to replicate the success the Panthers have achieved over the past six years under Angeletti.

Panama went 119-22 with sectional crowns in four of the six seasons and five Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 West titles under Angeletti. The Panthers went to three state Final Fours, losing in the semifinal once and the finals twice — all three times to Section X Heuvelton.

“Coaching against Panama were always the two games I looked forward to the most,” said Hinsdale, who faced off with Panama coaches Jeff Jordan and Rob Collver during his Clymer years. ” … Jeff (Angeletti) has had a really strong program. I’ve always admired his coaching style and how he gets the girls to play hard. The success they’ve had bears that out.”

This past season had the potential to be Panama’s greatest.

The team went 18-2 in the regular season en route to winning another CCAA Division 2 West title. The Panthers’ only losses came to Section VI Class C-2 finalist Franklinville, led by Canisius College-bound Dani Haskell, and Section VI Class A champion Williamsville South, led by junior Amari DeBarry, who has verbally committed to UConn.

“My only hope is that I continue those years of successful basketball,” Hinsdale added, “and we get to the end of the year having a shot.”

Panama then beat Clymer and Sherman in the Class D playoffs for their fourth sectional title in six years before the coronavirus pandemic ended their season prior to the Far West Regionals.

“When I get home from vacation I’ll have to make an appointment with a podiatrist to get my feet enlarged,” Hinsdale joked. “I have some really big shoes to fill.”

NOTES: Nicole Johnson, a 2017 Panama graduate, was appointed the girls junior varsity coach at Monday’s meeting. Johnson played three seasons for Angeletti, reaching the state final as a sophomore and a junior. She then played two seasons at Jamestown Community College. She averaged 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as a freshman and 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore for head coach Travis Wells.

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