50 Years, 50 Titans: Matt Gianottis

Tonawanda Titans

We’d like to introduce you to former Titans coach, Matt Gianottis. Matt joined Titans as a coach in the early 90’s. His experience as a team swimmer combined with his talented coaching skills helped our swimmers become truly amazing athletes in the water.

Matt grew up in Willow Ridge, went to Willow Ridge Elementary, where he started swimming at age six with the Sweet Home Swim Club. His very first swim coach was Debbie Tatar at the Sweet Home Junior High School and then the incomparable Coach Steve Myers. He was a Sweet Home Swim Club kid and when John Davis was coaching the club, his wife was coaching at NCCC and the two clubs merged to form the Western Empire State Titans (WEST). Back then they used to swim at Sweet Home High School pool, the old pool with 5 lanes. During the summer, the club swam at the Clearfield Recreation Center outdoor, un-heated, pool-those mornings were pretty cold!

Matt attended Sweet Home High School 1984-88 and was on the team all four years. Back then Dick Keeney was the coach and the girls swim team coaches always helped out his team, Don Canamela and Richard Brewer. They both also coached with the Sweet Home Swim Club for a time.

After graduating from high school, Matt went on to attend St. Bonaventure, where he was a walk on member of their swim team and preceded to swim all four years there. That was a turning point for him, he learned so much about the sport and spent time during the summer months working swim camps that ultimately piqued his interest in coaching.

He coached swimming at Michigan State University from 1997 through last February when the university, unfortunately, dropped their swim the program. There were many connections from the Titans and MSU: Mike Picciulo was an assistant coach at MSU in the 80's, Kevin Hook from Ken East swam at MSU in the 80's, Scott Wilson, who coached WEST for a time in the mid 80's also swam at MSU, and MSU recruited Titan Alex Dockstader late 2000's.

Being a Big-10 swimming coach was a dream come true for Matt Gianottis. You can find him today at MSU as the Assistant Director of the Varsity Club. His wife, Eileen, also works at MSU. They met at Bonaventure and were married right out of school. In fact, they got married while he was coaching with the Titans in 1994. They have 3 children: a son, who just graduated from MSU and works in Chicago, a daughter who lives in Lansing, MI and their youngest son just started his freshman year at MSU.

 

Fun Throwback Memories Matt wanted share while coaching with Titans:

My favorite swim meet memory while at the Titans was at the Junior National meet in Ann Arbor in 1994. We had six kids qualify, along with a relay. John Cotter, who swam with the Titans was a student at Michigan. So, he was our local guide that week. That was a fun time and a fun group.

I think my all-time favorite Titans related memory though is when Mr. Poelma, Zach Poelma’s dad, asked if I wanted to come with them because they had an extra ticket for the Houston Oilers/Buffalo Bills playoff game in 1993. The game ended up being the greatest comeback in NFL history and I was in the crowd that day basically on a mooched ticket.

 

Our Q&A with Matt:

Q: When did you first join Titans?

A: Like I said, I was on the old WEST team in the 80's but I joined the new version when I graduated from college in 1992. It was my first job out of college. Those were great times for me and that summer we had a great core group of kids like Ryan O'Donnell, Jon Gellin, John, Mike and Danny Cotter, Lori Delaney, Pat and Carrie Quinlan, Patrick Burton Sara Dibble, Andy and Christine Fyda, Katie English, Zach Poelma and so many others. We also had great coaches like Anita Gelarie.

 

Q: What is your favorite memory about being a Titan?

A: My favorite memory has to be having the privilege of practicing in the Aquatic and Fitness Center and when I started there it was brand new. So that was pretty dang cool. Although managing lap lanes while running practice was a bit of a pain and running practice over the "sweating to the oldies" CD they used to play during water aerobics was a chore as well. I also thought it was pretty cool that parents would drive in from so far away and then sit in that lobby while practice went on.

 

Q: What was the one event or stroke your dreaded swimming?

A: As a swimmer, I hated the LCM 200 backstroke. As a coach, I did enjoy talking kids into becoming 400 IMer's at age 13. 

 

"Let me say that it has been great to see what Scott has been able to do with the club and he has done a million times better than I ever did. I am very proud to be part of this history and hopefully the club continues long into the future."

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