Carl Serrani: Westside's man for all seasons

Carl Serrani (Robert Layman / Staff Photo)

Most people around southern Vermont picture Carl Serrani as the guy on the West Rutland girls basketball team’s bench, masterminding his way to more than 250 victories and a couple of state championships. Others, who follow softball more closely, might visualize the guy in the dugout who coached the Golden Horde to a softball state crown in 2017. He might have seemed out of place to many as he was navigating the riding mower over the West Rutland High School soccer field Monday. Or putting down the lines on that field on Tuesday, meticulously getting it ready for the players who will begin practices next week. But Serrani loves soccer. Putting the finishing touches on the field this week was part of his job as a school custodian but it also was tinged with the excitement of the rapidly approaching season. “I love soccer. I think it is one of the best games,” Serrani said after shutting off the mower to take a few minutes to talk. Serrani played football at West Rutland before graduating in 1977. “I think I would have played soccer if we had it then,” the 60-year-old coach said. He runs the clock for every boys and girls home soccer game. He recently resigned as the Golden Horde’s softball coach. His wife Laurie, once the head softball coach at Proctor, will succeed him and Carl will still help out with the team. He resigned because he didn’t give himself a very high grade. “I don’t feel like a did a good job last year,” he said. “I didn’t put my best effort into it. I ask the kids for their best effort and I didn’t give mine. The passion wasn’t there.” But the passion is still there for basketball. Never doubt that. Serrani said he will probably have to be carried out of the gym. He loves the games. He loves the gym. And he loves the practices. He loves everything about basketball. “I go to a ton of clinics. I go to every clinic I can get to,” Serrani said. “I’ve learned a lot about the game and I have learned a lot about kids.” He has been coaching basketball a long time, which prompts an obvious question: Have the kids changed? “Kids to me never change,” Serrani said. “They are a product of what they are taught. It’s not the kids who have changed. It’s the parents who have changed. “They say that kids today are lazy or that they feel entitled. If they feel entitled, it is because they are entitled at home. Why wouldn’t they think that?” He has been a School Board member in West Rutland and it seems to younger people that the marble building that houses the town’s students has always been his home. It hasn’t. He operated Westside Press, a printing business, for 25 years. “I couldn’t keep up with technology,” he said of his reason for getting out of the business. That helped bring him to girls basketball. He took the reins of the program in 1999. Serrani guided the Golden Horde to Division IV state titles in 2006 and 2010. When they beat Canaan 51-41 in the championship game in 2006, Serrani wasn’t part of the wild celebration on the floor of the Barre Auditorium. When the final buzzer sounded, he ran out the door and sat on the steps leading to The Aud’s ground floor. “That was just a feeling of relief,” he said of that first state crown. “And I always felt that the celebration was for the kids.” He counts the state championship of 2016 as his softball highlight. But it’s not the two state titles that he is most proud of in basketball. It is the fact that the program has been a consistent winner, making annual pilgrimages to the Final Four at the Barre Auditorium. The Westside girls have made the trip to Barre the last seven years and have been to the championship game the last three seasons. “That is what I am most proud of; that we have built a heck of a basketball program. We are consistently in the top four and make it to Barre. We don’t always win it, but you’ve got to be at the dance before you hear the music,” he said. Serrani figures he has had 11 players going on to play college basketball including three from one family — sisters Morgan, Taylor and Brooke Raiche all played for Castleton University. This past season, all three were on the floor at the same time. If the Golden Horde wasn’t playing, Carl and Laurie were in the stands at Castleton. It is a very family oriented program with son Matt on the Westside coaching staff and Laurie keeping the scorebook. “The reason Laurie started keeping the book is that she didn’t want to listen to the parents in the stands,” Carl said. He and Laurie promote the family atmosphere and the team has been seen eating together at the West Rutland restaurant Sweet Caroline’s. He is proud that one of his former players had him give her away at her wedding — Rina Girard, now Rina Shahan. His own daughter Ali Serrani, also one of his former players, will be married Oct. 6 on the eighth hole of the Milestone Golf Course, which she and her future husband Brad Mitchell own in Hampton, New York. Basketball extends far beyond the season for Carl Serrani. Many of the Golden Horde players compete for him in AAU basketball during the summer and attend the Castleton team camp. “We play about 40 basketball games after the season is over,” Serrani said. It’s about getting the soccer field ready, then operating the clock when the games begin, then coaching in gymnasiums throughout Vermont during the cold winter and more basketball through the heat of summer. Will Serrani ever hop off this merry-go-round? He is, after all, not that many years from retirement age. “When I do retire, I think I’ll continue to coach even if it is not at the varsity level,” Serrani said. A fixture on the sidelines with no plans to leave, Carl Serrani is as West Rutland as the marsh or the carving studio. Follow Tom on Twitter @RHSportsGuy tom.haley@rutlandherald.com

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