One of Western New York’s most well-known high school basketball coaches died Tuesday after a long illness.
Archie O’Bryan was a legendary figure for more than three decades at Iroquois High School in Elma, where he served as gym teacher and boys basketball coach.
He built one of the top basketball programs in the region and holds most Iroquois basketball coaching records, including the winningest team in Chiefs history (A record of 22-3 in 1999). His early 2000s teams won more than 60 straight league games.
He preached defense, conditioning, discipline and sportsmanship and he embraced a “team above self” mentality modeled after Bobby Knight’s title-winning squads at Indiana University.
But O’Bryan, 64, was known for more than just his coaching.
He had a dry sense of humor, a quick wit and a willingness to back up his students through hard times -- even going to bat for them against the referees and helping them through off-court struggles.
His physical presence commanded respect but masked a soft heart and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
He believed that sports were a way to teach life lessons but always urged students to keep athletics in perspective. He kept tabs on all his students’ academic progress and forbid players to practice or suit up for games unless their grades were satisfactory.
He retired from coaching a few years ago but he passed on the tradition to his son, Erik, who coaches boys basketball at Niagara-Wheatfield.
A wake will be held Friday and a funeral will be held Saturday but details are unclear at this time.