He was hard-working and tough. He was somebody who never backed down from a challenge. He was as subtle as a sledge hammer.
His teams reflected all those traits. They were his mirror image.
And they won - a lot.
Nick Tagliaferri resigned as the Hughesville High School boys varsity basketball coach Tuesday. He does so after turning a former doormat into a state power. He does so after completely transforming the program's image.
"Hughesville basketball has been my entire adult life. It's been the biggest part," Tagliaferri said. "It's just time for me to put my energy into other things. I love it. I'll miss it."
Tagliaferri was hired when he was 21. He had been coaching in some capacity since he was 16, but after playing collegiately at Lycoming, Hughesville was his first varsity position. He did not stop coaching and working until Tuesday. There might be teams that outplayed Hughesville at times, but nobody outworked it or its coach.
Before Tagliaferri, Hughesville barely won anything.
After he arrived, Hughesville won at a highly frequent rate. It almost did the unthinkable in 2009, reaching the state's Final 4 and nearly winning a state championship. The Spartans captured four District 4 Class AA championships, three conference titles and won 184 games. Brian Gerney and Rezin Davis also became the program's first all-state players.
It was a script that likely would have been thrown out if pitched to a movie producer in 2002.
Tagliaferri is gone but his legacy will remain. Hughesville now knows what it takes to be a champion. Its players, whether all-staters or reserves who see little time, know what it takes to be a man. Tagliaferri showed them how.
When Tagliaferri arrived prior to the 2002-03 season, Hughesville was coming off a four-win season. The first time I covered the Spartans that year they lost a hard-fought game to an outstanding Lewisburg team. I thought it was a moral victory.
There were no such things as moral victories anymore. Tagliaferri had a plan and he was about to change the program's culture forever. He took part in every aspect of the program, from the elementary level through varsity, and quickly things turned around.
By 2005, Hughesville was back in the playoffs, a 15-win team. By 2006, it was District 4 champion for the first time. That began a statewide best six-year run of state tournament appearances.
The 2007 team needed to replace the top six players from the defending district champion. That Hughesville again reached states spoke volumes. Tagliaferri was producing winners at all levels and when they reached varsity they did not hope to win, but expected to achieve greatness.
Tagliaferri helped Hughesville keep raising the bar. It won another district title in 2008 along with its first state playoff game. A year later, the Spartans reached the state's Final 4 and gave eventual state champion Imhotep a serious scare. Two more district championships followed in 2010 and 2011 and those teams won three more state playoff games.
The 2011 team shocked many in District 4 except itself, winning the title as a No. 6 seed, while beating three teams that defeated it early in the season.
That team displayed two staples that Tagliaferri's teams always did. They played tough, feared no one and grew better as the season progressed, playing their best basketball at the perfect time.
No District 4 team came close to matching Hughesville's statewide success from 2008-11. The Spartans went 7-6 during that time and were the district's only team to reach the quarterfinals, doing so twice. They also won at least one state playoff game in four straight seasons.
"The things we did in the offseason and scheduling-wise changed a lot about basketball in District 4 and the Heartland Conference. We brought a lot of notice to this area for statewide voters. I'm very proud of our state playoff record and that we did it with all kids who were developed at Hughesville since elementary school."
Hughesville missed the playoffs in 2012, but returned last year and nearly upset Bloomsburg in the opening round. The team is loaded with promising talent, so Tagliaferri leaves the incoming coach in good shape.
Tagliaferri was so skilled at bringing everything he could out of all his players. He was tough on them but they loved him for it. They would run through a wall for him.
Those players knew Tagliaferri was doing all he could to help them become better players and people and they thanked him through the way they played. They never stopped and never quit. They were like the man himself.
Tagliaferri always talked about Hughesville boys basketball being a family. Once you were a part of it, you were a lifetime member. There was nothing Tagliaferri would not do for past or present players.
"I'm most proud of our players and how hard they worked at the game and how good they were in the classroom and the kind of young men they were," Tagliaferri said. "Many of them I'm thankful to have as friends now."
Look back to 2002 when Tagliaferri was hired. Many would have laughed at Tagliaferri's vision. The family did not look too strong. Hughesville a basketball power? No way. Tagliaferri and his teams had the last laugh.
Look at the wins and the way Hughesville won. Look at how hard the players played and how they always put the team first.
What a family Tagliaferri created.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org