Cleveland State is Not Just a Job for Cigliano

Coach Lee Cigliano

Cleveland State is Not Just a Job for Cigliano

Holly Vincent
Monday, October 10, 2016 8:41 AM
Athletics, All, Employees

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - For Basketball Coach Lee Cigliano, Cleveland State Community College is not only his job, it’s home. Cigliano was raised at CSCC. Father Jim Cigliano was the third employee hired at CSCC and worked there for almost 40 years before retiring from the college in 2005, so Lee has been around the college his whole life.
There is a picture hanging in the James M. Cigliano Cougar Room of Lee as a child in front of the L. Quentin Lane Gymnasium on campus when he was only three or four years old. At that time, there was a road in front of the gym that was still gravel. For Cigliano, CSCC has always been a part of his life.
“I remember Dr. Adkisson, the first president very well,” stated Cigliano. “I remember all of the people who were there in the beginning—Dr. Mathis, Ray Coleman, Quentin Lane. I can remember laughing with them and running around and playing in their offices as a child.”
He vividly remembers walking to CSCC after middle school with his rental saxophone in his case. He remembers being a CSCC student in the 80’s, working there three summers on the grounds in maintenance before returning to work full-time as Men’s Basketball Coach in 1996 where he has been ever since!
The name “Cigliano” is synonymous with Cleveland State, and Lee has grown used to being asked about his dad.
“I’m proud that my dad is so well-respected and well-liked in the community,” stated Cigliano. “The first thing I usually hear when I see someone that is older than me or worked at CSCC is, ‘How’s your dad doing?’”
Cigliano continued, “My dad was a pioneer for the college. When he retired, the college lost an advocate for students in a way that is not easily replaceable. He is someone who appreciated the history of CSCC and had built a lot of relationships over the 38 years he was there, but I feel like the leadership since then has done a great job in trying to build new relationships—in particularly, the last two years, to make CSCC more visible in our community.”
When asked about his fondest memory of Cleveland State, Cigliano did not hesitate to answer, and his memory did not really have to do with him, but more of his dad.
“I can clearly remember being little and standing in the kitchen at home when my dad got the call from Dr. Adkisson letting him know that he had been promoted from Director of Admissions to the Dean of Students. I remember him saying thank you over and over—thanking him for the promotion and thanking him for his confidence in him. I was probably 7 or 8 years old at the time. I’m not really sure why I remember that, but I do. It was a big deal at the time.”
According to Cigliano, growing up in a gym played a huge role in his life. “I have been very fortunate throughout my life to have had some great coaches along the way,” stated Cigliano. “At CSCC, I played for Dan Trotter. We had two really successful seasons, and I was glad to be a part of that team. I learned a lot, and it was a great experience. He had a great influence in my life. Rick Byrd at Belmont was another great coach for me. I also worked under some great coaches at the University of the Cumberlands and Western Carolina University.”
Cigliano said he has seen a lot of changes in the 20 years he has been with the college. “There wasn’t internet like there is now or social media. Now, we are live streaming our games through the website, and that’s very different. Each year, it’s different.”
Cigliano has had hundreds of players throughout the years, but over the past couple of years, he has received a lot of phone calls from his former players who are just checking in to say hello.
“It feels really good when you hear that your players go on to be successful. I enjoy hearing from them; that really means a lot to me. Even though I know I made a lot of mistakes over the years, and I didn’t always do things perfectly all the time, maybe there was something I did that was right that makes these guys call back…my wife and I adopted three children nine years ago, and as a parent, I think it has made me see students differently. I’d like to think it has made me a better coach. It has definitely made an impact on me. I’m better at some things than when I first got here.”
Some of the players Cigliano keeps in touch with are from the 1997-1998 team, the year the team won the TJCCAA East Division Championship. This was just his second year of coaching, and he guaranteed his players if they won that he would shave his head and get a buzz cut, and also pierce his ear! So, when they won, Cigliano did just that! He sported both a buzz cut and an earring for a while, and claims he’d do both again if CSCC could win another championship!
When he took the job at CSCC over 20 years ago, Cigliano never expected to be there this long, but according to him, it just worked out that way.
“When people ask me about CSCC, I have nothing but positive things to say. What CSCC says it will do, it does—it trains and prepares students to take the next step. I feel we have been doing that very well for the last 50 years, and I think we will continue to do that for the next 50 years.”

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