Cigliano stepping down as CSCC men's basketball coach

Cigliano stepping down as CSCC men's basketball coach

Cleveland Daily Banner
Monday, October 11, 2021 12:00 AM
Press Releases, All, Community, Athletics

Lee Cigliano  Rafael Howard

The following article was published by the Cleveland Daily Banner on Sunday, October 10.


For the last 25 years, Lee Cigliano has been a fixture on the sidelines as he guided the Cleveland State Community College men's basketball team. Now, after a very successful career as head coach of the Cougars, Cigliano has decided to pass the torch to assistant coach Rafael Howard.
“I want to congratulate Coach Cigliano on an outstanding career and thank him for his dedication and commitment to the men’s basketball program the past 25 years. He led the program with integrity and was a mentor to his players," said CSCC Director of Athletics Mike Policastro. "Over his 25 years as the Cougars head coach, Lee has established himself and his teams as always being well prepared and playing with a competitive spirit. He led the Cougars to success during his career with TCCAA Division Championships, Region VII Championships, and NJCAA National Basketball Championship in 2019."
Recently, CSCC sat down with Cigliano to get his feelings on stepping down as Cougars' head coach and his thoughts on an impressive career.
CSCC: How do you feel about closing this chapter of your career?
LC: It is a bitter-sweet feeling in that I have been on the court or sideline either coaching or playing for 41 out of my 55 years of life. Leaving that is somewhat like leaving a lifelong friend, and all of the things associated with them. I share a similar feeling in retiring from Cleveland State. To spend the last 25 years coaching 25 different teams is a lot of investment emotionally. However, to be able to get to this point in my life where I can retire with benefits and hopefully continue to work doing something else is a good feeling. 
CSCC: What do you like most about your career in sports and working for CSCC? 
LC: Cleveland State gave me an opportunity to grow as a coach and I will always be thankful for that. In coaching, I enjoyed working with a new group of individuals at the beginning of each year and seeing how much progress we made by the end of the year. More often than not we were a better team by the end of the year. I enjoyed being part of a team for four years in high school, two years at the four-year college level, and 25 years at the junior college level. To be a part of an exciting game in which we won and sharing in the jubilation in the locker room is a unique feeling that I’m not sure I could experience anywhere else. 
CSCC: What are your plans for retirement?
LC: I really don’t look at this as a retirement from employment because I intend to continue working, hopefully at something purposeful. I still have three teenagers at home who I would like to spend more time with and this will also give me more time to spend with my parents. I’m glad I will have that opportunity. 
CSCC: How much experience do you have in your sports career? 
LC: I played four years of high school and four years of college basketball. I coached four years at the high school level — one year as an assistant and three years as a head coach. I coached two years as an assistant at the four-year college/university level — one year at the University of the Cumberlands (NAIA) and one year at Western Carolina University (NCAA D-I). I coached 25 years at Cleveland State Community College as the head coach.
Although I did not work in athletics directly, I did work in recruitment at Middle Tennessee State University for two years. All-in-all, I worked 33 years in education, either at the middle school, high school, or college/university level. I also had the good fortune to conduct basketball camps/clinics in the Bahamas four different summers and I served as an assistant coach for an Athletes in Action (AIA) basketball team which toured and ministered in South America, playing teams from Argentina and Brazil.
CSCC: What do you see as the best part of being a coach? 
LC: Perhaps the greatest feeling is when a past player comes back to see me and expresses what a difference their experience at Cleveland State has made in their life.
List of Accomplishments:
• Won the TCCAA East Division Championship twice — 1998 and 2021
• Advanced to the NJCAA Region 7/TCCAA State Championship game four different times — 2007, 2009, 2019, and 2021.
• Won the NJCAA Region 7/TCCAA Championship in 2019.
• Qualified for the NJCAA National Tournament in 2019; won a first-round game defeating Casper College (Wyoming) which was 32-2 and ranked sixth in the country. 
• Led Cleveland State as the only 24th seed and the only Cleveland State men's team to ever win a game in the National Tournament — defeating a ninth seed.  
• Named the District 7 Coach of the Year in 2019 and named the TCCAA East Division Coach of the Year in 2021.
• More than 60 players in Cleveland State's program transferred on scholarship to a four-year college or university.
• Finished with 349 career wins.
"Perhaps my greatest accomplishment was earning my Ed.D in Educational Leadership from East Tennessee State University during my tenure at Cleveland State," Cigliano noted.
Policastro called Cigliano "a positive role model for his players and wanted to see success for his players off the court when they left Cleveland State."
"I truly believe that the players benefited from being involved in our men’s basketball program," said Policastro. "He is leaving the program on solid ground, we feel the future of Cleveland State basketball will have success for years to come. We wish coach Cigliano success in his future endeavors.”
Policastro will turn the head coaching reins over to Cougars assistant coach Rafael Howard, who has 22 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level as head assistant men's basketball coach and head men's and women's basketball coach.
He attended Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois, where he received a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 1992.
"Cleveland State Athletics is happy that we have the opportunity to elevate CSCC men's assistant coach Rafael Howard to the head men's basketball coach. Coach Howard has been with the program the past eight years as an assistant working with Coach Cigliano in all facets of the basketball program. He knows the conference and what it takes to be successful," Policastro said of the new Cougars coach. "He is an outstanding person who will be a great addition to our program. With the opening happening during the season and Coach Howard being on staff, we feel that we will have a seamless transition going into this season. I look forward to working with Coach Howard as he leads the men’s basketball program."
Exceptional recruiter, skilled motivator and strong leader are just a few of the words most often used by his peers to describe Howard. With more than two decades of experience in coaching, teaching and mentoring athletes, he has established a stellar reputation as an exceptional leader in basketball programs across the country. Through years of dedication to the sport and athletes, Howard has a proven track record in evaluating, recruiting and leading young talent from the high school level through the professional ranks.
In his current role as the assistant men’s basketball coach at Cleveland State, Howard leads a program through accountability, mentoring, and motivation to achieve winning results. During the 2018-2019 season, he helped lead the school to a conference championship and its first trip to the NJCAA national tournament in 30 years. He also recruited 2019 conference tournament MVP Delanio Walker, who signed to play at NCAA Division II Tiffin University.
He has had success moving players on to several four-year universities including Morgan State University, East Tennessee State University, University of North Alabama, Cameron University, West Texas A&M University, University of Southern Indiana, University of Pikeville, and University of the Cumberlands.
Coach Howard is a native of Detroit, Michigan, where he was born and raised in a loving family who developed his strong character, ethics and strong moral code. He learned at a young age the value of hard work and the meaning of success. His journey to success led him to Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois, where he achieved success in both athletics and academics and discovered his true passion to coach athletes in basketball and inspire others to greatness. 
Howards' first coaching position came a year after college. Cardinal Stritch University, an NAIA Division I school, was his first job. He grew his career and expanded his path to success as a respected basketball leader at several schools including interim head women’s basketball coach and assistant men’s basketball coach at Volunteer State Community College and head men’s basketball coach at College of Lake County. He found a natural ability to identify athletic talent and potential for success, earning him the reputation as an innovative and creative recruiter, motivator, and teacher.

Partners & Initiatives

  • Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator
  • America's SBDC Tennesseey
  • Your Skills. Your Future.
  • OneSource
  • Cleveland State Sustainability Initiative
  • TBR The College System of Tennessee
  • TN eCampus
  • Tennessee Transfer Pathway