By Dave Brousseau
What made former boys high school basketball coach Mike Benanti special wasn’t his 575 career victories from 1973 till 2006.
He was a great history teacher, but more importantly, he was a great friend and colleague to all those he touched over the years, especially alumni from Deerfield Beach High from 1973-88.
Sadly, the Broward County coaching legend passed away on Sunday from complications due to a long illness. He was 76.
Benanti, 1961 graduate of Pompano Beach High, spent 15 years at Deerfield Beach from 1973-1988 before taking the Boyd Anderson job. In 1994, Benanti led the Cobras to the program’s only state championship in 1994.
He left Boyd Anderson in 1996 when he assumed the boys’ program at Douglas until retiring after the 2005-06 season.
He finished his career with a 575-306 record and was one of the few Broward County coaches to reach the 500-win mark.
I interviewed coach Benanti just prior to his retirement as a head coach in 2006 when I was at the Sun Sentinel.
His longevity (32 years) as a Broward hoops coach is unlikely to be duplicated. At the time he said he was hard to imagine where the time had gone since he first helped coach the Deerfield Beach Junior High team to the county championship in 1969.
“It’s not only hard to believe, the most difficult thing is I never thought the time would be so near,” Benanti said. “I always planned on coaching. I never thought I was old because I’m around kids.”
That’s because he enjoys what he does. His style is perhaps a blend of those for whom he played, such as Tucker Morris at Pompano High in 1960, and what he learned from people like Herman Pittman, whom Benanti replaced at Deerfield Beach High in 1973.
“That’s where I learned the game,” he said.
We’re not going to find too many people like Mike Benanti anymore.
“I never look at wins and losses as the determining factor,” Benanti said. “It’s sad because that’s what people want today.”
He doesn’t dwell on his personal records, because, he says, every kid he has coached “is special.”
“I don’t win the games, the kids do,” he said.
I feel like I’ve known coach Benanti all my life. My Dad used to tell me many years ago that Benanti used to bag groceries for him at the local Winn Dixie in Pompano Beach.
Upon his last days as a head coach Benanti said, “It means I’m a dinosaur to be around that long. I just want to be out and coach these kids.
Basketball has been my life and I don’t have any hobbies. I used to bag groceries when I was a kid. Maybe I can do that.”
You’ll be missed coach.