Little Falls native Don Staffo autographs one of his books for 1967 LFHS graduate Bob Daniels.
by Dave Warner
Little Falls native Don Staffo was signing his book “Jim Boeheim and Syracuse Basketball: In the Zone” at the Little Falls Public Library and Historical Society on Friday afternoon. The 376-page book has received glowing endorsements from Dick Vitale and some of Boeheim’s former SU teammates who remain his lifelong friends, among many others nationally and locally.
Staffo lives in Tuscaloosa Alabama and was in Little Falls for his class reunion, as well as the South Side reunion being held on Saturday. “When I grew up on the southside, it was predominantly Italian and it was just like a little community… self-sufficient,” said Staffo.
He said that they had everything down there. Stores, restaurants, bars, and a pool hall. “There was a lift bridge to go across the canal. It was separated by the New York Central railroad, the barge canal, and Mohawk River and it was a community separated from the City,” he said.
“I grew up with about 14-15 boys all my age and we hung out together. I graduated from Little Falls High School in 1964 and we had 113 in the class. One hundred graduated and thirteen didn’t and I was 78th in the class,” he said.
He said that he knew his class ranking because he had been invited back to be a commencement speaker in 1988 and he was curious to know his class standing. “I knew I was near the bottom but didn’t know where,” stated Staffo.
Knowing this was important to Staffo because he wanted to make a point to the students about his class standing. “I remember telling the graduating class at the end ‘Who knows, somebody in this class that everybody least expects can one day be back as a graduation speaker.”
The second part of the story was that because of his grades, he couldn’t get into any colleges, but at the time, Fulton Montgomery College was just opening up and they were taking anybody. “If you could breathe, you could get in back then,” he stated.
The first test that he had in college, he got an F minus, along with half the class. “I thought I’d be out of there by Thanksgiving, but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. It scared me and it was like a light bulb going on,” said Staffo.
From that point forward, he started studying and improved his grades. “That F minus saved me.”
Staffo went on to finish college, then get a master’s degree, and finally a Ph.D. “I’ve always said that if I had to live my life again, it would never work out the same way.”
When talking about the book he said “It took eight years to write it. It was a labor of love. I planned to publish it when Boeheim retired, but he was supposed to retire three years ago and decided he wanted to coach his kid buddy, so he wants to coach three more years.”
Syracuse legend, NBA Hall of Famer and former Mayor of Detroit Dave Bing wrote the Foreward.
Staffo said that he just couldn’t wait anymore. “Dave Bing is the greatest player to ever play at Syracuse and he’s Boehiems teammate and roommate when they were in college. He wrote the forward for the book and gave a great endorsement for it.”
Staffo has written ten books now and in listening to him, it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on slowing down any time soon. If you are interested in getting a copy of the book, you can find it on Amazon.