Cherie Pizzano, the Hall of Fame coach of the Linden High School bowling team, is retiring at the end of the 2021-22 winter season after 22 years of coaching the Tigers on the alleys.
Pizzano was surprised with a party in her honor at Jersey Lanes in Linden after the team’s final regular season match on Wednesday, Feb. 9. The party was organized by the parents of the bowlers, whose love for their coach was evident.
“It’s been a heck of a week for me emotionally,” Pizzano said at the party. “Since I was a little girl, all I’ve done was sports. My grades were first, sports second. I can’t tell you what it’s meant for me in my life to coach at Linden High School between softball and bowling for 28 years.”
The party guests included the current bowling team and many of their parents, as well as bowlers and parents from the past; Pizzano’s parents, two sons, and boyfriend; and Linden High School Principal Yelena Horré and Athletic Director Steven Viana.
“The relationships I have in the room here with you guys and the things that we’ve been through are just unforgettable,” Pizzano told her guests. “I pray and hope that I’ve impacted your life as much as you’ve impacted mine.”
The parents gave Pizzano a going-away present of a statue of a bowling ball striking two pins with the inscription “Thank you for all the wonderful years of coaching! Love your bowling family!” on the base.
Pizzano was selected for the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019, becoming just the sixth Linden coach selected and the first woman from Linden.
Pizzano’s résumé as bowling coach is impressive since taking over the program in 2000. The Tigers won sectional titles in 2005, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018; Union County titles in 2003, 2005, 2015, 2018, 2019; and Watchung Conference titles in 2004, 2005, 2015, 2018, and 2020. Her team had an amazing 43-match winning streak that stretched from 2017 to 2019.
The highpoint for the team came when it won the statewide Group 3 championship in 2020, becoming only the second Linden bowling team to win a state championship.
Individually, Pizzano was named Star-Ledger Bowling Coach of the Year for North Jersey Section 2 three years in a row, 2003-05, and NJSCA Bowling Coach of the Year in 2007. Pizzano also coached softball at LHS from 1994 to 2010.
“When Coach first told us that she was contemplating retiring, I just said, ‘No, we’re not allowing it,’” Viana joked at the party. “We can’t replace a Hall of Fame coach, but for all her years of service, we cannot say thank you enough.”
Pizzano will continue in her job as a special education teacher of history at LHS.
“I have so many amazing memories and the hardest thing for me was to walk away,” she said.
“It’s the culmination of my coaching career, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to send off. And it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. You know where my classroom is. I’m always going to be here for you.”