Rob Kornaker, who has guided the St. John Fisher College men’s basketball team for nearly two decades, has announced his decision to step down as head coach of the Cardinals following one of the most successful coaching stints in the College’s history.
“Looking back at the last 20 years here at Fisher, I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience for me and my family,” said Kornaker. “All four of us grew up here! I want to thank Athletics Director, Bob Ward, for not only for the opportunity to coach here 17 years ago, but his friendship and guidance as well. I also want to thank President Rooney. His support throughout the years has been unmatched.”
Kornaker, who took over the team leading into the 2001-02 season, has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in Fisher history, and in all of Division III. Kornaker, who became the program’s all-time leader in coaching victories in 2017, owns a 318-126 record (.716 winning percentage) and has led Fisher to seven Empire 8 Conference titles during his time on the sidelines. His winning percentage lands him among elite company as he ranks 14th all-time in Division III with coaches that have at least five years on the bench.
A nine-time Empire 8 Coach of the Year honoree, Kornaker, who was just the third coach in the team’s prolific history, brought the Cardinals to new heights. Under his guidance, Fisher reached the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship eight times and advanced to the second round or better seven times overall. He coached the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 four times during his career and took Fisher all the way to the Elite 8 in 2006 after defeating both Norwich University and Utica College.
During his time at Fisher, Kornaker posted nine seasons with at least 20 wins and set a program record with 28 victories during the 2005-06 (28-1) season as the Cardinals entered the NCAA Championship as the only unbeaten team in Division III. Furthermore, from 2002-07, his teams posted five straight 20-win campaigns and amassed 121 victories in that span.
“Coach Kornaker has been an outstanding employee of the College for the past two decades,” commented Bob Ward who has served as the College’s Athletics Director for over 30 years. “He will be truly missed. He has been an employee of the Athletic Department but more importantly a friend. In his dominant role of being the head men’s basketball coach for the past 16 years Rob has been outstanding. His qualities are universal in all successful coaches and people. Qualities like being a competitor, having a great work ethic, evaluating talent, keeping things simple, knowing when to push the players and when not to, being extremely loyal to his players, listening to your players and staff, being flexible, remaining calm in the most stressful circumstances, and not being afraid to ask for excellence from your team and staff. It is obvious that myself, along with the entire department and the College will miss Coach Kornaker. We wish Rob, Leslie, Alexis, and Griffin all the best as the family embarks on the next stage of their lives.”
Last season, the Cardinals posted a 23-6 overall record, which included a 15-1 mark against Empire 8 opponents. Kornaker’s squad earned the top overall seed in the Empire 8 Championship and defeated both Utica and Stevens Institute of Technology to earn the Conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship. Following that title, Fisher went on to defeat St. Lawrence University in opening round play before falling to Tufts University in the second round.
Under Kornaker’s watch, several student-athletes have left their mark on the program including Keegan Ryan who concluded his career in a Fisher uniform ranked fourth all-time in scoring with 1,765 total points and set a new program record with 996 career rebounds. In all, nine different players have scored at least 1,000 career points since Kornaker took over with three ranking in the program’s top-10 all-time.
With Kornaker at the helm, Fisher earned 38 All-Conference selections including 15 First-Team honorees while another four student-athletes would go on to be named the Empire 8 Conference’s Player of the Year. On the national stage, Kornaker mentored four players who combined to earn nine All-American selections.
Outside of basketball, Kornaker’s team was routinely recognized for their work in the classroom by the National Association of Basketball Coaches as well with numerous players being named Academic All-District and Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Kornaker, who was named the DIII Coach of the Year in 2005, has also had a significant impact in the coaching world as many of his former assistants have gone on to secure head coaching positions throughout collegiate basketball.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way that I would be remiss not to mention Assistant Athletics Director, Jennifer Granger,” added Kornaker. “She has helped me so much along the way. I’ve always believed in surrounding yourself with better people and I have done that throughout my career. My success is directly tied to my wife Leslie who has sacrificed so much along with my children, Alexis and Griffin. Those four along with the many assistant coaches and the wonderful players made my job very easy. Without them, the program would not have achieved the way it has. It is because of them that we won the right way. I am looking forward to what the next chapter brings.”