Sport is a family affair for Bridgewater State men’s basketball head coach Joe Farroba.
Born to parents who loved basketball, dad as a player and mom as the first of her kind as an official, he was immersed in the game at a young age. It comes as no surprise that he has spent his whole life with a deep devotion to the sport.
Growing up in Provincetown, Farroba was introduced to basketball as a player in middle school. His coach at the time took him to the Red Auerbach Basketball School which today is the oldest continuous running basketball camp in the country. There he had the chance to see Bill Russell and John Havlicek. That experience gave him the push to stick with basketball.
With the support of his high school physical education teacher, Farroba decided teaching and coaching were his career aspirations. He attended Boston State College, one of the original MASCAC members, to earn his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
As a senior in 1975, Boston State finished 23-4 in the MASCAC and earned a spot in the first-ever Division III NCAA Basketball tournament along with Brandeis, Suffolk and Rhode Island College. Although Boston State lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Suffolk, it was still a memorable experience for Farroba.
“It was extremely exciting to be a part of that first NCAA basketball tournament,” Farroba said. “It was a really tough loss as we had played Suffolk in a scrimmage earlier in the year and won, but I will never forget the experience.”
Farroba was approached by McGill University in Montreal, Quebec to play a fifth year while receiving his masters. While there, he helped lead McGill to a third place finish in the national tournament. Despite his success in Canada, it wouldn’t take long for coaching jobs in Massachusetts to come calling.
“My student-teaching advisor told me to let him know when I was ready for a job,” Farroba said. “I was living in Canada, but I grew up in Provincetown so he called their police department there to try and get my number. At the time my sister-in-law worked as the dispatcher and he asked if she knew how to get a hold of Joe Farroba. She said as a matter of fact I do.”
He got his start teaching middle school in Medfield which is where he also began his basketball coaching career. He would then climb the coaching ladder to the freshman team, JV, varsity and finally in 1986 as an assistant coach at Bridgewater State.
Six years later, Farroba would take the reins of the Bridgewater State men’s basketball team and turn the team into a MASCAC powerhouse. Under his tutelage, the Bears have made the NCAA Tournament nine times and totaled a 348-292 (.544) winning record. He also was named the MASCAC Coach of the Year in 1998, 2009, 2010 and 2012. For his efforts, Farroba earned a spot in the Bridgewater State Hall of Fame in 2013.
Farroba’s love of sports continued with his daughter Justine and son John who both attended Bridgewater State. Justine was a four-year starter for the women’s basketball team from 2005-2008 at guard while John was a safety for the football team from 2007-2010.
Basketball has opened some unlikely doors for Farroba over the years. He had the chance to travel to Ireland, England, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Greece, Israel, but it was a trip to the Caribbean island of Anguilla that sparked an idea.
While visiting the island with a friend, Farroba saw how much they loved cricket, soccer, tennis and track and field but not basketball. In 2011, he began the Joe Farroba Anguilla Basketball camp which invites 72 kids from the island from 9-12 pm Monday-Friday to learn basketball skills. It wasn’t easy at first to get the camp off the ground or receive supplies, but it has been a life changing experience for the basketball veteran.
“I have made many lifelong friends through the camp,” Farroba said. “The camp has been unbelievable. Basketball has given me the chance to meet so many people.”
Another chance encounter a few years later opened another door for Farroba and his men’s basketball team. Farroba approached former Bridgewater State President Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria, a native of Cape Verde, about giving clinics in Cape Verde. After talking to Cape Verde officials during a trip, Dr. Mohler-Faria shared that they wanted the Bears to play their national team.
The team traveled there with Coach Farroba in July of 2013 for a week-long stay which included playing two exhibitions games against the Cape Verde National Team. Although he knew it would be a trip of a lifetime for his student-athletes, Farroba never imagined how great an impact it would make.
“If you talk to the kids who went on that trip, they will always have those memories they made on that trip,” Farroba said. “We thought seeing our team hopefully will help inspire the kids there to do great things. For my team, seeing some of the poverty and living conditions made them appreciative of what they have.”
Being a former teacher and coach go hand in hand for Farroba. No matter what the instance, he always wants to use the opportunity for teaching moments. Even though he is now retired from teaching, he will always stress to his student-athletes the importance of their education.
“I tell the student-athletes to take care of their academics first,” Farroba said. “That is why you are here to get an education that will help get you a job.”