Griffith’s life before Ithaca College was difficult. He said his father was abusive toward both him and his mother, and she took Griffith away from him at a young age. He hasn’t seen his father in nearly 18 years.
“Having that vacancy in my life, that void of a father — even when that vacancy was filled — the experience that was there in terms of the abuse was very difficult for me,” said Griffith.
Griffith’s mother worked multiple jobs to provide for him, which meant that he frequently stayed with relatives or friends. She eventually remarried, but Griffith describes his relationship with his stepfather as “on and off.” The fatherly void was finally filled by Joe Serfass, Griffith’s high school basketball coach.
Serfass taught Griffith and his teammates to be accountable to each other and to themselves, on and off the court. And he was tough. Those that ignored the message, even those with special talent, could expect to be benched or kicked off the team. But Serfass was also a nurturing presence, often acting as a confidante for those needing support.
He became a father figure for Griffith and helped put him on the road to success.
And he’s still helping. When Griffith had to decide whether to remain in Ithaca as a coach after graduation or return to Connecticut to pursue a graduate degree, he called Serfass to talk it out and ultimately decided to enroll in the University of Connecticut sport management graduate program.
“He gave me a vision of where I wanted to go, where I could be, and what I needed to do to get there,” said Griffith. “Words really can’t describe what he meant to me during my high school career and what he will mean to me until the day I die.”