For the better part of three years, Vin Laczkoski’s phone didn’t ring.

Each time there was a high school coaching opening in the region, Laczkoski applied, and each time, the response was … deafening, as in, no response at all. So Laczkoski swallowed his pride and for those three years, taught the kids at Blackham School the fundamentals of basketball.

Because that was all he had.

To say that Laczkoski had been black-balled by the regions’ athletic directors would be an understatement. It didn’t matter that during his head coaching stints at Bullard-Havens, Stratford and Norwalk he had made the state tournament every year. Yes, he won and won big, but he also butted heads with parents, battled with administrators and general, was a major pain in the (you know what).

“I was very antagonistic back then. If you came after me, I came back after you, instead of maybe turning the other cheek,” Laczkoski said. “I wish I could have handled things better … but I’m a fighter. Everything happens for a reason.”

Then one day, the phone did ring. It was a job offer to coach the Trumbull girls’ basketball team. Laczkoski didn’t hesitate. He said yes.

Just like that, he was back in the game.

Not too long ago, Laczkoski celebrated his 300th career coaching victory as the Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball team defeated Pomperaug. And the pride thumping in his chest and the smile on his face could not be missed.

Now in his 10th season with the Lancers, Laczkoksi is reaping the benefits of getting a second chance. Notre Dame-Fairfield stands 12-2 overall and 7-0 in the South-West Conference’s Patriot Division, tied for first place with Immaculate, who they will play on Sunday. Overall, he is 164-69 at ND and has qualified for the CIAC tournament all 10 seasons.

“It’s incredible what’s he done,” said the Rev. William (Bill) Sangiovanni, the president at Notre Dame-Fairfrield, who was the key in bringing Lazckoski to the school. “It was so exciting last year being at Mohegan Sun (for the Class M state championship) … big crowd. Exciting atmosphere. It was tremendous.”

Laczkoski had spent two seasons in Trumbull, posting records of 24-2 and 10-11. He had told officials when he was hired that he would only coach two seasons. He was hoping that the phone would start ringing again with possible boys’ jobs. Eventually, it did.

It was Father Bill. The Lancers’ current coach, Kevin Phillips, was leaving to take the head job at Westbrook and Sangiovanni wanted to know if Laczkoski wanted the job.

Yes, Father.

“I knew of him but I didn’t know him personally,” Sangiovanni said. “I knew about his career and I knew a lot of people that knew him, so I was hearing from everybody, ‘don’t do this, don’t do that,’ or ‘go ahead, take a chance.’ But after talking to him, I realized that this guy really cares about the kids. That was the impression I got. We never talked about wins and losses, and I felt that he was going to throw his whole soul into the job. I said to myself, ‘Let’s give him a chance.’ “

Sangiovanni said that it was simply a ‘gut feeling’ that brought him to call Laczkoski, who had been on the Lancers’ radar from the moment that Phillips said he was leaving. Then-athletic director Jeff Bevino kept bringing Laczkoski’s name up in talks about hiring a new coach.

“Jeff’s attitude was ‘give him a chance,’ ”Sangiovanni said. “So I did.”

But the job did come with a caveat.

“I said, ‘Vinny, I expect you to do us proud. I don’t want to be embarrassed,’ ” Sangiovanni said. “I know about your past, obviously, I expect you to do well here at Notre Dame.”

And he has. That first season, despite losing six seniors, Notre Dame-Fairfield went 11-10 and lost in the opening round of the Class L tournament. Records of 17-6, 17-7, 8-14 (his only losing season), 23-4, 21-6, 17-7, 17-6 and 21-7 have followed before this season. Last year, the Lancers reached the Class M championship game and two other times have advanced to the Class M semifinals.

“Going into this season we were 99-30 (over the last five seasons),” Laczkoski said. “The only team in Fairfield County over the last five years that has a better record than us is (Fairfield) Prep. I’ve got great kids here and I couldn’t be happier. I have great people around me, (assistant coaches) Stevie RayDesmond Artis, great people.”

Another one of those “great people” is Notre Dame’s current athletic director, Rob Bleggi.

“When I got hired (five years ago), he had already been here five seasons and he knew what was expected,” Bleggi said. “He was doing all the right things and the kids that were coming here wanted to play for him. He makes kids accountable. Our kids never get technical fouls, our kids never act bad on the court and they don’t get in trouble in school because they know if they do, they have to answer to coach.”

Laczkoski played high school basketball for three seasons at Trumbull High between 1972-74, helping the Golden Eagles reach the state championship game (1974) for the only time in program history. He played two seasons at the University of New Haven and then two seasons at Western Connecticut. There were dreams of playing overseas but that’s all they were, dreams. However, Laczkoski did play for three seasons with the old Bridgeport Savoys in the New England Basketball Association from 1980 through 1982 — all while working as an assistant at Trumbull and Housatonic Community College.

Then, in 1983, Bullard Havens offered Laczkoski the boys’ job. He took it, going 14-8 and 13-9 in two seasons.

From 1984 to 1988, Laczkoski sat next to Bruce Webster on the bench at the University of Bridgeport and after that, he moved over to Fairfield University, working alongside Mitch Buonaguro from 1989-91. He went back to UB for five more seasons (1992-96) and then took the head boys’ job at Stratford, going 14-10 and 17-6. Three seasons at Norwalk were next as the Bears went 11-10, 14-10 and 19-6 but things went sour and Laczkoski spent three years at Blackham, working with kids, teaching Basketball 101 until first Trumbull and then Notre Dame-Fairfield, gave him a second chance.

“Volatile? Absolutely,” Father Sangiovanni said. “He’s very emotional. That’s how he’s wired. He’s got detractors but he’s also got people that love him. We love him.”

Laczkoski, who will be 60 in May, said that he will finish this season and coach two more and then retire. “That’s it. I’m planning to move to Florida, play golf and maybe continue coaching at some level,” he said. “I’m so grateful to Father Bill and Notre Dame. They gave me a chance here and it’s worked out pretty good.”

celsberry@ctpost.com