There are a million ways to come up with character names for a book. You can look in a baby naming book, research popular names from other era’s, or pay tribute to an important friend or family member. It’s always exciting when you find the perfect name for a character, and for Tim Green, giving his fans the chance to name a character is incredibly rewarding.

Several years ago, Tim Green came up with the idea of holding contests online, asking his fans to nominate inspiring people in their community that they would like to see memorialized in one of their favorite authors books. Using Facebook, the community votes for their favorite nominees. This month, another character was named.

After a five-day contest on Facebook, former Henninger High School boys basketball coach Joe Mazella will be the name of a teacher in Tim Green’s next book, titled “Left Out.”

Joe Mazella was a beloved basketball coach, physical education teacher, and assistant principal at Henninger High School who died in 2009 from self-inflicted wounds after receiving negligent treatment which resulted in him being overmedicated on anti-depressant drugs.

Mazella was a staple of the community and a dedicated staff member of Henninger High School for 28 years. His death shocked those who knew him, as he was thought of as an upbeat person to be around with a great sense of humor. His funeral was attended by thousands.

As a coach, Mazella had a record of 245-78, including nine league championships, five Section III basketball titles, five regional, and five final four appearances. In 2002, his team won the Class A state championship, the first one in Section III. He even coached former Syracuse University guard Lazarus Sims and NBA player Andray Blatche.

Joe Mazelle Court - Henniger High SchoolThree months after Mazella’s death, Henninger High named its basketball court in honor of their late coach.

Tim Green has named his characters after a number of inspiring individuals like Joe Mazella. Griffin Engle from Cicero, who died at age 7 in 2014 after a battle with brain cancer, appeared as a character in the book, “Kid Owner.” Christian Brothers Academy baseball player Jack Sheridan, who is currently battling leukemia, appears as a character in Tim Green’s latest book, Baseball Great sequel “Home Run.”

“Really it just feels good,” Tim Green told Syracuse Media Group, “because people are happy to remember someone. They’re happy to know they’re going to be in this book. It’s something that’s just fun. Instead of throwing away the opportunity. I thought it would be nice to provide people – like all of Joe’s fans and supporters – an opportunity, even if it’s just on Facebook, to say how much they miss him, how much they loved him, everything he did for them.”

Mazella is survived by his wife and three daughters who still live in Syracuse. His widow, Janice, said their daughters were very excited to see their father win the contest.

Green used to use the names of his children and their friends as characters, but as his roster of books began to grow, so did his desire to make the process more meaningful.

“One day I thought, instead of making up names why not solicit names from people who follow my Facebook page,” he told Syracuse Media Group. “Sometimes it’s just someone who has a lot of friends on Facebook. But it seems like lately it ends up being, more often than not, someone like Joe who was wildly popular.”

Tim Green started writing books for middle grades – kids from 8 to 14 years old – about 10 years ago. “Left Out” will be available for purchase on September 27th, 2016.

For more about Tim Green’s life and career, please visit Tim Green’s career website.