October 11, 2006

Coach Petrie's 'Love Of The Game'

The Frank McGuire Foundation will honor Coach Ed Petrie of East Hampton at the New York City Athletic Club on November 1. Petrie, who has coached high school basketball at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor and East Hampton for 47 years and is still going strong, remembers the legendary Frank McGuire well.

"I gave Coach Frank McGuire and Coach Al McGuire (no relation) a ride from basketball camp to New York City and got a great picture of them getting out of the car," Petrie reminisced. "It's an honor for me to receive an award named after Frank because of everything he represents."

McGuire was a star player as well as a great mentor. "When he coached at North Carolina the Tar Heels beat Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain for the National Championship," Petrie recalled. "Frank McGuire has a great reputation as a coach, but he was also highly respected for being a kind and caring person. For these reasons, this award means a lot to me." According to Kay Cassidy, spokeswoman for the foundation, its purpose is to keep Frank McGuire's legacy alive by "honoring high school coaches whose devotion and ideals exemplify integrity, achievement, and the continued quest for excellence." Previous honorees are legendary high school basketball coaches Morgan Wooten of DeMatha High School in Washington D.C., Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's in Jersey City, and Jack Curran of Archbishop Molloy in Queens.

"We look at the entire picture when considering candidates," Cassidy said. "But the truest barometer of a great high school coach is the positive impact he or she has on players after they leave high school. The committee feels that Mr. Petrie excels in that regard." Those who have played for and coached with Petrie echo those sentiments.

It all started in August of 1959 on the basketball courts behind Pierson High School. Bob Bubka, a senior on the basketball team, was shooting hoops. Petrie observed him from a distance, walked over, and introduced himself. "I'm your new basketball coach," he said. "Mind if I show you a thing or two about your jump shot?"

"I'm no fool," Bubka recalled with a wide grin. "I said, 'Coach, you can show me anything you like.'"

"It was the golden age of Pierson basketball," remembered Bob Vishno, who coached side-by-side with Petrie for 10 years. "He started Biddy League and took all-star teams to Syracuse to play in tournaments. Coach Petrie stressed fundamentals and used his knowledge of the game to great advantage. But most of all he instilled his love for the game in the boys. Before long a hoop went up in every driveway, and boys were bouncing balls all over town. It was a joy to coach those boys."

Petrie's two sons, Mike Petrie and Ed Petrie Jr. were toddlers in 1959. In 1968 they were ball boys for the Pierson team that played Southampton for the Suffolk County championship in the Commack Arena. In the mid-seventies, Petrie coached his sons at East Hampton High School. And now, 47 years after Petrie arrived on the scene in Sag Harbor, he's coaching his grandson, Mikey Russell.

Tom Bubka, who played for Petrie at Pierson and coached with him at East Hampton for 20 years, has seen it all from both perspectives. "Coach puts in the same effort now as he did his first day on the job in 1959," Bubka said. "Every single minute of practice time is carefully planned out. He has adjusted to a different time, but without compromising his principles.

"Lots of former players call or stop by and talk to him on a regular basis. He's 'Coach.' Nobody knows that better than I do because when I was sick last year, he was there for me as a friend."

When asked why he so loves basketball, Petrie mused, "Well, it's hard to explain. I always played, since the fifth grade. I had some success, and that motivates you. I enjoy it. I like to see a team develop. When that happens, it's great. And the community support in East Hampton has always been wonderful."

Petrie played on back-to-back county championship teams at F.E. Bellows High School (now Rye Neck High) in Westchester County and was captain of the 1951 team.

He scored over 1000 points, including a 51-point game vs. Pleasantville High School. He played his collegiate ball at Seton Hall, where he was captain. When the NBA had only eight teams, Petrie was drafted by the Knicks and later traded for Slater Martin.

Petrie was named by Newsday Magazine as one of "Eight Educators Who Make A Difference" on Long Island. He was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame and into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame, both as a player and a coach. He has the most wins of any public high school basketball coach in New York State history. He has won 17 league championships, two state championships, three regional championships, and four sectional championships over his 47-year coaching career.

As for those who believe Petrie is leading a charmed life, a case could be made. When he attended his high school's 50th class reunion, he met the woman who would later become his wife. Nancy was a cheerleader at F.E. Bellows High School in 1951. "I used to cheer for Ed back then," Nancy Petrie said, "and I still do."

Anyone interested in attending the dinner at the New York Athletic Club can contact Kay Cassidy at 914-779-9696 or Bill McKee at 329-7640.

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