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An Appreciation Of The Longtime Basketball Coach As He Steps Away From The Game

Terry Feeley and I more or less broke in together.

Feeley got his first job as a high school basketball coach in the fall of 1984, leading the Spackenkill freshman team. In June of 1986, I got my first job out of college with the hometown Poughkeepsie Journal. In 1989, he took over the Spartans’ varsity team.

We’ve known each other ever since.

Even after I left the Journal in 1996, somehow, someway, our paths crossed. I took a job covering the University of Michigan football and basketball programs for The Ann Arbor News, and my first time back in New York was in 1997 to cover Michigan hoops in the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. I heard someone calling my name, and turned around to see Feeley and his son.

Go figure.

So when he confided in me earlier today that tonight would be his last regular-season game coaching John Jay, that he was stepping away after 36 years – 30 with the Spartans, six with the Patriots – it was bittersweet.

Happy that his wife and his family are regaining a husband and father during the winter. Sad that the local sports community is losing one of the good guys.

I admire Feeley on so many levels. He was always a straight shooter, and not just with the media although it was certainly appreciated. He was a departure from the stoic coaches who followed the company line. And when he started his varsity career, Spackenkill was still in the old Bi-Valley Conference. Putting Feeley together with equally candid Dover hoops coach Ernie Zafonte was a sportswriter’s dream.

Rich Thomaselli Commentary

But Terry Feeley was also a straight shooter where it counted most – with his players. An extraordinary teacher and student of the game, he left no indecision amongst his players. He was brutally, but thankfully, honest. And it’s allowed hundreds of players over 36 years to get better and better and improve their game.

And, nobody did more than Feeley to advance high school basketball in this area than he did. He is the current president of the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association, practically runs the Duane Davis Memorial Holiday Tournament, makes sure there is an Exceptional Senior Game at the end of every regular season, compiles weekly scoring stats, and makes sure players are recognized in the postseason with an all-star team.

He will be missed, for sure. This is a huge void on the local hoops scene, and hopefully somebody steps up in his place.

Personally, I don’t think he’s gone forever. He loves basketball too much to give it up completely and, well, he won’t say it so I will – it’s also far different in 2020 than in 1989. Players are different, parents are sure as hell different, and school administrations and boards are different. As if coaching wasn’t difficult enough without these outside pressures.

Terry Feeley will be back. I’m quite certain I’ll bump into him again, only this time it will probably be a youth team where his teaching and his imprint will be even more impactful.

Go figure.

One Comment

  1. Matt Hayes

    February 10, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    Coach Feeley is one of the all-time greatest local basketball coaches, with numerous accomplishments and accolades that earned him a well-deserved spot in the NYS Basketball HOF. In addition to being named “Coach of the Year” by his peers, Terry has well over 300 wins, 6 sectional titles and a trip to the Final 4!

    Given all of those achievements, he’s as humble as anyone you’ll find. I’ve always been impressed with his offensive mindset, as well as how he adapts his planning to meet the needs of his teams from year-to-year. As Terry’s teams change, so does Terry.

    He regularly attended coaching clinics and NCAA basketball practices looking to learn from some of the best coaches in the country. In turn, he’s one of the few coaches I go to regularly when I’m looking for an honest assessment of my teams as well as to run an idea by him.
    One thing you’ll always get from Terry is a straight answer. Anyone who has a relationship with Terry knows he isn’t going to sugar-coat anything :).

    I had Terry as my first AAU coach when I was 15 years old. At that time, I had no idea that he would end up having the career he had, nor did I know that I, too, would one day become a HS coach who would often consult with him.

    Even better than that, I’m lucky to be able to call Coach Feeley a great friend of mine.

    Finally, like many of us, Terry is also blessed to have a wife, Karen, and two kids who supported Terry in pursuing his passion for over 35 years.

    Congrats, Terry, on an amazing career! It won’t be the same around here without you!

    Matt Hayes
    Red Hook Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach

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