One of the most successful programs in the history of Rockland County sports is Nyack basketball. The man responsible for that program’s success in Gary Gray. Gary, a Nyack native, played varsity basketball at Nyack for two years, before moving on to play basketball for Hall of Famer Howie Pierson at Rockland Community College. Gary transferred to the University of South Florida to complete his education and after graduating from USF Gary returned to his alma mater to begin his teaching and coaching career. He took over the Nyack boys’ varsity basketball program in 1981 after four years as a junior varsity coach.
For 26 years Gary guided the Nyack boys’ basketball team to an amazing record. His teams won 432 games and lost only 115, averaging 17 wins per season. That total places Gary in second place in Rockland County among boys’ basketball coaches in career wins, sixth in Section 1 for career wins, and inside the top 50 among all New York State boys’ basketball coaches for career wins. For 11 of those seasons Nyack had 20 or more wins. Gary’s teams won 14 league titles, 14 Red and Black Tournaments, 15 Albertus Magnus Holiday Tournaments and never lost a game in the prestigious Red Fox Shoot Out for six years. Gary’s teams won a Rockland County-best four Section 1 titles and won two New York State Regional titles. Two of Gary’s teams, 1991 and 2001, made it to the New York State final four, and the 1991 team lost in the finals in overtime. That 1991 team was designated as “Team of the Year” by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, and that same association designated the Nyack program “Team of the Decade” for the years 1991-2001. Twice Gary was chosen as The Journal News Rockland County Coach of the Year and eight times he was chosen as League Coach of the Year.
Many of Gary’s players continued to have outstanding careers after leaving Nyack. Seven of his players went on to become NCAA Division I scholarship players. He coached two Division II All-Conference players and one Division III All-America player. Three of Gary’s former players went on to play professionally, two in Europe and one in the developmental league of the NBA. Through his guidance and development, Nyack basketball players earned thousands of dollars of much- needed scholarship money to further their educations.
While teaching in Nyack Gary served his community in many ways. He coached the girls’ varsity soccer program on two different occasions. First from 1976 to 1981 and was voted as Coach of the Year in 1981, and then again from 2004 to 2006 when he was again voted Coach of the Year in 2006 when he took the team to the playoffs for the first time in many years. For 10 years Gary coached the modified baseball team in Nyack and never had a losing season. Academically Gary initiated the “Morning Program” in the Nyack School District and 37 years later this physical education and social program is still in effect. The “Morning Program” is a daily 20-minute program where the whole elementary school (more than 500 children) would meet and work together in various physical education activities and on occasion meet a variety of motivational people. Gary was a Eucharist Minister, gospel reader, and vocalist at St Ann’s Church where he has taught religious education on Saturday morning to elementary school children. In addition, Gary also wrote two nationally published articles, one pertaining to physical education in general and the other dealing with teaching blind students in physical education. During the 1985-86 school year due in part to his work in the “Morning Program” Gary was also chosen as one of the Rockland delegates for the “Teacher in Space” program.
Gary is now retired from the Nyack School District but still lives in the community and works part-time for Schultz Ford. He and his wife Mary Ann have two sons: Geoffrey, 36, who lives with his wife, Kristin, in Scottsdale, Ariz., and works for ING; and Brendan, 33, who works for Nyack Hospital.