Trust Walk: 35 Years in the Game…. and Counting

By Hyde Basketball Coach Corey Begly

A few weeks ago I was enjoying a coffee with my dad who had come up to Maine during his first year of formal retirement. Freed from the games and practices that used to dominate his winter schedule, he decided to come see my team, the Hyde Phoenix, in action. We were enjoying a week of coaching together, instructing the Hyde Prep team on the finer details of the game, particularly offensive shape and zone offense.

My dad, Glenn Begly, is a master coach. His modesty will never allow him to admit this, but it’s true. He coached from 1972 to 2013 in a variety of roles. He won six college conference Coach of the Year awards, coached thirteen NCAA tournament teams as a head and assistant coach including four Sweet Sixteens, one Elite Eight, and one Final Four. His career record at William Smith was 319-101 (.760) and ranks 15th of all time in Division III women’s basketball coaches and 36th all time of all women’s basketball coaches. Most amazingly, his teams won 80 consecutive home games at William Smith, one of the longest home winning streaks at any level of NCAA play.

You wouldn’t guess this if you met him today. Of course, that’s the way he prefers it.

“Corey… I just realized. This is the first time in 35 years that I am not coaching,” he said as he sipped his coffee.

“Now… how do we prep for your next game?”

I always knew there was a story to be told regarding my dad’s coaching journey. He has a rare touch. On the court, he speaks of the most complex situations in the simplest terms. He is a storyteller, a leader, and most of all, a teacher of the fundamentals.

“Ball goes up, you stay down!”

“Start low… go lower”

“Hit… and find it!”

“Short corner, Short corner, short corner!”

As I coach my own team, I hear myself repeating these same phrases. More significantly, I also find myself applying the same life lessons he taught to my own players.

Over the past three weeks, I have researched and charted my dad’s career from a player-coach at DJK Falke Men’s Basketball Club in Nuremberg, Germany to his last job as the head JV coach at Warrensburg High School in Warrensburg, NY. I learned that I was not the only one who repeated his phrases and lessons. My inbox filled with stories and testimonials from fellow coaches and former players.

I am not an author—most of my writing attempts have been centered around my hapless and somewhat uncouth travel misadventures. Yet this story deserves to be told, even if Coach Begly would protest. It connects to our own teaching at Hyde about family and the changing dynamic of relationships. Most of all, it is a trust walk—a journey into the connection I share with my dad that shapes my coaching, and a larger legacy spread by taking time to create quality relationships. I hope you enjoy it.

– Corey Begly, head basketball coach, Hyde School

Early Years—the Draft, the Camp, a Defining Moment

I clearly remember a conversation I had with my dad during my first week as a college student at Saint Lawrence University. For the first time in my life, I was homesick.

“Corey… I know it’s hard being away from home. I am sorry you are homesick.. let me tell you a story… when I was your age, I was drafted for the Vietnam War. And trust me.. it wasn’t my choice. It was terrible!”

In a recent meeting with the Hyde community, my dad told a story about his hero, Morry Stein, the former director and owner of Camp Echo Lake. At Hyde, we believe family is the most important of important things. Truly knowing your family and your role in the dynamic is paramount both for your understanding of yourself and those around you.

My dad started his talk in true Hyde fashion. He explained that he grew up poor in a town outside of Baltimore.

“My father was a World War II vet… let’s just say he would never win a dad of the year award”.

A tough childhood, from all accounts. What did my dad turn to? Basketball, of course.

I was able to talk to Kenny Begly, my uncle and Glenn’s brother.

“ I can tell you a little bit,” he said in his Maryland drawl that my father has lost after many years in the Northeast. “The first time he coached… we were on this rec team, probably around 1969. I liked to play. I was better than him and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to coach. I asked him… why?”

“He said: ‘because I want to coach.’”

I can see my dad’s work ethic through his brother’s stories. They used to shovel off the court in the winter, play through the summer heat, and go to every open gym ‘Charlie’ offered, a local basketball junkie.

“We took no days off and your dad worked extremely hard. I remember clearly he tried out for the varsity team. He didn’t make it. He should have. That was devastating for him.”

I can recall a story my dad told me in high school. I had just played poorly in a tough game at home. I was never a consistent player: too much self doubt, not enough courage. My dad told me he wasn’t any good when he was my age, but what he lacked in natural talent he made up for in hard work. “What can you control, Corey?” Your attitude. Work rate. Level of positivity. What kind of teammate you are. This remains one of his most important lessons.

The hard work not only improved his shot: it changed his life’s trajectory.

Allow me to put my history teacher hat on for a moment. Understanding the significance of the Vietnam War is difficult for my generation. While ambivalent public sentiment toward conflict might be a familiar feeling for a millennial, the gravity of the draft and conscripted service is not. My dad was 22 years old when he received the news that he’d been drafted. At that time, the dreaded news came on a card: sixteen square inches of paper that informed you your life would never be the same again.

“We were at his college game at UMBC. He walked on there… that’s when he got the news. The night he was #13 on the card and was drafted for Vietnam”, Kenny said.

My dad never went to Asia. He ended up in Germany—right on the edge of the Cold War. In Germany, I believe he had his best basketball moments as a player. According to multiple sources, he made a highly competitive Army team, which opened up networks and connections. He was the shooter, the hardest worker on the court.

It is unclear what happened next. He tells the fascinating tale of Berlin in this time period and was on hand for the tragic Munich Olympics. My dad never had much interest traveling after his early years, and I’m not sure I blame him.

The Coach’s Coach

“Everyone needs a mentor, Corey. And I mean everyone.”

My dad tells his first coaching story in such detail. It took place at Camp Echo Lake which is where my coaching career also began.

My dad had been hired by a man named Morry Stein, described as 80% idealist and 20 % businessman and trust me, he was a great businessman.

It was a close game and he was coaching the 16-U team. Glenn was going nuts on the sideline, screaming at the refs, abusing his own players… and they won. Gleefully taking in his win, Glenn was approached by his boss, Morry.

“Glenn, that was one of the most embarrassing coaching performances I’ve seen. We don’t do that here.”

My dad was floored. As he explained to me, they had just WON the game. Wasn’t that what it was all about?

As Morry’s lesson sunk in, my dad’s pride changed to shame. Eventually, the idea Morry was trying to communicate– that the only kind of winning that’s meaningful is winning that’s done with character–became the backbone of my dad’s coaching style. Morry was a guiding force in my dad’s life until his tragic death in 1992. I believe Morry was my dad’s first coach and more importantly, his father figure.

After we lost a few crucial players to suspension last year, he called me at my lowest point.

“Corey… there is no victory without honor. Remember that.”

Former player Wendy Schoff:

“I admired Glenn and respected him so much as a coach because he did things the right way and taught us the same. There were consequences for your actions and he held us to a high standard. My junior year over Christmas Break, several key members of our team violated team rules. He suspended them and we ended up beating Hamilton at Hamilton with only 6 players. One of Glenn’s favorite quotes is “Without honor there is no victory.” I loved playing for a coach who believed that and I loved that he valued hard work and doing things the right way.”

I know he learned that from his life mentor, Morry. No victory… without honor.

Early Stops, Early Stumbles

During my research, I received a package in the mail—newspaper clipping, photos and articles of my dad’s first coaching job at Skidmore. In fact, he was BOTH the soccer and the basketball coach at Skidmore. Who knew! I can’t fathom the amount of work that would take. My JV soccer coaching record is a sterling 4-40 in 4 seasons, or something like that. Glenn’s soccer record wasn’t much better.Maybe there’s a genetic component to every below .500 season.

I saw a trend in these early articles. Glenns teams showcased an early determination, an excited community and a talented initial recruiting class. One of these recruits was Tony Stein: Morry’s son and current owner of Camp Echo Lake.

‘I remember practices – and enjoyed them. We played in a brand new gym at Skidmore and I remember Glenn’s practices for being regimented to the minute. I think I recall Glenn posting the practice outline, so we knew what we would be doing and when. Practices were fast-paced and moved from drill to drill. We alternated between team offensive and defensive schemes and individual skill development. I think my favorite drill was the “hamburger game,” where Glenn would throw up an errant shot and 2-3 players under the rim would have to fight for the rebound and then – I believe – try to score. It was really physical and fouls were never called – I loved it!

Our biggest win in my two years was our 65-61 win at NYU (how do I still remember the score?). They were bigger and more talented, but we played a very solid game at both ends of the floor. Next to that would have to be that very close game we played against SUNY Albany, a local powerhouse, at our gym. We were up with about five minutes left in the game but just could not hang on. They had too much talent and size for us. Van rides to Johnson State, Lyndon State, Franklin Pierce, St. Joe the Pro and who knows where else in New England were typically long rides in cold, raw winter weather – but I remember them fondly.

On a personal note, some of the best times of those two years at school were when Glenn and Terry would have me and Jerry over for to their home in Saratoga for a home-cooked meal followed by Stewarts Ice Cream. Jerry and I were not cooks so our meals at home consisted mostly of takeout Oma Pizza and leftover chicken kievs from camp banquet, but we became very close friends as a result of Glenn bringing us together. Glenn and Terry being at Skidmore provided a special connection for me to camp and my camp family. Knowing Glenn the way I did, we were able to talk and reminisce about – both while I was at school and for years after – the players and the experiences in a way most athletes probably don’t get a chance to.’

Articles read Men’s Basketball on the Move, Skidmore Cagers stun NYU, Thoroughbreds Hoping to Win Some Recognition.

Well… what happened? I know my parents moved from Saratoga to York, PA and then finally to Geneva, where I was born. I just didn’t know why. I asked my mom, Terry Begly for her thoughts. My mom is a special woman and a key part of this tale. She keeps our family moving and doesn’t stop herself… 3+ marathons, countless miles ran with the dogs each day, and a giving spirit. My mom inspires me daily.

Terry: “He actually wasn’t fired. We left before that happened. It’s a long story. Your dad held the kids accountable. One kid threw a chair in a game and dad kicked him off the team. That didn’t go over well with the AD. So… we left. Tough times. JP was 2. I was pregnant. He didn’t get his next job until August. We landed on our feet of course. Your dad got a great job as an Athletic Director. He missed coaching though. It was his passion. I knew he’d go back and I supported him.”

“Coaching is Tough Stuff, Corey.”

We recently suffered a two game losing streak here at Hyde including a rare home loss. Nothing like 80 in a row, right? I still have a long way to go.

I think the Skidmore wisdom came through.

“Corey—you will figure it out. Stay consistent. Believe in yourself and your guys. It feels like the sky is falling after a few of these… trust me. I had a game at Skidmore where we went up 20 and I put bench in… the other team came back and stunned us in OT. That was MY fault. I ran almost 20 miles that night.. I couldn’t sleep. These weren’t your fault, right? Tough teams get right back after it.”

William Smith: The Glory Years

I grew up in the gym. My brother JP and I both did. We often saw my father’s work, but I was too young to understand. His players were not. The past two weeks, they provided me with testimonials and stories of playing for a coach who ‘got it’. Who supported them. Challenged them. Loved them. Kim Dennin 99’ and Wendy Schoff 98’ were two of the stars of Glenn’s best teams. Always humble, he routinely gave credit to them. They had a different story to tell.

Style

‘When we won games, Glenn attributed it to his players. When we lost, he always took the blame- saying he didn’t prepare us enough. That bothered me because I always thought that Glenn did not score one basket, did not throw the ball away, etc. The blame should have been on us, but he wouldn’t go down that path. Always took the high road.”- Kim Dennin ’99

Glenn typically sat for the majority of his games. It came up one time, and I remember him telling me, “you can say a lot more to a referee when you are sitting down.” This must be true, because I remember Glenn getting only one T – and he was standing!

Glenn loved his Patagonia clothing, unlike his coaching peers who were always in shirt and ties. I remember him jokingly getting a tie from us one Christmas!” – Kim Dennin ’99

My brother, sister and I would give Glenn a hard time about his clothing choices ( and still do ), but all jokes aside, his Patagonia gear is another reminder of his authenticity. He wore Patagonia long before it became the unofficial outfitter of preppy college students across the US. He wore it simply because he liked it and never cared about the opinions of others. Whether it was clothing or coaching choices, my father’s own, self–founded principles were always the final arbiter of his decisions. The authenticity remains a powerful guide for me today, whether I am shopping for a tie or creating a game plan.

On Court

Kim continued to outline Glenn’s passion: practice.

“Glenn was a master planner and was always prepared. His practice plans were detailed to the minute. Every drill had a purpose and was always related to our offense or defense, which was similar to Coach K/ Duke philosophy. We ran a “4 out 1 in” motion offense that was based on reading the defense so we had drills for 1 v1, 2 v2, 3 v 3 that broke the court into sections. We worked on entry passes a lot- which made sense because we had an exceptional post player in Jenn Goodell-Cooper! We worked on coming off screens differently based on the defender. And Lizzie Browne and Wendi Schoff were the best at coming off of screens! Glenn seemed to structure his teams so that they could fast break. They had strong 3 point shooting, and solid post play.”

“He seemed to cover every aspect of the game in our practices. We even found time to work on last second half court shots!”

“He knew motivation was important so there was always a quote. And we had an incentive program where we earned or lost sprints in our bank. I’m sure most players remember that green bag that dangled from the basketball ball cage. Inside were the labeled ping pong balls- 0 through 3 for the number of sprints we had to run, plus the dreaded double ball! Rumor had it that someone put a dent in the double ball so they knew to not pick it!”

“Punctuality was important to him as well. If you were late for practice, than you had to stand in the middle of the court while the rest of the team ran sprints for every minute you were late. Kind of smart because players always looked out for each other! If time was ticking, we would be scrambling to find players- and cell phones weren’t around at the time!!”

Legacy

“It’s been 20 years since I played for Glenn at William Smith, but my sense of pride and respect for Glenn have not diminished. After coaching the girls’ varsity basketball team for 15 years at the school I teach at, Fonda-Fultonville, I have an even greater admiration for what Glenn achieved and the way he went about things. I tried to model my coaching after his style and get the most of my players every single day. I stopped coaching a few years ago when I was pregnant with my twin boys, so basketball is not part of my daily life anymore. However, I will always look back fondly on my college career and the coach who gave me the opportunity to continue to play and enjoy the game I love.”—Wendi Schoff Waters ‘98

80 home wins in a row. 760 winning percentage. Stats stats. Glenn achieved greatness with his own style.

“Believe in yourself Corey. Then your players will.”

To Rochester and Beyond

One of the things I respect the most about my dad is his humility. He understands the journey of the game: the path all coaches take. He changed gears in his own life. After his time at William Smith he moved on to be an assistant at the University of Rochester, a former rival of the Herons.

Again, the teaching stood out.

“It was great being an assistant coach. I could focus on teaching… and Jim allowed me to do that.”

Glenn was a part of 4 nationally ranked teams at U of R, including being on the bench for a magical final four run. I asked the highly successful head coach of the U of R team, Jim Scheible, for his thoughts.

“As far as his time here at UR, his contributions were invaluable. He developed extremely effective relationships with our players and they trusted him implicitly. Amy is a great example. He not only got to know her very well, but also helped her attain very valuable summer jobs. He also got to know her parents very well and added so much to her experience, as he did for many others.”

“On the bench, he was my sounding board and always gave me great advice. He was that calm voice when the game got tight. I also learned so much from his experiences as a coach. He just was a very calm, sage presence that helped us get to Final Fours and Sweet Sixteens. The players and coaches appreciated him so much that they petitioned the AD to pay for his trip to the Final Four in 2010. Usually, we don’t have volunteers travel, but the players would not have it any other way that year. That is a credit to him and what he meant to our program for five years.”

Amy Woods ( mentioned above ) also had memories of Glenn.

“I cannot imagine my collegiate basketball experience without Glenn Begly. If it weren’t for Glenn, I’m not sure I would have ever seen the floor my freshman year. His belief in my abilities eased my transition from high school to college basketball. Win or lose, Glenn always knew the right things to say. He was and still remains an important mentor and friend in my life.”

Today

A few weeks ago we finished a road game against New Hampton Varsity. It was a disappointing one. We won easily but the effort wasn’t fantastic. It can be tough to find the right thing to say in those situations. We of course mentioned things that went well and things to work on. I then allowed my dad to have the final word, one that has become a bit of a rallying cry for our team.

“Guys: I’ve enjoyed working with you this week. I like coming to all the games, but you know what? You know the game I really want to go to? The last one. Make sure you’re there.”

The last one. March 5th. NEPSAC final. We’re still dreaming big and hoping to take the entire Hyde community with us.

My bond with my dad reminds me of a trust walk – walking with a parent or peer, relying on them to guide you and to simply listen. Where would I be without my father? All young men deserve someone who teaches them that without HONOR there is no victory. I am so proud to be his son. Thirty-five years in the game… and counting.

-Coach Corey Begly