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From the Heart: Coach Don Scott’s Track Record

Coach Don Scott couldn’t attend the ceremony in his honor, held on Oct. 21 on the occasion of his 500th Boys’ Varsity Cross Country Team’s win on Wednesday, Sept. 29, so it was filmed for him, and each time the audience burst into applause, which was often, they simultaneously rose and faced the camera waving, smiling and cheering for the honoree.

In his absence the board unanimously approved a resolution citing his four-plus decades of exemplary coaching. A prepared video gave highlights of both his athletes and his career. Images followed in rapid succession— photographs of young runners, beginning in the 1970s—and a young Don Scott, too—eliciting squeals of recognition from the hyped-up crowd. Debbie Kucharczyk, Booster Club president, was preaching to the choir when she extolled Coach Scott’s most recent accomplishment—his 500th win.

In addition, former and current students offered their personal memories of Coach Scott including: Jerome Blocker, Class of 1976, Chris Foley, Class of 1991, Bill Viverito, Class of 1981, Joe Severino, Class of 1972; varsity cross country captains Charlie Morris, Steve Bourguet and Jon Thomas; and Coach Steve Sproul. Mr. Scott had prepared a statement of thanks which was delivered at the end of the ceremony by Theresa Curry, district coordinator for science, following the speeches.

Jerome Blocker strode to the microphone and spoke from the heart about his coach from 1972 to 1976. Blocker said he decided to boycott his high school senior awards dinner. Needless to say, what goes around comes around Blocker laughed, nodding toward the video camera. Most play a sport for a specific reason, to learn sportsmanship, hard work, discipline, and to keep occupied and out of trouble. He said his training for the sport under Coach Scott carried over to other parts of his life. Any of his accomplishments, he believes, are a result of the life lessons Scott taught him. When a freshman on the varsity, Blocker said he responded to Scott’s laid back coaching style. “He taught us to set goals, and to put in the work to achieve those goals.”

A few years ago Blocker remembered running into Scott at the school when his own daughter started running. When I told my mom I’d run into him she exclaimed. “He’s still up there!” But then she softened, “That man was really, really good to you.” Blocker explained how Scott drove him to meets, and how, on occasion, bought him running shoes. Not too long ago, Blocker was at an away meet with his daughter where Scott observed him buying running shoes for her, the way Scott used to buy them for him. Needling a little, Coach Scott reminded him the senior awards dinner was that night. Then Scott complimented him on the way he was supporting his daughter’s efforts on the track team. Blocker believed Coach Scott referred to his purchasing running shoes for his daughter causing Blocker to think to himself, “I’m only doing for her what you did for me. You should be getting the award. Tonight he is.”

Three MHS cross-country captains took their turn at the mike, careful to face the video camera, Charlie Morris, Stephen Bourguet and Jonathan Thomas. Morris said Scott was an inspiration, even his jokes and stories were special and that he was always there for them. “He supports our decisions 100 percent and makes us feel important and wanted.” He recounted how Scott would always make them proud by submitting write-ups of their track meets to the Manhasset Press. He even, Morris said, looked after us off season. Stephen Bourguet agreed, adding Scott’s attitude made the team great. Bourguet explained he’d joined the team as a small eighth-grader and how he hoped to make Scott proud of him. “No one wanted to disappoint him.” Jon Thomas said Coach Scott was a father figure, the nicest guy to everyone, he never got angry and he never yelled at anyone — he was the reason his teams were so successful. Thomas said he would not have kept at it without Coach Scott. “Thank you for everything.”

Chris Foley ran for Coach Scott, graduating in 1991, a member of the championship team that year, but may have missed his calling as a stand up comic. Foley had the audience at the Black Box Theater in the palm of his hand for as long as he chose.

Foley could be serious too, as when he recounted how he attended Chaminade for two years, then switched in junior year to Manhasset High with the intent of becoming a lacrosse star. He only joined track to get in shape for lacrosse, he said, but focused on running because he loved Don Scott, “Scott was my best friend.”

Bill Viverito said he was honored to speak at this ceremony for Coach Don Scott because he had never, as a kid, thanked him for his special brand of coaching and mentoring. Viverito took a stroll down memory lane asking who could forget the first track team Scott coached, in 1972, a team of hippies, long haired incorrigible misfits, know-it-alls —and had his first winning season. And he enjoyed the same results almost 40 years later. After recounting some forgettable stories about Scott’s horrendous driving skills and some memorable track fiascoes, Viverito said Scott “taught us how to compete, train, be winners. Thank you Mr. Scott.”

Steve Sproul was a young man from Jamaica, he said, when he began coaching the MHS girls’ track team, and observing the coaching style of his co-worker, Scott. Sproul said he learned “that coaching is not just about what you do on the field.” He saw how Scott always put the kids first; was concerned about the welfare of each child, and not just the Manhasset kids. Scott taught him the “program is only as strong as the weakest runner.” Gazing toward the camera, Sproul said, “I know you wanted to be here. We’ll be on the track again, with you telling more of those stories.”

Joe Severino made a surprise appearance, he had not been back to Manhasset High for 38 years. He just wanted to come and stand up for Mr. Scott, “because Mr. Scott always stood up for me.” Severino was captain of the first team Scott ever coached in 1972. Severino said Scott innately knew how to coach. It is not what you do, but what you bring, your heart and soul, who you are, he said, and Scott “was a heart and soul coach.” Whatever the numbers were at the end of the day, Severino said, he let you know you were a champion. “I do not overstate it,” he said, “Mr. Scott gave me a template for my life.”

Letter Written by Don Scott

To The Manhasset Board of Education, Superintendent Charlie Cardillo, Teaching Staff, Support Personnel, Parents, Community members and students…

“….I am honored….I was Born in Virginia during World War II on a large dairy farm with my grandfather as my buddy, and my father, who ran the family business. Graduating from High School in 1959, my mother, a strong influence, pushed me to go to college and graduate on time. I graduated from college in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry and did research at the University for a short time. At that time, the lead professor Dr. Holtzman at the University of Tennessee was doing research on Staphylococcus Aureus, a dangerous germ that can cause serious disease damage. Research was done for two and half years while I taught undergraduate courses in microbiology. During this time I also met my wife, Barbara, who was taking the course as part of her curriculum. Time was important, especially your own academic classes, research and teaching. In the mid 1960’s, I left the university with a master of science plus fifty credits in course work and research. Several of us left just short of our Doctorate, because at that time the candidate had to pass Orals in two foreign languages (German and French).

“My first job was for the government at Edgewater Arsenal, in Maryland, in a Biological Warfare Research Laboratory. The idea was to develop fatal germs for the Cold War. A treaty was signed between the United States and Russia, and the secret laboratory was closed. At mid-year 1966, I started teaching Chemistry at a High School near Fredericksburg, Va., and coached track and field, cross-country and indoor track. Once settled into my job teaching and coaching, I decided that was my career. After my track and field team, in spring of 1968, won the Virginia State Championship at Lexington, Va., the first state championship in the school history, my next move was to New York where on June 8, 1968 my lovely wife and I were married in Manhasset.

“In the fall of 1968, Dr. Raymond Collins, Superintendent of Manhasset Schools, hired me to teach Biological Sciences. Dr. Collins was a national leader in education, and also was a big supporter of athletics, along with Athletic director Dr. Edward Walsh. My wife was working in a family business, started by my father-in-law in 1945, in Woodside, Queens, manufacturing and designing fluorescent lighting fixtures. Barbara was Vice President, and worked there for 28 years along with raising our son Donald Jr. She now spends time visiting with her 94 and 95 year old parents, along with caring for me.

“I was teaching Biology from 1968-1976. During this time, Dr. McGregor (principal) realized we needed a Challenge Academic Advanced Biological Program. During the summer of 1976, four pilot schools where chosen, one in Syracuse, Brooklyn, East Hampton, and Manhasset. We worked with Dr. Marvin Druger and developed a curriculum that would work in the high school including the pig dissection. From 1976-1996, we offered one or two sections and many students got credit on a Syracuse transcript (8hrs), or used the course for medical school. The professor and several teachers from the group went to National Science Teachers’ Association Conventions in Dallas, Boston, Chicago, and New York to promote other high Schools to provide college courses for their students. In 1996, principal Mike Keany decided the school was going to offer A.P. courses. I taught A.P. Biology and Honors Biology from 1996 until 2009.

“Coaching in Manhasset started in 1972. A very important reason we have been successful in the running sports at Manhasset, since 1947 until now, is because there have been only two coaches, Mr. Allan Dawson, 1947-1972, and myself, from 1972-2010. All school records and college athletes are accurate. In 1972, we started cross-country on campus because we needed middle-distance runners to compete. In 1978, we started boy’s indoor track on campus, in 1980, girls track, and in 1982, girls’ cross-country coached by Richard Marks. We have worked closely together for 28 years, and the girls have won many championships.

“I have always focused on the total student and used the classroom and coaching as a motivation of students. If they were strong students, they were encouraged to run. Many did and contributed. For the less academic student on the team, they were encouraged to get better academically. I would talk to their teachers, call their parents, and if they were strong enough academically, they could go to college and compete both academically and athletically. There are three runners from last year’s championship team running in college.

“A proud time was 1990 when an Olympic track and field was installed on campus. The facility had the support from Superintendent Donald Harkness, the Board of Education, and community members.

“I would like to thank Theresa for delivering this address. My family and I would also like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and thoughts, and I am sorry that I am unable to be with you this evening.”

At the conclusion of the letter, the crowd leapt, once again, as a collective whole, and cheered loudly and animatedly, wanting to reach him.