Dave Alexander, Stony Brook coach, dies

David Alexander, the longtime Stony Brook University coach

David Alexander, the longtime Stony Brook University coach and founder of the school's women's swimming and diving program, died in Smithtown after a two-year battle with appendix cancer. He was 62. (Credit: Handout)

Letters have poured in recently to the family from former students remembering Dave Alexander.

One letter from Jim Brennan talked about the easy humor, laid-back demeanor and nurturing style of Alexander. Brennan wrote that Alexander had "a magical effect."

Alexander, the longtime Stony Brook University coach and founder of its women's swimming and diving program, died Thursday in Smithtown after a two-year battle with appendix cancer. He was 62.

Brennan, who was coached by Alexander at the Staten Island Cameron Club in the 1970s, shared his memories -- one of about 150 letters, said Moira Alexander, Dave's wife.

"A man shouldn't be measured by money, but by the number of friends he made and the lives he touched," Moira Alexander said. "Because of that, Dave was a wealthy man."

Dave Alexander, a Staten Island native and Smithtown resident, was a competitive swimmer at SUNY New Paltz. He graduated in 1970 and then earned a master's degree in special education at Adelphi University in 1974. He went on to teach in the Smithtown school district for 30 years.

But Alexander's legacy was built at the deck of a pool. He coached club swimming for youngsters, formed Team Suffolk -- a conglomerate of local club teams that competed in high-profile meets -- and started the women's team at Stony Brook in 1979, which he ran until his passing.

"He not only convinced them to start it, but to let him coach it," former Stony Brook men's swimming and diving coach and close friend John DeMarie said.

Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore remembered Alexander in a statement released on Thursday.

"Coach Alexander was an exceptional mentor and educator for literally thousands of Stony Brook student-athletes during his 32-year tenure," Fiore said. "Dave's greatest impact stretched well beyond the pool, as he touched the lives of so many as a coach, friend, colleague and ambassador for our institution."

During Alexander's tenure, more than 100 female swimmers earned all-conference honors and four were named All-Americans. He was named Metropolitan women's coach of the year in 1991.

Alexander took over the Stony Brook men's program when DeMarie retired in 1995, led it to its first Metropolitan conference title in 1998, and went on to win coach of the year honors three times.

"What I remember most is how he cared and wanted to help people," DeMarie said. "It was never a surprise to see Dave talking to a kid for half an hour, and not about swimming the butterfly . . . I never had a brother, but he was my brother."

Alexander is survived by Moira, his wife since 2004, daughters Alison, Erin, Kate and Molloy Alexander, and stepchildren Thomas and Erin Jones.

The funeral will be Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Philip Neri Church in Northport. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to Stony Brook's swimming and diving program.

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