Jim Garvey always told Jay Wright that he would have patience. As a first-time head coach for Hofstra's basketball program, Wright said it was helpful to have that kind of support from his athletic director. Garvey was a calm and serene mentor who never put pressure on Wright to provide early success.
Until, that is, one game in Wright's first season against Maine, when Hofstra scored a late basket to get within one point in the final minute.
"I looked across the court and there was Jim, up on his knees on the scorer's table, yelling 'Call a timeout!' " Wright recalled Wednesday evening. "I was like, 'Wow, he really wants this win.' "
Hofstra lost that game, but Garvey never lost faith in Wright, who would go on to become the program's most influential coach. Garvey also hired Joe Gardi as Hofstra's football coach during his 10-year tenure as the school's athletic director from 1987 to 1997, making him responsible for bringing in two of the school's most iconic sports leaders.
Garvey died on Tuesday while on a waiting list for a heart transplant at a facility in Kentucky. He was 70.
"I'm always indebted that he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime," said Wright, who took Hofstra to two NCAA tournaments and is now the coach at Villanova. "He hired me as a young guy. I think he saw the potential in me and that he could mentor me. And he really did."
Besides his term as Hofstra's athletic director, Garvey was a three-sport NCAA official who worked four football bowl games, five men's basketball tournaments and seven men's lacrosse championships, including the inaugural NCAA title game in 1971. He was the originator of the "wide triangle" style of lacrosse officiating that is still in use today and was elected to the United States Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2001.
"He was the best storyteller ever, whether it was sitting at the dinner table or watching a ballgame," said his stepdaughter Erin Weinberg of Summit, N.J. "He'd tell stories of officiating games with John Thompson, Joe Paterno, Lou Holtz. Whenever things got crazy on the field he'd be the one in the middle of the bunch, the rational, calm voice of reason."
Garvey grew up in Mineola and graduated from Adelphi in 1964. He was at the height of his officiating career when he accepted an offer to become Hofstra's athletic director.
Garvey lived with his wife, Gwenae, in Callawassie Island, S.C, since shortly after his retirement from Hofstra. A small service is planned there. Besides Weinberg, he is survived by daughter Kristen Garvey of Huntington; two other stepchildren, Robert Davy of Lexington, Mass., and Lauren Davy of Summit, N.J.; sister Barbara Lanzone of California; and four grandchildren.
The family has established the James V. Garvey Memorial Scholarship to help student-athletes in Hofstra's lacrosse program. Donations can be sent to the Hofstra University athletic department.