Tom Flatley anchored the sidelines for 30 Garden City High School homecoming football games during his career, and the now-retired coaching legend’s presence was still very much felt during the community’s annual celebration Saturday.
Flatley, who won 264 games as Garden City’s football coach from 1985 to 2014, served as grand marshal for the school’s annual homecoming parade.
After leading the parade with his grandchildren, Flatley, who turns 77 at the end of the month, entered the familiar territory of Warren King Field to watch the current players warm up before heading to the press box to view Garden City’s 59-0 victory over Manhasset.
“I have a lot of love for the kids,” said Flatley, who remained as junior varsity lacrosse head coach after his June 2015 football retirement. “I’m still working in the lacrosse program and a lot of the kids are the same, so it is nice to come out and watch them and see how they progress.
Flatley, who was honored on the field at last year’s homecoming game, remains involved with the program he ran for three decades by attending practices and games, and he still reviews film with new head coach and longtime assistant Dave Ettinger.
Flatley’s Garden City teams captured five Long Island championships and 18 Nassau County titles, and he feels positive about the direction of the program post-retirement.
“The kids had a good year last year and hopefully they will this year,” said Flatley, who had a .849 winning percentage and was inducted into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2013. “It was time to step away and let someone else do it before they carried me away.”
While Flatley last coached a football game in November 2014, Garden City athletic director Dawn Cerrone said the availability he provides the current players and coaches has been a major factor in the Trojans continuing to succeed on and off the field.
She stressed that while he is “very humble,” the wisdom passed down to his assistant coaches has created a solid foundation that should stay strong in the years ahead.
“While he may not be on the sideline, he is like that 12th man,” she said. “His thumbprint is on this program and will forever be on this program.”