Through the years, Michael Schmitz was able to "blend and thread" together two passions -- his love of basketball, and his interest in psychology and how people can change their behavior, said his wife, Michele Schmitz.
A longtime teacher, guidance counselor and basketball coach, Michael Schmitz died in his sleep July 5 after suffering a heart attack, said his wife of nearly 37 years. He was 63.
"He went out a winner," she said, describing the previous day's Fourth of July celebration with family and friends. "I'm sure he died a happy, happy man."
At the time of his death, the Miller Place resident was assistant men's basketball coach at Dowling College, a job he held for two years. He had previously coached the Huntington High School boys varsity team for four years.
While Schmitz's basketball skills were significant, he also brought a desire and ability to connect with young people, be it on the court or through text messages -- sharing advice on basketball, academics and life, said Steve Hayn, Dowling's head basketball coach.
What Schmitz wanted was for young people to see themselves as more than their circumstances and "value themselves more," said Brian Carey, varsity boys coach at Huntington High, who's known Schmitz since fourth grade.
Born Jan. 13, 1949, in Brooklyn, Schmitz was a graduate of Kings Park High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in history and education from the University of Bridgeport, where he also played baseball and captained the basketball team that made it to the NCAA Division II semifinals in 1968.
For his classroom efforts to address issues related to bullying and intolerance, he was honored in 2004 by the National Campaign for Tolerance of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., his wife said.
At that time, he was a guidance counselor in the Commack School district, where he had worked as a history teacher, counselor and coach from 1971 until his retirement in 2006.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Devon, of East Setauket; a daughter, Andrea Tuccillo, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; and three grandchildren. Other survivors include a brother, Paul, of Kentucky; sisters Judy Parrotta and Regina Schmitz, of Suffolk County; and Angie Schmitz, of Pennsylvania.
A memorial service was held at the O.B. Davis Funeral Home, Miller Place, with burial in Sea View Cemetery, Mount Sinai.