Carl B. Clark has long been one of the most revered coaches in Long Island sports.
He helped lead generations of championship-winning Wyandanch High School basketball teams in his decades serving as coach for boys’ and girls’ teams, a tenure that began when he was just 20 years old and which earned him a spot in 2014 in the Wyandanch Sports Hall of Fame.
Clark of Apex, North Carolina — who served as a coach to kids and a mentor to men, on and off the court — died Oct. 18 in Spivey's Corner, North Carolina. He was 69.
“I learned so much from him,” said Warren Fuller, who coached the Wyandanch Lady Warriors with Clark from 1984 to 2011, with some of those rosters including Clark’s daughters, Calisha and Carla. “Since he started coaching there, all the coaches took more from him than he took from them. He was the guru of basketball for boys and girls.”
Fuller coached girls for 33 seasons at Wyandanch and racked up 579 wins to become inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association of New York’s Hall of Fame and the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, garnering 22 league titles, 18 classification titles and 13 Long Island championships, among others.
But he shares the success with Clark because the two worked together during 27 of those years. Clark was also named BCANY’s top assistant coach in 1993.
“I lost a good friend and a mentor,” said Fuller, who graduated from Wyandanch Memorial High School in 1966, two years before Clark. “My life is better because he was in it. He was a huge part of it.”
Clark was born in Greenport but moved to Wyandanch with his family at 11, graduating from high school and returning two years later to coach junior varsity basketball.
While he had worked for the Long Island Developmental Disabilities Office for many decades and retired in 2012, he also veered off Long Island in 1978 to coach women’s basketball at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, where he met his future wife.
“He was my soul mate,” said Jessica Clark, adding that they married in 2001. “He was everything to me. He had a sweet personality. He was loving and helpful and he was an honorable man.”
Clark served as an elder at House of Prayer Church of God in Christ in Clinton, North Carolina, and, in 1982, joined Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
In 2017, Clark chronicled his life in basketball — particularly in the Wyandanch ZIP code — in a memoir titled 11798 Warriors4Life: A Pillar in Our Community, An Autobiography.
He was also instrumental 20 years ago in creating the Wyandanch Classic basketball tournament, a popular event that drew sellout crowds eager to see some of Long Island’s best players in an all-day event.
“It was standing room only and it’s been a success like that for all these years,” said Quinsey Simpson, 60, who first met Clark as a 10-year-old watching the young coach teach older kids on neighborhood courts in Wyandanch. Simpson, who would go on to eventually coach boys at Wyandanch, first played for Clark on the junior varsity team.
Clark was an innovator, too, promoting Long Island high school basketball like a savant by spicing up program books during playoff season into a glossy magazine chock full of player statistics — players who made the all-county team, shooters who scored 1,000 points in a career, coaches with 100 wins or more — set next to pictures and narratives of local lore.
Simpson said Clark had a strict, no-nonsense style of coaching that was firm, but fair — and which ultimately won games.
A January 2001 Newsday story described him as the architect of the “killer press,” a tactic that assumes aggressive defense begets great offensive play, leading to points and wins.
"We want to make you work a little harder offensively," he said in the interview, followed by his daughter, Calisha, then 15, who said: “Defense is the game. If you play hard defensively, you're going to win.”
Simpson said Clark was a great help to him in 23 years of coaching, and that the two men were looking forward to wearing matching shirts at the 20th anniversary of the Wyandanch Classic in January.
“We were very close,” Simpson said, reflecting on knowing Clark for 50 years. “He felt like a brother to me. I miss him every day.”
Besides his wife and daughters, Clark leaves another daughter, Krishana Newman of Clinton, North Carolina; four sisters; Janice Yeadon of Middletown, Marguerite Applin of Durham, North Carolina, Barbara Mouzon of Hempstead, and Marcella Carpenter of Palm Beach, Florida; three brothers, Fred C. Applin of Charleston, South Carolina, Omar Ellison of Wyandanch and Walter Kimble of Queens; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on Oct. 29 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.