Tom Postel's prowess as a lacrosse player made him the kind of coach who could show his players how to play rather than just tell them.
A lacrosse lifer, Postel relished getting on the field during practice and showing off his skills, regardless of his age.
Postel coached men’s lacrosse for 20 years at his alma mater, C.W. Post, and brought the school its first Division II national title in 1996.
"He would get on the field with a stick in his hand and [say], ‘Let me show you something,’" said former player Raymond Reinhardt, 47, of Huntington. "He would act out a move, take a shot, would do something with one of our sticks, and he was unbelievable, still at that age."
Postel, a father of three who lived in Medford for 51 years, died Oct. 12 of congestive heart failure at his home, his family said. He was 76.
"He’d go out, challenge them, and go around them," said Sue Postel, his wife of 51 years. "He could get a ball in the cage."
As a player, Postel put a C.W Post program that was only a few years old on the map. The West Hempstead native led the nation in scoring in 1963 and 1965. He graduated with the school record in career points (269), goals (144) and assists (125), according to Long Island University’s athletics website.
"He was head and shoulders above everybody," said Vin Salamone, a former teammate at C.W. Post and later the school’s athletic director. "My job was, once [goalie] Eddie Sutton made the save, was to get the ball from Eddie, give it to Tommy, get the hell of out his way and just let Tommy do his thing, and he did."
Postel continued to play lacrosse long after college. After serving in the Army for three years during the Vietnam War, he played for the Long Island Lacrosse Club until 1985, when he was in his early 40s. He was selected to 11 U.S. Club All-Star teams.
Former player and assistant coach Steve Sombrotto remembers watching Postel play on the club team and being awed at his skill — especially given his age.
"I'm watching this guy who’s in his late 30s, [and thinking], ‘This guy is amazing,’ " said Sombrotto, 52, of Port Washington. "He's one of the best players on the field, and he's clearly the oldest guy on the field."
Sombrotto continued: "He was ahead of his time in terms of his knowledge of the game of lacrosse. I never got to see him play when he was a young man, but they used to tell stories. When I watched him, he still was so great. He was like a Tom Brady. You watch Brady now and think, ‘How can this guy still be playing?’ That's how Postel was when I first saw him."
Postel also played on the 1974 and 1978 U.S National Team at the Lacrosse World Championships and was a coach with the 1986 squad. He was a captain on the ’78 team, according to LIU's website.
Born Dec. 4, 1944, in New York City, Postel played football, basketball and lacrosse at Carey High School. After college, he taught driver’s education at Centereach High School and coached lacrosse for five years at Manhasset High School, where he succeeded legendary coach Renzie Lamb, Sue Postel said.
Before taking over at C.W. Post in 1986, Postel coached lacrosse at Suffolk County Community College, where he won a national championship, and was an assistant at Hofstra, Sue Postel said.
Postel, who won 140 games at C.W Post and retired in 2006, is in the Carey Athletics Hall of Fame, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the C.W Post Athletics Hall of Fame and the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Sue Postel said.
In addition to his wife, Postel is survived by sons Todd Postel of Farmingville and Scott Postel of Elmhurst, daughter Christy Carrano of Farmingville, brother Francis Postel of Ronkonkoma and seven grandchildren. He was buried at Calverton National Cemetery, Sue Postel said.