Granville “Gran” Roe loved high school basketball. And high school basketball loved him back; so much so that one Long Island team has a play named for him.
“I think the biggest thing he taught me was about the life lessons the kids will get from playing the sport,” said Michele O’Brien, the girls basketball coach at St. Dominic High School.
Roe, who died Sunday at 86, coached boys and girls teams on Long Island for more than 40 years. A native of Smithtown, he retired to Holiday, Florida.
“I’ll always remember his dedication to his coaching job,” said his wife, Judy. “He loved it, and he loved the kids.”
He also loved life, earning the nickname “Gangster Granny” because he drove a pink Cadillac, wore a large diamond ring and enjoyed fancy dinners, said Southampton High School girls basketball coach Rich Wingfield.
“We all have those individuals who we look back on and know that it’s because of them that we’re able to have any measure of success,” Wingfield said. “That was Granny.”
Roe first coached boys basketball at Hauppauge High School before switching to girls basketball, spending 15 years in the program.
He spent 10 years at Hampton Bays, winning Newsday’s Suffolk Coach of the Year Award in 1992. Before finishing his coaching career as an assistant at St. Dominic, he made stops at Cold Spring Harbor, Ward Melville and Southampton College.
“We still run some of his plays,” O’Brien said, including one called “Roe.” “It’s a baseline out-of-bounds play, and we score all the time with it.”
Roe was born on Oct. 9, 1930, grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens in 1947 and from Ithaca College in 1951, where he played basketball. He taught physical education in the Hauppauge school district, where he worked until he retired in 1986.
On the sidelines, Roe inspired with his soft tone and gentle approach. Not one to get animated, Roe encouraged his athletes to focus on their successes, not failures.
“I was an intense basketball player,” said St. John the Baptist High School girls coach Kate Gordon, who played for Roe in AAU from 1990-94 and recalled that his laugh could lighten the moment. “For me, having that personality, he would say, ‘but look at all the good you did.’ ”
Roe was “a gentleman, teacher and pro,” said Molloy College women’s basketball coach Joe Pellicane.
At St. Dominic, he used what he called his Star Chart, which he would create at the beginning of each season. Players received gold stars based on in-game achievements, and the highest earners by season’s end were treated to steak dinners.
Now Roe lives on through his coaching philosophy and the indelible mark he left on athletes and coaches — and in St. Dominic’s playbook, inspired and taught by Roe himself.
In addition to his wife, Roe is survived by his son Lon of Melbourne, Florida, and his daughter Lori of Holiday. He also has two grandchildren, Annie and Mollie, of Melbourne.
He will be remembered at a Mass at the Church of Saint Dominic at 5 p.m. on Feb. 25 followed by a celebration at The Homestead in Oyster Bay.