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Patrovich wears many hats -- and shirts, too

Hauppauge football coach Joe Patrovich during his team's

Hauppauge football coach Joe Patrovich during his team's game against Half Hollow Hills West. (November 21, 2009) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Sartorial splendor is not part of the job description when you teach phys ed at one school, at which you also coach wrestling, and you coach football at another school. Welcome to Joe Patrovich's world, in which wardrobe malfunctions are common.

"My car looks like a hamper, with clothes from both schools all over the place," said Patrovich, the Islip wrestling coach and, for the past two seasons, the Hauppauge football coach.

So this was bound to happen: In his haste to change quickly before football practice at Hauppauge - which lost to unbeaten No. 1 seed Half Hollow Hills West, 29-0, last night in the Suffolk Division III final - Patrovich left an Islip wrestling T-shirt underneath his Hauppauge football sweatshirt.

Fine, except there was this one unseasonably warm day and . . . you can guess what happened.

"I was sweating up a storm. I took off my sweatshirt," Patrovich said. "I forgot I had the wrong T-shirt underneath. The kids saw it and couldn't stop laughing. They really teased me."

This season, Patrovich became the first coach in Long Island football history to reach the county championship game with three different high schools. He won Nassau titles at Division in 1981 and '82 and Suffolk crowns at Islip in 1991, '92 and 2002.

"I thought I was done with football," he said about giving up the Islip position several years ago. "There was some peripheral stuff that I got tired of."

But the lure of blocking, tackling, X's and O's was too strong. He spent two years as an assistant coach at Hills West, and when Hauppauge athletic director Joe Tasman called about his school's struggling program, Patrovich listened. He liked what he heard, guided the Eagles to a 6-3 turnaround last year - and won the most games in school history this season, finishing at 7-4.

"It is kind of satisfying, this late in my career," Patrovich said. "The administration, the kids and the community have been terrific. They started a football booster club. Everybody wants this to succeed. That's why I'm here."

But he's still "there,'' at Islip, which also plays football in Division III. Hauppauge edged Patrovich's "other school,'' 14-13, on Oct. 9, coaching against quite a few of his wrestlers.

"I've had a lot of the Islip kids in class and they're very understanding," Patrovich said. "They don't feel I abandoned them. I don't talk about Hauppauge when I'm at Islip. I try to be diplomatic about the whole thing. I don't like to mix it up."

Except when it comes to athletic apparel, that is.

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