It’s the end of an era for Whitman boys basketball.
Longtime coach Tom Fitzpatrick called it a career after 19 season on Feb. 9, announcing his retirement after the Wildcats’ thrilling 49-47 victory over Bay Shore.
“It was a good era where we were fortunate enough to win two Long Island championships,” said Fitzpatrick, whose teams, led by Antoine Agudio and Nick Carter, won L.I. crowns in 2002 and 2003. “I’m really going to miss the people and kids I met and worked with, and the friendships I made during the journey.”
Fitzpatrick, who took over as Whitman’s coach in 1999, finished his career with a record of 249-150, he said. The Wildcats finished this past season 9-9.
Fitzpatrick described his experience with the Wildcats through the years as “tremendous,” and credited a number of coaches who helped him along the way, including his former assistant of 11 years, Rich Mills. Huntington coach Brian Carey and Uniondale coach Tom Diana were also major influences on Fitzpatrick’s coaching philosophy, and ultimately, his prolonged success.
“It’s one of the hardest things to find, one of the easiest things to lose and almost impossible to get back, and that’s trust,” Carey said. “Kids know that Fitzy has a passion for what he’s doing and cares about them as players and as people first.”
Fizpatrick realized coaching was a dream of his early on.
“Since I was a teenager I kind of looked at it that way,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was fun; it was definitely worthwhile.”
In terms of what he’ll miss most about the competition is the respect shared among him and his fellow coaches.
“The coaches in League II are just really good guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’d have some great games, but there was always respect in our relationships.”
Even as his reputation for success on the court continued through the years, the importance of sportsmanship and academics remained at the forefront for Fitzpatrick when it came to instructing his players.
“We made the kids accountable,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was a kid once and made mistakes, but when you’re on the basketball team people will want your attention so you need to be accountable for your actions both on and off the court.”
Whitman junior Cedric Gordon, who converted the decisive free throws on Feb. 9, touched on the impact of Fitzpatrick’s mentoring.
“He always taught us about more than just basketball,” Gordon said. “He also taught us about school, work and always remaining positive. He helped us learn more.”