Deerfield basketball coach Gordy Gruhl, who won his 1,000th game last season, is congratulated by DWS headmaster Dave Davis as his players unveil a sign for the newly named Gordy Gruhl Court.
ALBANY - Some coaches know how to win, and some coaches know how to mold and build young student athletes.
Few like Deerfield-Windsor’s Gordy Gruhl can do both.
Gruhl’s coaching accomplishments, primarily his milestone 1,000th career win this past basketball season, took center stage Monday at the W.T. Henry Gym, where the GISA coaching icon was honored. Henry, the former DWS headmaster and good friend of Gruhl, will also share the court with the Knights’ coaching legend after the basketball hardwood was named “Gruhl Court” this offseason.
“You’ve won over 1,000 games in your career, but that number is nowhere near the amount of lives you have influenced and touched,” Gene Durden, who played for Gruhl at Edmund Burke and now coaches Buford High’s girls, told Gruhl during the 1,000th victory celebration.
Gruhl has spent 29 years at Deerfield since beginning his coaching career at the now-defunct Worth Academy 37 years ago before moving to Edmund Burke Academy, and then to Nottingham Way.
He’s won six state titles coaching boys and girls basketball and has coached both teams in the same seasons on several occasions.
Consider this: It would take a new coach 50 years to win 1,000 games, assuming he or she wins 20 games a year, which is no easy task. Gruhl racked up the wins with a hard-nose style of discipline that several former players credited for their success after athletics.
“If he told me to run through that wall backwards, I would have, because we trusted him,” said former Lady Knights’ star Teresa Brown, who was part of Gruhl’s 25-0 1988 state championship team. Brown is now a principal at one of Jacksonville, Fla.’s top schools.
Former Knight Perry Revell recalled going 7-20 the season before Gruhl came back to the boys’ bench and then seeing the difference a year later. Revell and the Knights went 28-3 in 1997 and won the state title with basically the same team.
And, of course, nearly every former player commented on Gruhl’s trademark hair and stylish leather jackets he has worn commanding the bench. After meeting Gruhl for the first time, Brown remembered telling her family the school had hired a “WWE wrestler.”
Kevin Petroski, now the athletic director at Athens Academy, spent one season under Gruhl and will never forget his former coach’s voice echoing throughout the gym as he grilled a player for a mistake, which still happens to this day.
“I’m proud to say I was part of eight of (Gruhl’s) 1,000 wins,” said Petroski, who Gruhl reminds that 8-win season in his first year was his worst at Deerfield.
Gruhl, though, has mellowed in recent years, Durden told the current Knights’ players in attendance.
“I had to put up with him when he was a ranting, raving, madman,” said Durden, who was cut by Gruhl his sophomore season and credits his former coach for sparking his passion for basketball. “You guys get the cuddly, cute teddy bear.”
Gruhl was presented with several proclamations Monday, including the naming of May 7, 2012 as “Gordy Gruhl Day.”
Gruhl, though, said his achievements as a coach were a result of his players’ hard work and dedication. His old-school style of coaching and discipline, he said, were just a result of how much he cared for his players and wanted to see them succeed.
“I gave them tough love and I don’t apologize for it, just as long as they knew I cared about them,” Gruhl said. “I enjoyed trying to get them to not accept mediocrity and, instead, reach for greatness.”
Now that he’s gone over the 1,000-win plateau, everybody wants to know when Gruhl will retire. Since Gruhl still enjoys the process of building a new team each season, even the old ball coach isn’t sure his final win will come anytime soon.
“I don’t know the answer,” said Gruhl, who will coach his 52nd basketball team next season. “Probably as long as they’ll have me.”