Basketball Great Ed Petrie Inducted Into New Rye Neck Hall of Fame
Seventy years ago, Ed Petrie was calling up coaches at community centers in New Rochelle, Rye, and farther afield, and riding the train up and down the line for pickup basketball games.
By Allen Clark
Seventy years ago, when most fifth and sixth graders were riding their bikes around their neighborhoods for fun, Ed Petrie was calling up coaches at community centers in New Rochelle, Rye, and farther afield, and riding the train or bus up and down the line from his home in the Rye Neck part of Mamaroneck for pickup basketball games. Petrie went on to be arguably the best basketball player in Bellows (now Rye Neck) High School history. He then became the winningest public school basketball coach in New York State.
Last month, Rye Neck announced it was starting its own Hall of Fame. Just prior to the boys’ basketball team taking on visiting Keio, whom they beat, the school’s Athletic Director Joe Ceglia introduced Ed, 80, and his wife Nancy to the crowd and named him the first athlete to be inducted.
It turns out this was Petrie’s sixth Hall of Fame induction, starting with Seton Hall University in 1978, then the Suffolk County Hall of Fame in 1996, the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998 (as a player and as a coach), where he joined Rye resident Jack Curran (still coaching basketball and baseball at Archbishop Molloy High School), and last year the East Hampton High School and Westchester County halls of fame. To top it off, in 2006, Petrie was honored by the Frank McGuire Foundation.
His career at Bellows included baseball as well as basketball. He played varsity on both teams for four years. He led the basketball team to back-to-back County titles in the 1950 and 1951 seasons, scoring an average of 27 points a game his senior year. In one game, he scored 51 points (in an era with no three-point shot). While the term wasn’t in use then, Petrie in effect was the point guard with an amazingly accurate two-handed set shot and the ability to drive for layups. In his four years at Bellows, he scored over 1,000 points.
Petrie played for Honey Russell at Seton Hall, where he helped lead the Pirates to two National Invitation Tournaments and scored a three-year total of 954 points.
He was selected to play in the 1956 college All Star Game at Madison Square Garden and was drafted by the New York Knicks, but was eased out when they made a trade for Slater Martin, which gave the Knicks one too many guards.
Following one year in the professional Eastern League and two in the Connecticut State League, Petrie became a teacher and coach at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Ten years later, he moved to East Hampton High School and coached for 42 years. His teams won 754 games against just 258 losses, a record unmatched by any other public high school in the state.
Petrie told the paper that as a sixth grader at the now-gone Barry Avenue School in Mamaroneck, there was no basketball court. Instead, the school opened up two classrooms and placed an eight-foot pole with a metal rim in the middle of the two rooms, so you could shoot from any angle or side. Seeing the Rye Neck High School gym, he noted quite a difference.
In addition to his pick-up games as a grade-schooler, Petrie has fond memories of his time as a member of the Rye Pioneers, an off-season group of primarily college basketball players in an informal league around the area, technically illegal for college players under collegiate rules but, according to Petrie, totally ignored. He played as a high school player, showing the strength of his game. Also on that team were Jack Curran and Cliff Clinton (the longtime RHS basketball coach after whom the RHS gymnasium is named), and Mike DeVal (who stepped in to coach RHS a few years back) was the coach.
The Pioneers worked out of the Rye Y, where Petrie recalls playing with some of his Rye Neck friends from the mid-1940s up to early 1950s. (“We used the Y maybe twice as much as the kids from Rye.”)
But what made Petrie the ideal selection for Rye Neck’s new Hall of Fame is much more than his athletic prowess. As one of his former players in East Hampton wrote upon Petrie’s announced retirement, “It was a privilege to be able to say we played for Coach Petrie…. Coach quietly taught us what a team really meant, brought out the best talent each of us had to offer, and taught us the durable life value of the love of a sport, in his love and unending devotion to the game of basketball. He took a small town and gave it a big heart.”
In the words of Amityville High School Coach Jack Agostini, “Ed Petrie is the John Wooden of Long Island basketball.”
These same kinds of qualities are being looked for in future inductees into the Rye Neck Hall of Fame, which was three years in the making. A committee has been set up by the Rye Neck Athletic Director’s Advisory Council to review submissions of a detailed application form from sponsors interested in recommending future members. According to Ceglia, up to four new members may be accepted in the first two years, dropping to two new members each year thereafter. Inductees two and three will be announced shortly, he said.
Rye Neck High School Hall of Fame nomination forms may be obtained by contacting Joe Ceglia, Director of Physical Education, Health & Athletics, at email@example.com or 777-4896.