One of the best decisions veteran Schenectady County Community College athletic director Dave Gonzalez ever made was to come back home.
The Royals’ six athletic programs and the many lives Gonzalez has touched over the years are much better for it, say his colleagues at the college.
“There was one point in his tenure when Dave was leaving to work for the University of Maryland,” said SCCC vice resident for student affairs Martha Asselin, who has worked with Gonzalez for more than 20 years. “In fact, Dave was already at Maryland. He was excited about going to work for a Division I program as an assistant athletic director. I cried when he told me he was leaving, and we had a farewell party for him.”
But Gonzalez’s long-distance move was short lived.
“Once he got down there for a couple of days, he realized that because of the size of their campus, he was further removed from working with the students,” Asselin said. “He had a change of heart, and he called me because he wanted to come back home. Luckily, I hadn’t filled the position yet, and we welcomed him back with open arms.”
Except for the few of days at Maryland, Gonzalez has been the backbone of the SCCC athletic program for the last 23 years, and it’s been quite a ride for the former high school basketball standout.
“He’s one of a kind,” praised Asselin. “His love for athletics has shown with everything he does. His support for student-athletes is unsurpassed, and all of our programs have evolved because of him.”
Longtime SCCC baseball coach Tim Andi, who attended Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons with Gonzalez and has worked with him for two decades, echoed Asselin’s sentiments.
“He’s been so supportive of our program over the years,” said Andi, who has a career record of 444-240 in 20 years with the Royals. “You couldn’t ask for a better athletic director. He does what’s in his power to help all of our athletic programs, and he’s been extremely supportive of the baseball team, in particular. Without a doubt, all the changes that have been made here come from the top. If you don’t have the backing of your AD, you can’t get anything done.”
Gonzalez understands his role in the challenging world of junior college athletics. His school battles with four-year programs for student-athletes, yet one of his primary goals is to have those same student-athletes graduate and move on to four-year programs.
“The biggest challenge here is to increase the quality of the student-athlete at Schenectady County Community College,” said Gonzalez. “For the last five or six years, we’ve been extremely successful at doing just that. We try to bring in kids who are academically strong, as well as athletically talented. Our programs have thrived in recent years, and we’ve moved many of our students on to four-year schools. We are competing with the likes of Hudson Valley Community College and Herkimer County Community College, but it’s a good competition.”
Gonzalez is the only full-time athletic director in the history of SCCC, which was established in 1967 and has an enrollment of approximately 2,600 full-time students. He oversees six athletic programs at the college: baseball, men’s and women’s bowling, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s crew.
“I’ve been here for 23 years, and I’ve invested myself a lot in our programs,” he said. “I was an athlete myself, and I have an idea of where our student-athletes are coming from. Last year, we had six of our student-athletes earning academic all-region honors. Fifteen of our athletes graduated last spring, and a number of them moved on to four-year schools.”
Gonzalez has made major changes with several of his programs.
The basketball teams will have a new home when they begin play next month in the renovated former Center City complex across from Proctors.
“It’s a regulation-size facility, with a brand new gym,” he said. “It’s absolutely perfect for us.
“Our baseball team has also moved its facility from on-campus to the renovated Central Park field. We wanted to get out into the community and get more exposure for our student-athletes.”
A third major change for the SCCC athletic program was the addition of a women’s crew program.
“About four years ago, we were looking at a new sport for our women athletes,” Gonzalez said. “Matt Hopkins was running the women’s crew at Niskayuna at the time, and he helped us start the program. We are the only two-year college in the country to have crew, along with Orange Coast College in California. There are a lot of scholastic crews in the Capital District to recruit from, and we get great support and interest. Since we’re the only two-year school in the Northeast, we compete against the likes of Union, Skidmore and Amherst. We just recently graduated our first female scholarship winner to a four-year school when Allyssa O’Donnell of Saratoga moved on to Nova Southeastern crew in Florida.”
Gonzalez has his finger on the pulse of the Capital Region athletic community because he spent so much time in it as a student-athlete, coach and administrator.
Born in Colonie, he attended Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School and played two years of varsity basketball as a 6-foot-2 forward for the Golden Knights, averaging 19 points per game as a junior and 17 ppg as a senior, when he was named to the All-Diocesan League team.
“We were pretty good when I was a senior,” he said. “My senior year, we beat Linton, and we hadn’t beaten them in six years. It was back in 1973, and it feels like it happened yesterday.”
Recruited by both Oneonta State and Lycoming, Gonzalez first attended Oneonta, but didn’t like it there and transferred to Lycoming, where he played three years of varsity basketball.
“I had to make the transition from forward to guard, and it was difficult, but I did get some time off the bench,” he said.
Gonzalez became a student-assistant coach at Lycoming before moving back to Schenectady to become the JV basketball coach under head coach Don Blaha from 1980-84 at Gibbons.
“We had a great time coaching for Don Blaha, and Jim Mueller was our freshmen coach,” Gonzalez said.
He eventually got an admissions job at the Junior College of Albany, but moved over to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s admissions office and also became an assistant women’s basketball coach for the Engineers.
Gonzalez later was an assistant coach for the Siena College women’s basketball team under head coach Jim Jabir.
“In the summer of 1988, I heard that SCCC was looking for a full-time athletic director. They only had a part-time AD at the time,” he said. “I applied for the job and got it.”
The 54-year-old Gonzalez said he always has to be careful with the economic side of his job, but he added that the program has made numerous improvements.
“The budget is tight because it’s based on our student-activity fee. As the enrollment goes up, our athletic budget goes up,” he said. “We stopped using vans for transportation, and now we’re using Brown’s Coach out of Amsterdam. We are keeping our coaching salaries competitive, because we have some outstanding coaches like Ray Ross, who is one of the top bowling coaches in the country, and Tim Andi, who does a fabulous job with our baseball team every year. We also send some of our teams, like the baseball team, to Florida for a spring trip.”
Gonzalez is extremely proud of how far the athletic programs have come under his leadership.
“We’re a diamond in the rough,” he said. “Our enrollment is at an all-time high, and with the economy being what it is, a lot of people are giving us a serious look when it comes to attending SCCC as a quality student-athlete.”
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