One last spring, one more fall.
That’s what John Furey has left leading Niskayuna High School’s baseball and football programs. The long-time head coach for the Silver Warriors said Wednesday he will step down from each of his varsity posts at the end of their respective 2016 seasons.
“Days are long,” said Furey, who will retire at the end of this school year from his job as a high school physical education teacher. “I want to move on, and I’m going to do something else.”
Furey, who has won more than 200 baseball games, is likely best known for the high-level talents he has coached. The 59-year-old coached 2015 graduate Garrett Whitley on the baseball diamond and 1997 graduate Andre Davis on the football gridiron during their Niskayuna careers. Whitley, a first-round pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, is now playing in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization, while Davis played in the National Football League as a wide receiver from 2002 to 2009.
Those two players, Furey said, are responsible for a number of his favorite coaching moments since he started at Niskayuna during the mid-1990s. Watching Davis learn how to play football after transitioning from soccer as a high school junior and seeing how an elementary school-age Whitley dominated competition at Furey’s summer sandlot camps are treasured memories for the coach, but far from his only ones.
“There’s so many great kids that have come through here and done so much — and great things beyond here in both athletics and academics,” said Furey, a 1975 Bethlehem High School graduate. “I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be here.”
Furey coached in the Beth-lehem baseball and football programs for more than a decade before coming to Niskayuna. Besides his coaching work and physical education instruction, Furey also founded The Warrior Project at the school, a club which promotes healthy living and sportsmanship, taught driver’s education courses and routinely monitored the fitness center after school.
Niskayuna athletic director Larry Gillooley said Furey’s impact at the school goes well beyond résumé items.
“He’s a guy you want around your kids to help them build character,” Gillooley said. “He’s someone people look up to because of the way he leads. Not just the youth, but his peers. Everyone respects that guy.”
A couple years before Furey arrived at Niskayuna, Mike Vorgang had started the school’s boys’ lacrosse program while he was in his early 20s. His program has since grown into the area’s dominant one in its sport — Niskayuna won a state title last year — and Vorgang, now 46 years old, credits much of the way he eventually structured his program to what he learned when he coached football for more than a decade under Furey.
“I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what holding players accountable actually was until I met John and got to see how he ran his program,” Vorgang said. “I wanted to do [things how he did]. I knew it was right.”
Vorgang served as both a modified coach and a varsity assistant for Furey. While he’d already had success as a head coach on his own, Vorgang said Furey became one of his most important coaching mentors.
“His expectations of you, in terms of you being prepared for practice, for you having your drills ready to go so there was no wasted time — really, how to run a practice properly — is the biggest thing I learned from him,” he said.
Once he is fully retired from teaching and coaching, Furey said he’d like to pursue a new career, maybe personal training, to keep busy. After so many years coaching both sports — this spring is his 21st baseball season at Niskayuna, this fall would be his 22nd football season — he said he knows the timing is right to make 2016 his final year.
“It’s time for someone else to take over,” he said of his programs.