Christopher Schmid’s coaching career didn’t last long, just a few years in the 1960s.
But as he left the coaching world for the business world, those who knew him said Wednesday, he never truly left the coaching mentality behind.
“He was a coach at heart,” longtime business partner and friend Frank Barbera Sr. said Wednesday. “He believed in people. He bet on people. He was able to make people achieve at a level they didn’t believe possible.”
Barbera spoke the day after his friend, a longtime local real estate executive and former Union College basketball coach, died after a battle with cancer. Schmid, who lived in Clifton Park, was 79.
Schmid’s varied career turned to real estate in the early 1970s. He soon become president of Realty USA, a job he held until selling the company in 2000.
Through everything, those who knew him recalled, he was a man whose handshake you could trust.
In real estate, Barbera recounted how the two would look for land together. Schmid would then look for financing, and Barbera would build.
Schmid went on to win several awards for his work, including 1988 Realtor of the Year in Saratoga County, for his spirit and business accomplishments. He also won praise from longtime friends for his insight into the business, including figuring out where the opportunities were in Saratoga County and elsewhere, said friend Merle Whitehead, current president and CEO of Realty USA, a friend of Schmid for 20 years who purchased Realty USA from him.
“He was always looking in all the counties to see where the next expansion was, where the next growth was,” Whitehead said. “He was very, very insightful about growth and expansion of the communities.”
Schmid’s career began in teaching after he graduated from Cornell in 1956. He received a master’s degree four years later from the University of Rochester and joined Union College in 1962 as a physical education instructor and assistant coach in football, basketball and lacrosse.
In 1967, he was named head basketball coach. Perhaps his most famous recruit was Jim Tedisco, the longtime state assemblyman.
Tedisco recalled Wednesday how Schmid recruited him, winning him away from other schools, including Syracuse. Schmid did so by first trying to win over Tedisco’s mother.
“He had a profound effect on a lot of young men and students,” Tedisco said. “He taught us a lot about character, how to conduct ourselves and what work ethic is all about.”
Schmid took that same approach into the business world, Tedisco said. Tedisco followed Schmid through the years, even working for him for a time.
“You might not like what he had to say, but you knew he was saying exactly what he thought, what he felt and what he believed in,” Tedisco said. “His handshake and his word were his bond.”
Schmid is in the Union Athletics Hall of Fame twice, inducted individually in 2009 and as a member of the coaching staff of the 1966 men’s lacrosse team.
Schmid is survived by his wife of 53 years, Beryl; two children, Andre Schmid of Clifton Park and Heidi Gaudiano of California; five grandchildren; and a sister, Gerda Carmichael. He was predeceased by two children.
Funeral arrangements are pending.