Beloved SHS Coach Joel Katz Passes Away at Age 79

katzheadshotBeloved basketball and tennis coach Joel Katz passed away at age 79 on December 21, 2013. Katz had a lifelong career in physical education and coaching and touched the lives of thousands of students in a career that spanned decades in New York City, New Rochelle and Scarsdale.

Katz came to Scarsdale in 1988 where he coached many teams for many seasons, including boys freshman basketball, boys varsity basketball as well as the girls and boys junior varsity and varsity tennis teams. Katz was a varsity basketball player at NYU and before coming to Scarsdale, he taught physical education in New York City for 32 years at the elementary, junior high and senior high school levels. For 15 years he coached football, basketball and baseball at New Rochelle Academy.

Katz had a great way with teens and was warm, supportive and funny. He genuinely liked the students and was embraced and respected by them and their parents who appreciated his good nature and balanced perspective. When parents sought to give more students the opportunity to play tennis in the upper grades at SHS, he was chosen to be the coach of Scarsdale's first girls Varsity B Team, and often said, "they call this the B team, but they all get an A in my book." He was masterful at setting up compatible partners, giving everyone a chance to play and making each match a success, no matter what the outcome.

Varsity Tennis Coach Jennifer Roane remembered Coach Katz fondly. According to Roane, "I have worked with coach Katz for 19 years. When Ron Bouchier hired me to teach and coach he said I would be coaching the girls Jv tennis. The varsity co- coaches were Jack Kaminer and Joel Katz. They were called JK & JK. As a new member of the staff they both taught me so much about coaching and how to be a great coach. When Jack Kaminer retired Joel wanted me to be the new Varsity coach position. He was interested in the new team Varsity B team. Joel called the team the Varsity B+. The two of us worked together each fall and spring. The girls and boys loved to talk and share their lives with coach Katz. He was very competitive but at the same time he brought a smile and encouragement to every practice or match. I definitely will miss JK!"

katztennis1According to Coach Jon Feld, another colleague at Scarsdale High School, Katz was equally skilled at developing talent on the basketball team. Feld said, "A coach, mentor, friend and teacher, no one cared more than Coach Katz did about his kids; they felt the same way about him. He will be remembered for the impact he had on the young men and women he coached. I coached with Joel for over 10 years, and had known him for 13. He had coached the freshman basketball team for 25 years, and every young man was a better person after playing for him. He was a solid evaluator of players and was pretty much spot on seeing talent in freshmen and how it could ultimately translate on the varsity level. Those who crossed paths with Coach Katz will forever remember him as someone who truly cared about what he did."

Greenacres mom Melissa Fastov whose two daughters played on Coach Katz's tennis team said, "He really was such a good man. Hannah played on his team for one year and Emily played on his team for two years and was captain. According to the girls, Coach Katz was supportive, encouraging and always inspired them to play their best, improve their games and, of course, to have fun."

Parent Elise Flagg said, ""Joel Katz had all the qualities that you want in your children's coach... he had a way of encouraging your child to do their best while keeping everything in perspective. He motivated the kids and still made the experience fun. His humor was legendary and we all looked forward to his witty comments at all the Maroon and White Sports Dinners. He made his mark. He will be greatly missed." SHS senior Jeff Leone added, "Katz was a great coach who made freshman basketball so much fun. It was a great experience playing for him."

Katztennis2Katz had been suffering from cancer of the tongue since August and took a break from coaching in the fall to undergo chemotherapy. However, a heart attack, not the cancer, took his life just before Christmas.

Katz, a resident of Larchmont, was born in 1934. Funeral services were held on December 23, 2013 at Riverside Memorial Chapel in Mount Vernon and there was not an empty seat in the room.

If you have memories of Joel Katz, please share them in the comments section below.

Photos courtesy of Rich Feuerstein, All Star Photography.