By Danny Schrafel
Half Hollow Hills East boys lacrosse goalie coach George Fox is a man quick to lavish praise upon others, but possibly the last to accept it for himself.
Recounting the story of how he was told that he would be the honoree of Saturday’s Hills lacrosse alumni game, Fox recalled being approached by organizer Eric Geringswald, who told him that it was “his turn.”
“I’m hoping that’s what it really was, that he doesn’t know something I don’t know,” Fox said, chuckling. Then, the focus returns to Geringswald. “He’s been phenomenal with me.”
Sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines, Fox was still a very active participant in Saturday evening’s alumni game at High School East, rooting players on, rattling off where each young man played and even joining in a bit of good-natured heckling, all while snapping pictures with his former players and regaling them with stories of years past. Naturally, he was paying a little extra attention to goal-tending technique.
Fox has been coaching lacrosse for 30 years, with over 20 of those with Half Hollow Hills. During that time, he’s developed a loyal following on and off the field, and on Saturday, that became clearly evident when dozens came back to salute their coach. Several in the bleachers wore “Fox Strong” t-shirts created and sold by the booster club as a gesture of support for their coach, who was recently diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.
“We’re counting our blessings and praying for him that he does well,” Geringswald said.
Despite his battle of late, Fox is still coaching, and his students have rallied around him. In true Fox fashion, he was quick to laud the students who make it all possible.
“I’m just happy to coach. It’s just a little more difficult right now this year because of the stuff I’m going through,” he said. “The kids have been absolutely phenomenal with me. They put all kinds of effort into it to play this year and to win games for me.”
His philosophy is one drawn from his days at Ohio State – “you win with people,” and that’s the lesson he feels his students learned this season.
“They learned to be a family and play hard. It was a great thing to see… it means a lot to me and my family,” he said.
The alumni celebration itself, Geringswald said, got its start about nine years ago, when he was sitting with coach Stan Kowalski.
“He’d been involved in the alumni game at Mineola,” Geringswald said. “We’ve been doing it ever since.”
About 40 players, divided mostly into teams of “odds and evens,” came from across the country to play, including a 1978 Hills graduate as well as two “alumni” from Hills East who have completed their playing careers and are set to graduate in a few weeks.
“It keeps the community better, keeps people coming back,” Geringswald said.
Funds raised through the game and the sale of t-shirts benefit Hills East and West’s booster clubs.