Wednesday was a momentous day for the Greenport High School boys basketball program. In order to gain a better appreciation for the significance of the occasion, consider this: The last time the Porters opened preseason practice with a new varsity coach was in 1979. It was 34 years ago when Al Edwards began a long tenure that ended with his retirement this past spring.
It’s a rare changing of the guard in Greenport. Now the ball has been placed in the hands of one of Edwards’ former players and longtime assistant coach, Ev Corwin.
“I’m rarin’ to go,” Corwin said during an interview before the team’s first practice on Wednesday evening.
Corwin said he was anxious in advance of the most eagerly awaited practice of his life. “Once we get out there it will be business as usual, but I’ve been thinking about it all day,” he said.
Corwin must have also been thinking about the long journey that led to his new position. Way back in 1979, Corwin was a 7-year-old kid, watching the Porters play. He went on to become a ball boy for the team, and later was a guard for the Porters before graduating in 1990. For the past 14 years he served as the junior varsity coach. So, while his position is new, he is hardly new to the school or the program.
“It’s almost surreal because I kind of went from the ball boy to the player to Al’s assistant to here,” he said. “This is my home here, you know, so I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
And what about following in the footsteps of Edwards, a legendary coach who was in the first class to be inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame?
“I can’t really think about it too much,” Corwin said. “I’m just going to go in there and do what I’ve been doing. I’m really trying to focus on the task at hand. Sure, it’s a big event for some people because it’s not Al any more. It’s been Al since ’79.”
Corwin provides an interesting contrast to Edwards, both in temperament and preferred playing style. While Edwards was calm and reserved, Corwin is more prone to wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He joked that people may want to keep sharp objects away from him after a loss.
“I think we worked so well together because we were so different,” Corwin said. “He was very calm, collected. I think I’m a little more demonstrative.”
Timmy Stevens, a junior guard who played for Corwin’s junior varsity team for two years, said: “He lets his emotions out, but he cares about the game, that’s the thing, he cares. He cares about all of us.”
Corwin also prefers a more fast-paced game than his predecessor. Under Corwin, the Porters are expected to play more man-to-man defense, apply more defensive pressure on opponents, and take more chances.
“Coach Ev has different ideas than Coach Al,” Greenport’s 6-foot-4 senior center, Austin Hooks, said. “Coach Ev loves to shoot. He loves the three-ball. He likes ball movement and he likes fast pace.”
At the same time, Corwin recognizes that taking care of the ball is important. “If we throw the ball all over the gym, everyone is going to be calling for Al real fast,” he said.
The Porters are coming off a 10-8 season in which they lost to Pierson in a Suffolk County Class C outbracket game. Corwin said he likes the players he has to work with, including veterans like senior guard Gavin Dibble, senior forward Brian Tuthill, junior guard Angel Colon, Hooks and Stevens.
“I really believe in these kids,” Corwin said. “I wouldn’t want to coach any other kids.”
The coaching position may be new to Corwin, but the surroundings are anything but. Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium is a home away from home for Corwin, who lives two blocks away from the school. He has spent countless hours in this gym over the years. “I’ve always kind of been a familiar face around here, even moreso now,” he said.
Coming from a family with Greenport roots, Corwin not surprisingly embraces Greenport’s blue-collar style. He wants to see it reflected in his team’s play.
“That’s the only way that I know,” he said. “Nowadays I think you see a lot of one-man teams, you know. It’s something I don’t want any part of. I just really want a hard-nosed team that’s ready to kind of fight for each other, and I think if they can do that, I think success will follow.”
The start of the Ev Corwin era coincides with the start of the Ryan Creighton era. Creighton, the former star Greenport player who is Long Island’s all-time leading scorer with 2,799 career points, is Greenport’s new junior varsity coach.
“I couldn’t ask for a better guy than Ryan because we’ve been doing some stuff together now for a few months,” Corwin said. “He’s been great. He brings a whole new way of looking at things.”
For Hooks, the start of preseason practice is one of the big days on his calendar. Another big day is Greenport’s season-opening game at home against Stony Brook.
“I already have it marked on the calendar, December 6th, 6:15,” he said. “That’s when the intensity gets turned up.”
And the Ev Corwin era truly begins.