The praise coming from those who know him is as generous as the man himself.
Generosity sprouts from Skip Gehring along with coaching wisdom. The Greenport/Southold high school girls basketball coach is generous in spirit and deeds.
Much of Gehring’s generosity emerges behind the scenes, without fanfare, the way he prefers it. He and his wife of 28 years, Brenda, have made large gifts and donations to schools and causes over the years. Among other things, they have paid for improvements to facilities, bought uniforms for teams and golf carts for schools and funded a new summer girls basketball league.
As a coach, Gehring is also giving of his time, going above and beyond the call of duty in devoting his free time to working with athletes.
“I don’t do it for the pat on the back,” he said. “I really don’t. I’m trying to teach the kids if you’re going to do something, do it. Be passionate about what you’re doing.”
Gehring, 60, of New Suffolk, has given and given. Now he is a recipient — of The Suffolk Times 2019 Sports Person of the Year award.
A former Navy man, successful businessman, committed coach and family man, Gehring has been through a wide range of life experiences, with sports being a central theme. He played basketball and baseball at Chaminade High School before going on to play baseball for Villanova. Baseball was Gehring’s first love. He played semipro baseball and to this day still plays catcher in a men’s league. When Gehring was in the Navy (five years on active duty, three years in the reserves), he played for a base team that went up against minor-league teams. He played against Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.
“On the active duty, I’ve seen some nasty things when I was in the military, combat areas, stuff like that,” he said. “So, you come back, you want to give back. You feel fortunate enough to be alive. I lost a lot of friends.”
Gehring also boxed during his military days and it was an opportunity to offer boxing instruction at a gym that began his immersion into coaching. He has coached at numerous colleges and high schools. At the high school level, he has coached baseball, basketball and softball. His coaching career has taken him to, among other places, Bishop McGann-Mercy, Southold, Greenport and Dolgeville, N.Y., where he will coach baseball this coming spring. He ran a sports facility, Fundamental Sports Training in Westbury, that opened in 2010 before he sold it in 2015.
All five of Gehring’s children are current or former college athletes and his four daughters are all girls/women’s basketball coaches. Kati works with her father as coach of the Greenport/Southold junior varsity team, Tori and Dani coach the St. Anthony’s JV team and Cari is an assistant coach at Brooklyn College. His son, Greg, is an All-Conference catcher for Anna Maria College (Mass.).
Skip Gehring said what he enjoys most about coaching is spending time with young people. Life lessons come with his basketball practices.
“Every day there’s 24 hours,” he said. “So, at their age, eight hours a day is sleep, eight hours a day is school. So, what you do with that balance of the eight hours of the day is what defines who you are or what you become. So, what I really enjoy is teaching kids how to maximize those eight hours that’s left over in terms of becoming the person that they want to become.”
Gehring’s popularity among his players is unquestioned. Freshman guard Skylar Mysliborski said playing for Gehring is “the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly. I’m honored to play for him. He’s changed me. He’s changed the way I play. More than just basketball, he gives me great life advice. He gives me advice on everything, really. He’s just an amazing man and coach and everything in between. I love him so much.”
Sophomore guard Adrine Demirciyan said Gehring is “tough, but he wants us to win and he’ll do anything for us at any time and he’ll push us if we push ourselves … He has made me the player I am today.”
Gehring puts “heart and soul” into his work and looking after his players, Greenport athletic director Chris Golden said. “They know that he cares about them, much more than just a game. They know he cares about them as people and is genuinely interested in their well-being.”
What does Gehring get the biggest kick out of in regards to coaching?
“Overachieving,” he said. “Last year as an example. I loved it. No one expected us to have more than two wins. We went all the way into the last week of the season and we were still in the running for the playoffs. I loved that.”
One of the obvious changes Gehring has noticed over the years has been the pressure coaches face from parents regarding playing time, positions, strategy, etc. How bad has it gotten?
“It’s gotten very bad,” he said, “enough that I may call it quits after this year because it’s been that bad and it’s very, very hurtful because, from my point of view — I’m not saying it’s not hurtful to other coaches, I’m only talking from my point of view — because I am so passionate about what I do and genuinely care about the kids and put a lot of time and effort into it during the summers. I’ve been [in Greenport] three, four, five days a week. And this is the truth: I drive up to Dolgeville, I’ll train kids five hours up there, I’ll take the car back, drive back and train kids back down here. And when parents make derogatory comments, it hurts, it genuinely hurts.”
Gehring’s generosity matches his passion. Where does that generosity come from?
His late father, George Gregory, who started the textile company Gehring Tricot Corporation, which Gehring now runs as president and CEO.
“My father was absolutely the most generous person I’ve ever met in my life, and I’m not just saying that because [he] was my father,” Gehring said. “If he had literally the last penny in his pocket, he would give it up.”
Gehring saw the result of his father’s generosity after the elder Gehring was killed in Manhattan when an out-of-control bus went over a sidewalk and struck him Dec. 27, 2001. The funeral was held in Baldwin at St. Christopher’s Church, which holds about 1,800 people. “Literally, people could not fit in the church — could not fit in,” Gehring said. “People were standing outside. It was that jam-packed.”
.At the wakes, Gehring heard story after story that he never heard before about some of his father’s good deeds.
Years later, Gehring continues to bring that generous spirit to his coaching.
“It’s not just a labor of love,” he said, “but to be 60 years old and have a real purpose still to your life, that’s the blessing.”
Top photo caption: Greenport’s head coach, Skip Gehring talks to his players during a time out against Smithtown Christian. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)