Ev Corwin chuckled as he recounted the memory. It was the first Greenport junior varsity boys basketball team he coached back in the 1997-98 season. At the time, he may have thought to himself. “What’s so tough about this coaching business?”
As Corwin recalled, “I had a stacked JV team and I remember I went undefeated in the regular season and even the non-league games and I said to myself, ‘This is easy.’ ”
That JV team posted an 18-0 record. Corwin, undoubtedly, was feeling good about things.
“I look back and knowing what I know now, I’m sure that I was pretty full of myself at the time by my coaching expertise,” he said. “Probably four of my five starters would have probably been top players on a lot of varsity teams in our league that year.”
All these years later, Corwin has a better understanding of things. He knows teams with good players are going to win their share of games and some of the best coaching can be done during losses. “You’re going to win and you’re going to lose,” he said. “It’s just the way it goes.”
He also knows something else: It’s time for him to call it quits. At least for now.
A rarity will occur later this year when Greenport will hire only its third varsity boys basketball head coach in 43 years. That’s right, 43 years!
Corwin, 49, in an interview with The Suffolk Times on Thursday, disclosed that he will not return as the Porters’ coach next season. He indicated it’s time for a younger coach — referring to assistant coaches Justin Moore and Ryan Creighton — to take over the reins while he focuses on his health and spends more time with his family.
“I just felt like I have to work on my health a little bit more, and the fact that I just think it’s their time because it’s going to be a major reset after this year’s team, with the seniors we had on it,” Corwin said. “It’s going to be a young team and I just think that they have the energy and they’re raring to go, and I think that it’s just a perfect time to let them step in and have a chance at it.”
Corwin’s departure will end the former Greenport player’s 26-year association with the program as a coach — one season at the junior high school level before taking over the JV team and then succeeding Al Edwards as the varsity coach. In his nine season in charge of the varsity Porters, Corwin has compiled a 91-63 record and been named a league coach of the year three times. His teams have reached two state Class C semifinals, won three straight league championships and went 2-3 in county finals.
In 2018 and 2019, Greenport fell two wins shy of what would have been its first state title. The Porters fell short to Cooperstown in the 2019 semifinal, 108-98, in a triple-overtime thriller that set a state tournament record for the most combined points in a game.
Corwin’s impact transcended the basketball court, though.
“Not only were they excelling on the court. obviously, in going to the final four in those back-to-back years, but they were just really gentlemen off the court as well, and that’s something that was very noticeable early on, and it’s something that you see with all these athletes,” Greenport athletic director Brian Toussaint said. “They see you in the halls, they shake your hand. They ask you how your day was. They’re very polite. They’re holding doors open. You see Ev’s handiwork, not just on the court, but off the court, too. He’s a real class act.”
Greenport went 14-8 this season, falling to Pierson in the Suffolk Class C final. It was the final high school game for seven Greenport seniors, including Corwin’s son, also named Ev.
Corwin returned to coaching after suffering a stroke in March, 2020, that had paralyzed the right side of his body.
“I knew the doctors weren’t happy with me coaching,” he said. “Last year was six games and it wasn’t even a real season, but I wanted to make sure I got done with this season with my son and his friends and then I’ll pass the baton.”
Toussaint said Moore and Creighton are candidates for the position, which is expected to be filled in the fall.
By stepping away from the team, Corwin will have more opportunities to attend games involving his daughter, Lilly, a sophomore who plays volleyball, basketball and softball. But Corwin noted that he isn’t leaving coaching for good.
“I’m not done by any means, though,” he said. “I’m never gonna be done coaching.”
Corwin said he cherishes the lifelong relationships he has built with players over the years. He also spoke about how his perception of things changed in his time as a coach.
“As the years went on, I enjoyed it more, I think,” he said. “I had real thin skin when I first started and I’m not saying that I don’t now, but you have to learn to understand that it’s part of the deal being a coach in any sport at any level, that you’re always going to get questioned. You’re always going to get too much of the credit when you win, and maybe too much of the blame when you lose, but once you understand that it comes with it, you just kind of understand that it’s you and your team, and that’s all that really matters. For me it took a while to learn, though.”
Corwin, a former Porters ballboy who went on to play for Edwards, the Suffolk County Sports and Greenport High School Hall of Fame coach he later succeeded, had a front-row seat to a lot of Greenport basketball history. He saw some of the program’s greatest players like Gerald Crenshaw, Ryan Creighton, Ahkee Anderson, Jaxan Swann and Julian Swann.
“I would not have wanted to coach anywhere else,” he said. “This community rallies around its youth and its school and its players. I loved every minute of it.”