Brooklyn Boro

It’s time to put former Lafayette High coach Gil Fershtman in the Hall of Fame

November 17, 2020 Andy Furman Special to the Brooklyn Eagle

Let him in. It’s time.

There just has to be a spot in the New York City Hall of Fame for Gil Fershtman.

Want some proof?

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How’s this:

The former Lafayette High basketball coach – he did it from 1961 through 1976 – amassed 204 wins in 279 games for a cool .731 winning percentage.

That package included eight divisional championship titles, one Brooklyn title and a Final Four appearance in his rookie season: 1961-62.

Oh yeah – he was Coach of the Year in 1975-76 when he led the Frenchies to a 19-1 mark.

The next season he went to the PSAL finals.

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And if that’s not Hall of Fame credentials, then what is?

And coaching wasn’t always in his blood.

“I attended Tufts and later transferred to NYU,” he told the Eagle. “I was in their business school, but soon realized it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.”

What he really wanted to do was play baseball for the New York Yankees.

“I guess I wasn’t good enough,” said the 86-year-old coach, who now resides with his wife (Debbie) in Florida.

And as luck would have it, a classmate at NYU – Jack Donahue, the successful coach at now defunct Power Memorial High — asked if Fershtman would like to coach at Brooklyn Academy.

That was in 1955.

It was a match made in heaven – and the beginning of what should be a Hall of Fame career.

His Brooklyn Academy team won the Private School Baseball Championship.

Yes, baseball.

Fershtman coached both basketball and baseball for $200 each.

The coaching bug hit him – hard – and his talents moved to the Flatbush Boys Club – while he was attending college.

The Army sent him to France, where he served as a player-coach in baseball.

And in 1960-61 he served as assistant under then-Lafayette High basketball coach Frank Rabinowitz before taking over the reins the following season.

“I wasn’t paid a dime that first year,” he said, “but it didn’t matter. I loved every minute of it.”

By the way, that next season he won 14 of 18 games, copped the divisional championship and made it to the Final Four before losing a heartbreaker to Wingate at Madison Square Garden.

But if the Hall won’t open its doors for Fershtman for basketball – and why wouldn’t they? – then try this.

He coached the baseball team at Lafayette from 1972 through 1976 – won 140 games and lost just 15.

The 1972 team went 28-2 and won the city championship. Two years later, they went 32-1 with another city title. The ’73 and ’75 teams were Brooklyn champs and the ’76 team won a divisional title.

“I learned everything from him,” said Mel Goldstein, a member of the 1965 playoff team, who went to coach basketball at Wingate High and later served as the Public Schools Athletic League’s [PSAL] basketball commissioner.

“He molded me to what he wanted me to be,” Goldstein told the Eagle. “He inspired me to coach.”

And if you don’t believe in the Lafayette “magic,” Fershtman took his talents to Madison High, where he coached the girls’ softball teams from 1977 through 1986.

And, of course, he won there as well.

Try nine division titles, two Brooklyn championships and an overall record of 148-26.

As for an all-time Lafayette hoop team, he stopped short after mentioning Freddie Grasso, Gary Goldberg, Mike Pollack and Arthur (Stretch) Graham.

“Too many to single out,” he said.

The one constant, of course, is their coach Gil Fershtman – a legitimate Hall of Famer.

“I never really thought about the Hall of Fame,” he said. “But I’d be so proud of I got in. I think I’d cry.”

Get the tissues ready.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle.


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