By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE April 9, 2002 A Sullivan County Community College mens basketball game just wouldnt be the same without the teams Number One Fans.
Ever since the star-crossed Dave Possinger era years ago, Herman and Shirley Weingarten of Loch Sheldrake have been in the stands rooting for the home team, come hell or high water.
For the last few years, weve been following them more than religiously, said Herman Weingarten. My wife and I enjoy the game and the boys, and weve become sort of friendly with the coaches.
During the season, the Weingartens are among the first to arrive and the last to leave. Before the home games, Herman is a familar sight as he comes down from his perch in the bleachers to say hello to the SCCC players and coaching staff. Afterwards, the couple either congratulates the team for another victory or commiserates with them in the wake of an infrequent loss.
During the years, the Weingartens have gotten to know a few coaches. First it was the tail-end of the Possinger years, then Mike Kelly and on to Will Brown, and a brief stint by Chris DePew until Chad Beeten took over the reins early in the 2001-2002 season.
Along the way, the Generals finished at the top of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III heap. In the last two seasons, they made it to the national finals at SUNY Delhi, but just missed the coveted NJCAA National Championship.
Possinger served as coach of the Generals from September 1991 to November 1996, guiding the Generals to NJCAA Div. III titles during the 1991-92, 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. Kelly served as SCCC coach from November 1996 to August 1998 and Brown held the position from September 1998 to this past August. DePew was the Generals coach from last August to November, when Beeten was hired by the local community college.
I thought something was odd, said Weingarten in regards to the Possinger helmsmanship. In fact, I asked him that with his record of eight million wins and three losses, how come he wasnt a coach at a big Division I school, and the answer he gave me was that it was a closed thing . . . the same people move from school to school, and you cant break in.
According to Weingarten, Brown who has since moved on to become head coach at Division I SUNY Albany was a great coach, one of the nicest people Ive ever met.
Beeten accepted the position as coach of the Generals five games into the 2001-2002 season, while SCCC Athletic Director Chris DePew took on the role of assistant coach. DePew served as assistant under Brown and then as interim coach at the beginning of the recently completed 2001-2002 season.
Beeten and DePew did a great job this year, said their Number One Fan. They took the Generals to the NJCAA Nationals after losing Will Brown and several players decided not to come to the college when they heard he wasnt going to be here.
Herman Weingarten said hes proud of being likened to a father figure to the team.
I talk to them like a father, and explain to them that while theyre good basketball players, theyre not good enough to get a $12 million contract with the New York Knicks, he said. I tell them the best thing they can do with their knowledge of basketball is to get a decent education.
Weingarten said he frequently pestered the hoopsters about their grades, because thats more important than basketball.
Theyre good kids, he added. Very often after the games, one or two would come over to my wife up in the seats and give her a hug or a kiss . . . were just crazy about them.
Weingarten himself played the game of hoops while attending James Monroe High School in the Bronx, and later in an industrial league while employed by a NYC-based fabric materials supplier.
His assessment of the 2000-2001 team was that they didnt reach their potential, while the 2001-2002 Generals played over their potential on the way to the NJCAA Div. III finals.
I thought Chad and Chris got as much out of this team as they could, he said. The Generals are either underacheivers or overacheivers . . . they dont play at the same level all the time.
His view of the 2002-2003 season? We lost a lot of last years team to four-year colleges, but I understand Beeten has some good kids coming in . . . were hoping.
We pop in every so often to see if everything is under control.
Shirley Weingarten is a retired dental hygienist.
Theyre nice boys, and the team did very well, she said of this past season. We couldnt make it to Delhi, but our hearts were there.
In addition to being known to the SCCC players and coaches, the Weingartens have developed a special rapport with their fellow Generals fans.
We have the same seats every game, and if someone else is sitting there, people tell them to move over, Shirley Weingarten said.