William "Doc" Dougherty used to burn through VCRs like they were going out of style, which they eventually did.
The longtime Garden City High School boys lacrosse coach was so hungry for an edge that he would pull all-nighters before games, watching film in his Freeport home until the sun came up — or the VCR broke, whichever came first.
"The night before [games], he never slept," said Janet Dougherty, his wife of 21 years. "It consumed him. We would go through a VCR once a month, maybe once every two months."
Doc Dougherty, who coached lacrosse for 33 seasons at Garden City and one season at Lawrence and won 567 games, died March 19 of interstitial lung disease at his home, his wife said. He was 79.
While at Garden City, Dougherty won 26 regular-season
While at Garden City, Dougherty won 26 regular-season conference titles, 11 Nassau County titles, nine Long Island Championships, and four state championships. His program once won 47 consecutive games, the second longest streak in Nassau history and fifth longest streak in Long Island history, according to Newsday records. Credit: Freelance/Richard Slattery
"He was an icon, that guy," said longtime assistant Doug Dwyer, 66, of Garden City.
While at Garden City, Dougherty won 26 regular-season conference titles, 11 Nassau County titles, nine Long Island Championships, and four state championships. His program once won 47 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Nassau history and fifth-longest in Long Island history, according to Newsday records.
"Doc was a throwback coach," Dwyer said. "He ruled the roost. He ran the show. It was his team. It wasn't anyone else’s. The administrators didn't have say. They picked him as a coach, and he coached the way he wanted to coach."
Dougherty was a physical education teacher for over 45 years, primarily at Garden City High School. He had all the familiar markings of an old-school coach. His practices were hard, his rules were rigid, and his teams were always better for it.
"He was a General Patton," Dwyer said. "He was a leader. He was a commanding force and a brilliant coach. His practices were really tough and competitive. Practices were hard, the games were easy."
Dougherty’s lacrosse success extended beyond the high school level. He won two under-19 club world championships, taking players to Japan and Australia to compete. He also coached the men’s club team at Hofstra and the New York Saints, a professional lacrosse team, his wife Dougherty said.
He was inducted into the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
"He knew how to motivate kids," said former South Side lacrosse coach Joe Baccarella, 57, of Farmingdale. "He had a lot of talent at Garden City, but I don’t think he played favorites, and I think people respected him for that. He was a no-nonsense type of guy."
While the spring season was all about lacrosse, the fall was for football. Dougherty coached varsity football at Garden City from 1981 to 1984, reaching the conference finals in all four years and winning twice. He was the offensive coordinator at Hempstead when they won four straight Conference I playoff titles from 1985 to 1988, before moving back to Garden City, where he coached the junior varsity until 2007.
"He was as prepared as anyone I've ever seen," said close friend Seth Messier, 46, of Rockville Centre, one of Dougherty’s football assistants. "He coached JV football like he was coaching a varsity sport. We’d take the kids into watch films. He would critique them. One thing Doc always said, ‘If you critique them on something and you're telling them to do something, you always have to give them an accolade as well.' "
Messier continued: "He was masterful at getting the most out of his athletes. That was one thing that he always did, maximize the potential of each and every kid."
Born July 13, 1941, Dougherty grew up in Yonkers. He played football at Yonkers High School and football and lacrosse at SUNY Cortland, where he received a master’s in physical education, his wife said.
As a physical education teacher, Dougherty was immensely popular. He wanted students to participate, but gave them options on how to do so.
"Nobody wanted to miss gym," said Janet Dougherty, who also taught at Garden City High School. "If he was doing something that they didn't like, as long as they got changed, they came on time, and they were active, he offered them at least a variety of six to seven activities."
Dougherty was a voracious reader, consuming multiple books a week. In retirement, he was almost never without his Kindle.
"Doc looked like this big, scary coach with chewing tabaco falling out of his mouth, but the guy read two books a week, as thick as a phone book," Dwyer said. "He could talk to you about [anything from] turbine windmills to ancient Vikings."
In addition to his wife, Dougherty is survived by son Sean Dougherty of Cold Spring Harbor and daughters Blaine Peck of Connecticut and Shannon Power of Brightwaters, and eight grandchildren. He was cremated. A celebration of life will be held at Tropix on the Mile in Freeport this June, Janet Dougherty said.
By Jordan Lauterbach With Andy Slawson