The PSAL lost one of its longtime volleyball coaches late last month.
More than 300 people showed up to his wake – former players and students, opposing coaches and a host of others, according to former player and 10-year assistant coach Ray Wong.
“It was unbelievable to see all these people – some I haven’t seen in 20 years,” Wong said. “It’s definitely a big loss in everyone’s heart.”
DeGennaro made the PSAL city playoffs 20 of his 23 years at the helm. But he was about much more than just winning matches. The way he treated his players and the discipline he instilled actually inspired Wong to become a teacher. Wong, 35, graduated in 1995 and coached by DeGennaro’s side for 10 years.
“We didn’t always get the same kids that other schools got, but we used volleyball as a vehicle to get students to graduate,” Wong said. “It was very family oriented. Some kids lacked that strong adult role model. We always made them go to class and behave. If you didn’t do that, you didn’t play. That was it.”
DeGennaro retired after last spring’s boys volleyball season and Joe Perazzo, the former Sheepshead Bay coach, took over the program. The Lafayette players vowed to win their first league game, just a day after their old coach died, and they did, beating Fort Hamilton, where Wong now volunteers as an assistant.
“It pretty devastating and shocking at the same time,” Wong said of DeGennaro’s death.
Wong attended the wake with his former teammates at Lafayette. It has been 17 years since he has graduated from Lafayette, but he is still close with all his high school friends. That’s the kind of program DeGennaro ran.
“The thing about the program is that people constantly came back to visit and to help out,” Wong said.”We all kept in touch. It’s pretty much a family.”
After graduating college, Wong came back to help DeGennaro as an assistant. His experience doing that inspired him to go back to school and get his teaching degree. He now works at Fort Hamilton. DeGennaro, who he said was like a second father, will live on through the ones who coached and taught.
“We never had any players go on to become professional volleyball players, but we became professional people and we’re all proud of that,” Wong said. “There’s probably hundreds of kids that could back that up.”
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Lafayette, Lafayette, DeGennaro, assistant coach, boys and girls, volleyball coaches