Basketball is a sport that unites everyone, especially in the community of St. Margaret of Cortona. At the heart of this unity stands Pat Woods, a man who has witnessed its evolution with the recent merger of two Catholic schools — St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Gabriel.
Woods legacy began in the early years alongside his father, Joe Woods Sr.
The program, which Pat Woods entered at a young age, was slowly fading away. Recognizing this decline, his father acted. In 1976, Joe initiated the St. Margaret’s Basketball Program, commencing with the Friday Night Intramural Program. This coincided with Pat Woods preparing for his 8th-grade season as a player. Simultaneously, Joe Woods assumed the role of the head coach of the boys varsity team. It was not only Pat Woods who played, but also his two sisters: Joanne Woods (Class of 1989) and Kristen Woods (Class of 1991).
Initially, the St. Margaret’s program comprised solely of the varsity team; the multiple teams we witness today were nonexistent. Moreover, financial backing was limited, necessitating involvement from the parish. Father Thomas Murphy, the then-new moderator, played a pivotal role in supporting the program’s reconstruction.
During Joe Woods’ tenure, the Tony Walsh Memorial Sports Night was established — an end-of-season event designed to honor his friend through an Award Ceremony, attended by many in our community. The event featured simple and small servings of food, overseen by Dolores, Pat Woods’ mother and Joe Woods’ wife at the time. Dolores managed the Athletics Program’s accounts and received assistance from her longtime friend, Margie Cook.
The growth of the program saw the emergence of another important event: the Beefsteak, which began to gain popularity. The event traces back to World War II and still serves as a fundraising opportunity aimed at collecting funds for the basketball team. Thanks to that event, the funds contributed significantly to the boys’ junior varsity team.
Under Dan Hanley’s leadership as the head coach, these funds played a pivotal role in expanding the program, allowing the establishment of three boys’ teams and three girls’ teams.
However, the questions arise: where did Pat Woods’ legacy originate, and how did he follow in his father’s footsteps?
His journey began around 1978. During his father’s tenure in 1978, Pat managed the scorer’s table for two seasons. Initially, he was uncertain about following in his father’s footsteps. Being young, he was unsure of his plans. However, Joe Woods, his father, regularly took young Pat to high school basketball games and the city championship game, which became the pinnacle of basketball excitement for him.
These experiences formed core memories that held significant importance for Pat. Between 1981 and 1982, he served as Hanley’s assistant coach. The subsequent year, he assumed the role of assistant to his father for the boys’ varsity team.
Towards the end of 1983, Joe Woods stepped down as the head coach. The following year, Father Murphy approached the young 20-year-old Pat Woods, presenting him with the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was an immense pressure to step into the shoes of someone who had contributed so much to the program, but Pat did not shy away from it.
Instead, it filled him with pride and readiness to accept the challenge. That marked the beginning of Pat Woods’ independent journey with his own team in 1984.
“As we mark 40 years, one of the most significant moments for me as a coach was winning the championship in 1987 and the enduring relationship I’ve maintained with my first team,” Pat Woods said. “I have to say that it is my first team and when I won the championship in 1987 and the relationship I have with my first team. I have great relationship to this day.”
Pat’s first year resulted in a .500 record. The 1986 team reached the semi-finals. A friend of Pat’s, who played for the city champion in 1980 and attended Heartwoods College, played a pivotal role in shaping his early coaching career. This friend imparted invaluable insights into practice, defense, and offense that Pat continues to use today.
“With the good, there is bad,” Pat mused, recalling his first captain, Pat Joyce, and his close friend John Ford.
In 2009, tragedy struck when Joyce, a Yonkers firefighter, lost his life in the line of duty. In memory of Joyce, a tournament was established.
“One of the things that mean a lot to me is tournament,” Pat Woods said. “All the money we raise goes to Tree House. Joyce had a profound connection to the cause, dedicating his time to volunteer work there. The donations made in his name serve as a heartfelt tribute.
This initiative stemmed from Billy McLoughlin, a former player of Joe Woods’ 1983 team. Joyce’s tournament initially faced challenges in fundraising, leading to an agreement to unite three parishes linked to him: St. Margaret of Cortona, Annunciation (where Pat Joyce’s family relocated), and St. Joseph in Bronxville, where Pat Joyce played in a men’s league. The championship game is held at Fordham Prep, Pat Joyce’s alma mater. This collaborative effort commenced in 2010, scheduling the Pat Joyce Tournament around Christmas time.
Pat Woods Q&A
When asked about what he wants players to remember from his basketball coaching career, Pat emphasized, “Well, the dedication, hard work, and the relationships I have with each player.”
What do you envision for the future of St. Margaret and St. Gabriel basketball? “As St. Margaret and St. Gabriel unite, I reflect on the strong relationship I had with St. Gabriel. They hosted a wonderful holiday tournament that many of us fondly remember from our younger years in the ‘80s and ‘90s. This tournament holds cherished memories for many. Saint Gabriel’s was the place to be for pick-up basketball in the mid-1950s to late 1950s.”
“My father shared a fantastic relationship with St. Gabriel, which further underscores the history and connection between the two communities. I eagerly anticipate witnessing what the future holds for basketball as these schools come together. I’m thrilled to be a part of this exciting journey.
If your father were here today, what would he have said about your career as a basketball coach? ‘During his battle with Parkinson’s Disease, our conversations would center around how the team was doing, and my goal was to coach 43 seasons. Combined with his 7 seasons, we would reach 50 seasons together. He was impressed with the longevity, and even though the team struggled over the last 5 years of his life, I continued coaching,’ said Pat.
If you were able to say anything to your father from the experience of working under him, what would you say today? “His biggest piece of advice was after a game he came to watch. He would tell me I had to get the players on the bench more playing time for the next season. They needed in-game experience and to play some meaningful minutes as a 7th-grader to be ready for the following season.”
Now that you have completed 40 years of coaching, can you say you have followed your father’s footsteps the way he expected you to? “Yes, he was happy that I followed in his footsteps, especially the fundraising for the basketball program through the Beefsteak. While I was only on the Beefsteak Committee for one year, I started in the coat room in 1976, worked by serving the beer, and still am in the top 5 in ticket sales for the event today.
“While he ran intramurals for 20+ years and only helped out in the beginning, my focus was on running alumni basketball games on the Friday of Thanksgiving Weekend for 27 years, which he would coach one team of his former players. He would also attend the Father Murphy Tournament, Pat Joyce Memorial Tournament, and Pat Joyce Memorial Legends Games held on the day of the College Basketball Final Four. Like any parent, when asked how their kids (young adults) were doing, he was proud to answer I was still coaching St. Margaret’s BV Basketball. My brother John played for my dad for two seasons in 1979 and 1980.”