From Staten Island to Iowa: Western Dubuque Coach Dennis Geraghty notches 500th career win

Western Dubuque's head boys' basketball coach Dennis Geraghty speaks to his team between the first and second quarters of a Class 4A boys' basketball substate game against Cedar Rapids Jefferson at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, February 20, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Western Dubuque's head boys' basketball coach Dennis Geraghty speaks to his team between the first and second quarters of a Class 4A boys' basketball substate game against Cedar Rapids Jefferson at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, February 20, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Dennis Geraghty was as New York as New York gets.

He grew up in Staten Island, got a scholarship to play basketball at Long Island University in Brooklyn. But then he found his way to Iowa, of all places, and never left.

The Western Dubuque boys’ basketball coach picked up his 500th career victory Tuesday night when his Bobcats beat Maquoketa, 58-51. A hoops lifer, Geraghty has been coaching the sport he loves for nearly half a century.

This is his 39th as a head high school coach.

“I always thought maybe I’d be playing pro basketball, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “I told myself if I could stay in basketball throughout my adult life, I’d be very happy, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. So many people have chased the dream. I’ve lived the dream.”

Geraghty, 70, wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity team until he was a senior. He lasted at Long Island for one semester, dropping out for personal, family reasons.

That was when he decided he wanted to get out of the city. He left, ending up at Ellsworth Community College and with a severe case of culture shock.

“It was a major, major adjustment being in Iowa Falls for a year,” he said. “I can remember my roommate, Willie Walker, a 6-6 kid from Brooklyn. About 2 o’clock in the morning my third or fourth night there, he says ‘Are you awake? Let’s go uptown and get something to eat.’

“So we walk up there, and, of course, everything is shut down. A cop car comes by, and here’s this 6-6 black guy and smart-ass me. He says something to us, and I spurted something back. He gets out of the car and basically says ‘I don’t ever want to see you guys again walking around the streets of Iowa Falls at 3 a.m.'”

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After Ellsworth, Geraghty went to Saint Ambrose in Davenport, where he said Coach Leo Kilfoy became a mentor and father figure. Upon graduation, he got his first coaching job at Preston High School.

One of his players was a sophomore named Dan Beck, who has coached at Preston/Easton Valley for 42 years.

Geraghty was an assistant coach at North Dakota State for a couple of years, then got back into prep coaching at Columbus Lakeview High School in Nebraska. He also has coached at Parkersburg, Creston, Dubuque Hempstead, West Delaware and Tipton.

“With this job and the West Delaware job, we’ve had a lot of success: four Wamac championships at West Delaware, and this is our fifth here,” Geraghty said. “It’s because we’ve had really good kids who buy into our system, and I’ve surrounded myself with really good coaches.”

He says at this point in his career, he is on a year-to-year basis. He plans to head to Texas on vacation with his wife after the season is completed, where he’ll contemplate whether he’ll continue to coach.

He’s leaning toward returning to WD, which tied with West Delaware for the Wamac Conference East Division championship. The Bobcats (15-6) will enter the rugged Mississippi Valley Conference next season.

“(Hitting 500) means I’m very thankful to be doing it this long,” Geraghty said. “I’ve put in a lot of years. A lot of young coaches don’t stay in the business anymore, and that’s sad. Even during some of the bad years, it has never felt like I’ve had a job. It’s just something that I’ve always had a passion for, ever since the fifth grade when I started playing basketball.

“Throughout all these years, I’ve just had really good kids who have been willing to pay the price.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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