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Bob Bigelow, 71, Iconic Coach, Dies

Bob Bigelow taught for 32 years, won 10 state titles in girls soccer and four Nassau crowns in boys basketball.

Bob Bigelow of Bayside, one of the most accomplished high school coaches in state history, and an iconic figure at  in Rockville Centre, has died. 

Bigelow, who received a lung transplant last August, died Saturday from related complications at a hospital in Montclair, N.J. He was 71.

Coach Bigs, as players called him, taught physical education and coached at South Side for 32 years. He won 330 games and 10 state titles in 21 seasons as the South Side girls soccer coach. Bigelow retired after the 2001 season, which ended with a 20-0 mark, a state Class A title, mythical national championship and National Soccer Coaches Association of America coach of the year award (he first earned the honor in 1994). 

His .864 winning percentage ranks 17th all-time among national high school girls soccer coaches (minimum 250 wins). Bigelow ranks eighth in wins (330-45-17) in state history, according to the NSCAA.

“He absolutely loved it. He thought the world of the girls," said ex-wife Sandy Bigelow. The two were married 22 years.

While Bigelow is best known for his tactical brilliance in soccer, he also was an accomplished boys basketball coach. Bigelow directed the Cyclones to Nassau boys basketball titles in 1971, '72, '75 and '78. He went 202-60 from 1968-82.

“He had a unique knack for getting kids to perform over and above their abilities,” recalled Art Raynor, a former teacher and basketball scorekeeper. “He never raised his voice. I never saw him angry. He was remarkable.”

When Bigelow took a break from coaching basketball he was asked to start the girls soccer program at the school. Family and colleagues confess he knew nothing about the sport at first.

“He learned soccer from me,” daughter Kathleen Bigelow Fink said. “When he ended up taking over the girls, the things he did know were what he learned watching me play.’’

What Bigelow brought was a keen tactical mind. He studied his opponents endlessly. His teams also were technically sound. South Side soccer didn’t make mistakes. A dynasty was born.

Bigelow, who grew up in Adams, Mass., played on the 1960 Final Four NYU men’s basketball squad.

In retirement, Bigelow split time between Bayside, Queens and Oahu, Hawaii. He loved to travel, say family. And he never stopped coaching, according to longtime girlfriend Sue Wallace.

“He was very easygoing and generous person,” Wallace said. “We played golf together and he coached me. Now I’m fairly good.”

Bigelow is survived by two daughters: Kimberly Bigelow Organ, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Kathleen Bigelow Fink, of Baldwin; eight grandchildren; and siblings Dorothy Russett, George and Jim Bigelow.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday from 2-5 p.m. at . In lieu of flowers, the family asks a donation be made to an athletic scholarship in his name to benefit a South Side student. Donations to the Coach Bob Bigelow Scholarship Fund can be sent to the funeral home.

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