Long-time Hamilton professor of physical education Eugene “Gene” Milton Long, whose ingenuity led to the creation of the hockey goalie mask, died on Nov. 18, 2022, at the age of 93.

Born on April 15, 1929, in Oneonta, N.Y., Long was a standout athlete in high school. He attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., for a term before enrolling at Cortland (N.Y.) State Teachers College. Following graduation in 1951, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps where he achieved the rank of captain.

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Long began his career at Hamilton in 1953 as an instructor in physical education, coach, and athletics trainer. During the ensuing 38 years until his retirement in 1991, he coached cross country, winter and outdoor track, and served as the athletics trainer, professor of physical education, and athletics director. He was also an accomplished racquet player, excelling in squash, tennis, and badminton. When the hockey team traveled, he and Coach Greg Batt often played squash against opposing coaches. According to one alumnus, it was said that while the hockey team did not win many games during that time, Batt and Long were undefeated against the opposing coaches and trainers.

But it is devotion to his students for which Long will be best remembered. Whether as a coach or a trainer, Long was committed to ensuring that his student athletes performed to their potential. To treat and prevent injuries, Long began experimenting with fiberglass to build custom athletics equipment and appliances, including a heel cup for pole vaulters and long jumpers. He also made fiberglass thigh pads for his football players and padding of every sort for other sports.

Track and field athlete Edwin Taft ’62 once recalled: “Gene Long crafted [a] cup from a plaster cast mold of the heel, from which he made a plaster ‘heel,’ over which he molded fiberglass strips for the actual cup. It protected the heel from injury throughout my college career, in Federation meets post-college, and into Masters and Seniors competition (one triple jump national championship) in recent years. Prior to Hamilton, all an orthopedist could advise me was to use a sponge rubber heel pad, which proved grossly insufficient. Plastic cups are available now, but they are generic and not fitted, and don’t serve as well as the custom Gene Long model.”

After fashioning a fiberglass skate insert for Hamilton hockey goalie Don Spencer ’59 to protect his inside ankle when making a kick save, Long became determined to find a way to protect the netminder’s face. He crafted a form-fitting fiberglass mask that would reduce injuries while still allowing the goalie a full range of vision. Spencer’s college season ended before he could give the prototype a try in a game, but it was clear from testing it in practices that the mask had some promise.

Long was not proprietary about the new mask, which is perhaps why he is not credited in a more definitive way for its development. After reading a newspaper article about how Jacques Plante, the star goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, was interested in a mask, Spencer sent him a letter in the spring of 1959. “I was thinking I might even get a couple of tickets to the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Spencer told USA Today. “I never heard back from him.” Plante changed the course of professional hockey when he donned a Long-like mask on Nov. 1, 1959. And while there’s no way to prove that Long alone is responsible for the mask, it’s fair to say that he had a hand in inventing the technology.

Dave Thompson, former swimming coach and professor of physical education emeritus, remembers philosophical conversations with Long: “Gene spoke of the importance of a total program including physical education, intramurals, club sports, and varsity teams. He explained the hierarchy in terms of a pyramid or triangle, with the physical education requirement being the broad, foundational piece, then intramurals, club sports, and then varsity sports. In his model, the crucial piece was the physical education program, required for all students. This had to be a critical part of their liberal arts education providing an introduction to lifetime activities, a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on the age-old healthy mind and body philosophy of the ancient Greeks. In Gene’s program it all started with physical education and coaches were teachers first. Coaches had to be fully integrated, tenured members of the faculty with an educational role he felt was critical to the liberal arts experience.

“The important thing I learned about Gene was that he had a great sense of balance, not only on the court, but in his approach to the athletic program. The program he developed served all students at all levels,” Thompson added.

Long became athletics director at Hamilton the year after the College joined the New England Small College Athletic Conference as a charter member in 1971, and he served in that role when James Michener published Sports in America in 1976. In it, Michener wrote, “Supported by the general faculty, [Long] initiated a program for all incoming men. It was in parts and seemed to me exactly what I would sponsor if I were the president of a small college. … I would like to see a program such as this in operation everywhere.”

In 2006, the Collegiate Cross Country and Track and Field Association awarded Long a lifetime achievement honor. He remained active in retirement, playing badminton into his late 80s and making frames for his grandson, an outstanding artist of cityscapes in oil.

Gene M. Long is survived by his wife of 69 years, Arlene, two daughters, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Another daughter predeceased him.


Alumni Remember Coach Long

Here, John Werner ’92 recalls his fellow teacher, coach, and mentor.

Gene Long challenged his teams to bring their best. He represented a different era of college coaching, before the big money and the scandals and all of the trappings of scholastic athletics today. Gene was inspirational, supportive, and visionary — all of those things that a coach should be. He is gone, but his knowledge lives on, in his notes and in the lives of his runners and his example that I depict here. 

My grandfather was born the same week that Orville and Wilbur Wright took their first airplane ride in Kitty Hawk, N.C., and (as my father reminds me) Grandpa Sidney lived to see men walk on the moon.

Gene Long was around a while, too. He coached at Hamilton for a long time: 39 years. On his last day there, I stopped by to say hi and wish him well. I was the last captain elected to lead a Hamilton cross country team under Coach Gene Long, so I was emotional thinking about his legacy. After exchanging pleasantries (Gene wasn’t much for small talk), I got a little “Gene advice” and thanked him for his leadership and support. As I was leaving his office, I found he had placed all his files — five boxes from his four decades — outside his door, to be picked up as trash. This was just like Gene — very practical. He was thinking: What do I, or anyone, want with these items?

There were all of the splits he took for all of his runners during his years of practices, all of his correspondence with runners and coaches, race day plans, ideas for inventions, meet results, all of his innovative training ideas — everything from decades of coaching and training, with dedication.

I asked him if I could take the files, and he said sure … and for 15 years, I was the custodian of all his records. In going through the files, the first item I found was the initial note he sent to the first team he coached, on Sept. 21, 1953: “All candidates are urged to wear a substantial shoe with a padded heel. A basketball shoe with sprung rubber heel insert will work very nicely.”

What a difference 70 years can make, with all of the serious advances in athletic equipment over those many decades. Our athletic shoes have been transformed over the decades by all manner of high-tech engineering, and as for other changes, that’s not to mention the juggernaut the athletic shoe industry has become in those intervening years; a high-dollar business.

I returned to Hamilton to attend the 2006 ceremony at which the Collegiate Cross Country and Track and Field Association awarded Gene its Lifetime Achievement Award. As I had moved a few times over those 15 years, I had kept Gene’s archives with me, and I brought them back for donation to Hamilton’s archives. At that event, I shared some remarks, and I emailed his runners over the years. In this write-up and at the end of this, you can see a sampling of quotes I gathered for my remarks that day I shared with Gene and the audience that came to celebrate him.

Gene, like my grandfather, saw a lot over his years at Hamilton College. At the end, Gene was leaving a campus that had 1,600 students, graduating over 400 a year, learners from all over the U.S. and the world — a co-ed school where everyone had computers and tuition was $10,000. 

Gene Milton Long was born April 15, 1929, and grew up during the depression. He grew up in central NY state, in the town of Oneonta. Gene’s father was the athletic director for his high school, Oneonta High School, where he was an accomplished athlete. Gene graduated from Oneonta High School lettering in football, basketball, and baseball.

After graduating from high school, Gene did a semester with the Merchant Marines and then transferred to Cortland State Teacher’s College (today SUNY Cortland). Upon graduating, he went into the Marines, stationed at Quantico, Va., and did a tour in Europe where he received the rank of captain and, in parallel, married his wife Arlene. After two years in the Marines, he took his first and only job at Hamilton. Gene went into the family business: athletics. He came to Hamilton just two years older than the senior class, and he worked there until he retired in 1991.

When Gene arrived in 1953, the College had graduated 127 men. These men, born in 1931, ’32, and ’33 were of the Silent Generation. Hamilton was truly an all-male college. In addition to the students, the faculty were 100% male. And in looking at the faculty’s alma maters, close to a fourth of them were Hamilton graduates. In 1953, Hamilton tuition was $300 a semester. 

When Gene arrived, Hamilton was very much a regional college. The majority of students were from Upstate New York. A book that William De Loss Love II (Class of 1909) published in 1963 showed that during the first 125 years, 557 families sent three or more men to the College, meaning one out of every five Hamilton families sent at least three of its sons. Hamilton is not only a College of brothers, but cousins, too, many of whom Gene either directly coached or were touched by his leadership.

Back then, there wasn’t a major highway in Upstate NY; I-87 was still four years away from being created. Hamilton had a few phones around campus from which students could call home. To give you a sense of how technological progress stood in 1953, no one had a TV on College Hill. This contributed to a feeling of isolation on campus, not to mention more challenges in getting the day’s news.  

At the time, there was no study abroad program. Today, such a big part of the American college experience is a semester or junior year abroad, to the point now that there are global universities like NYU and Northeastern that have campuses around the world. Hamilton had none of its students studying abroad. I spoke with Bill Bruins ’53, and he explained how he thought he was the first study abroad student. His father, who was also from Upstate NY, graduated from Hamilton in 1918, served in WWI right out of Hamilton, and was in the second class of the U.S. Foreign Legion where he served with George Kennan (a disciple of Elihu Root, Hamilton 1864) and was stationed in Beirut. He offered to fly his son over to visit him.

Bill hadn’t seen much of his dad growing up; his father was held captive during WWII by the Japanese. Bill took his first flight when going to Beirut, and once there, it occurred to him that he could get credit for a year at the American College of Beirut. It so happened the Hamilton librarian was taking a sabbatical at the American College of Beirut, and he offered to vouch for Bill’s classes. And so, study abroad at Hamilton was born.

There were two athletic tracks on campus. One was around Steuben Field. Today it isn’t there any more; the building of the Bristol Pool in 1988 cut into it. A track was created around the Love Field (as in the William Love family mentioned above) named after Walter Pritchard, Class of 1932 and a member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic Team who broke the U.S. 3000 steeplechase race time in the Olympic trials. There was another track that Gene would use, an indoor one around Sage Rink (the oldest collegiate indoor hockey arena) below the seats. Today it would seem like an archeological dig — like finding Tutankhamen’s tomb; no one watching a game there today would suspect that a running track was ever there.

Where Dunham Residence Hall is today stood a soccer field when Gene arrived. Dunham was built thanks to a donation by George Dunham, Class of 1879, in honor of his father, Moses Dunham, Class of 1847, for whom the building is named. In 1953, the beginning of this project was still six years away. In 1959, Dunham marked the first construction project at Hamilton since the building of the Alumni Gym in 1940. It also marked the College’s attempt to grow — it was built to hold a record freshman class of 250 students. In today’s dollars, the Dunham project cost $1,250,000.

The Burke Library (designed by the same firm that designed the CitiGroup Center in NYC) was still two decades from being built.

While cross county was a club sport at Hamilton starting in 1918, it was postponed during WWII and picked up again in 1949. Hamilton’s cross country coach was Peter Dugan, who doubled as the football line coach. Peter would train the runners but didn’t attend the meets because he was busy with the football games. Gene was Hamilton’s first varsity cross country coach. He was hired in the Physical Education Department as a trainer and cross country coach.

Gene had a lot of latitude to create the program, and he read up on the sport of running. He was inspired by the work of Roger Banister, who broke the four-minute mile during Gene’s second year at Hamilton, May 4, 1954. Gene’s training methods were influenced by reading and corresponding with international coaches of the period — those who set up the theoretical models by which Roger Bannister trained for his "impossible" four-minute mile.

Gene was way ahead of the times in how he harnessed the athletic potential and passion of his runners. His methods were clear, and his actions were direct. He coached with intelligent compassion, goal-oriented hard work, and a certainty that his student’s intelligence demanded explanations. He told his runners that his greatest rewards were not team titles or individual trophies, but the knowledge that runners he had made fit for college competition would become lifelong athletes. Gene spoke of training in moderation and recovery.

Some of Gene’s training methods seemed exotic and unorthodox at the time. He had his runners run barefoot on grass and uphill slopes. He had them doing circuit training, which included sit-ups, rope skips, jumping jacks, and push-ups. He attached to his runners' waists the metal grids that baseball grounds crews used to groom infields and had them run "hard 300s" to develop leg drive and proper body lean. He had runners run through snow in the winter and uncut pastures in the spring to improve leg lifting. Gene would have runners run behind his old Chevrolet station wagon, holding on to a rectangular bar that he attached to the back.

Some quotes from Gene’s archives: 

Oct. 19, 1954 – “Cross country is and has been a finite factor in the development of such qualities as self-discipline, intelligence, resourcefulness, self-reliance, and will to win — both in the individual and in cooperative effort. Think it over, boys.”

Sept. 26, 1967 – “Landing from an embankment. When landing from an embankment or surface higher than the next running surface, the danger of spills or turned ankles is great. Especially with tired distance runners. Instead of landing on the lead leg, as is commonly done when running and jumping, land on the trail leg and rock into (a) step. This method provides great stability because landing shock is not taken on the tense lead leg. The rocking into step method then prevents breaking stride as the momentum is not broken. Try jumping ditches and small streams.”

Gene was a tinkerer. In the same way Coach Bob Bowerman of the University of Oregon used a waffle iron to create the first Nike sneaker, Gene made what today would be called "medical devices" for his athletes. Gene himself contributed significantly to advances in sports equipment. An inveterate tinkerer, Gene would fashion protective gear and inserts, often using fiberglass he configured himself for bespoke items. One example happened in 1958, when Gene developed a hockey mask that was used in the National Hockey League. He was supporting the Hamilton goalie Don Spencer ’59. Gene fashioned a mask out of fiberglass and said the idea for the custom-fit mask came from work he had done in cross country to prevent heel trauma. Gene created custom-fit, fiberglass heel cups — a custom fit, the shock was distributed over the entire area. NHL goaltender Jacques Plante heard about this innovation and was the first to use it in the NHL. In 2020, he was nominated to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Beyond equipment, Gene was involved in the forefront of work on “visualization techniques” through which he asked his team members to imagine their goals before undertaking them. This approach was very much in keeping with Gene’s mantra: “be prepared.” Gene was an innovator as coach, one of the first coaches to use visualization techniques. In his pre-race meetings, he would ask runners to imagine that they had a rope tied around their waists that was attached to a balloon. This balloon would pull them up a hill. When they came down the hill, they were to visualize a runaway truck. He also advocated the "trout mouth" method when breathing in a race.

Gene coached through the Cold War, Red Scare, Vietnam, the Space Race, South Africa Divestment, Watergate, Tiananmen Square. He was on campus when the Ford Foundation funded a future planning grant that led to the founding of Kirkland College. During Gene’s long tenure, Kirkland was established in 1968 and that college later merged with Hamilton a decade later. In Gene’s last year of coaching in 1991, his women’s cross country team went undefeated. He thought the women were tough as nails and he told them.  

In the 1950s and 1960s, many sports, such as basketball, deemed women too “delicate” to play a full-court game. Similarly many collegiate coaches devised different cross country and track workouts for women believing their training should not be as “tough” as the men’s. This custom persisted well into the ’90s and beyond. Not the case if you were a female runner coached by Gene, who made a point of saying not only should women's workouts be the same, he also told them, “women are tougher and more determined than men and even though your races are shorter (cross country), I know you all are going to do the longer runs even if I tell you to run less, so we will do the same workouts.” 

Somewhat uncharacteristically carrying on, Gene added that the grade point average of the women on the cross country team was always higher than the men and that the average grade points and standardized test scores went up significantly when women were admitted to Hamilton. He said all of this with a totally straight face and matter-of-fact tone, then sent us off for a long loop around the farms of Clinton. As they were headed out, Catherine Zinn ’92 caught his eye and saw that he was grinning ear-to-ear. 

As Catherine recalled, toward the end of Gene’s last season of coaching, they were preparing for what would be Gene’s last head-to-head meet against Union, their most “special” rival: "Gene issued a challenge that would not only be a first for the women’s team, it would also be a big stretch to achieve. He said, “Let’s skunk Union. Let’s get our top 5 in before their first runner; you can do it.” He told us the recent times turned in on our course for the top Union runners. In short, for us to get our top 5 in ahead of their #1 and #2, at least two of us would have to run our personal records. I confess I didn’t think we could do it, but I didn’t say that out loud. Instead of running 'customary' separate races as we always did, gutting it out on our own, the two fastest runners (I was the #3 of 5) said, 'We can do this, and we are going to do it together. We are going to run the whole race together and we will cross the line, together, all five of us.'

"We did it, we crossed the line together, all five of us — ahead of Union’s #1. Just like we said we would.

"We were so very proud to deliver this result for Gene and for each other. In preparation, we put into play what we learned from Gene; he believed in the power of visualization — seeing and feeling yourself getting up over that hill, running through it and not letting up, and so on, we knew the course well and where certain runners would need more support and just how to offer that support — with quiet resolve, few words were spoken on the course, we just did it — somehow we just knew exactly what the others needed to dig deep that day.

"This remains one of the most powerful and meaningful experiences of my life. Admittedly, being very competitive and self-centered, in this shared victory I found something wonderful that has afforded me the life I have today — helping others achieve their goals is my greatest joy. 

"Above all else, Gene treated us with respect and instilled us with confidence, the kind that is earned, not the kind you are born with — anyone who knew Gene was changed for the better."

In 1953, when Gene arrived at Hamilton, the College’s rival was Union College, 93 miles east of Clinton. Sage Rink, built in 1921, had two giant words on its roof: “Beat Union!” Hamilton had many sports contests with its New York neighbors: Union, Colgate, Hobart, Rochester, Hartwick, and Harper (now SUNY Binghamton). This was a time before Division I, II, and III distinctions.

And so, in the early 1970s, the athletic administration of 11 New England schools began a dialogue about the need to establish some control over intercollegiate athletics, to provide a baseline framework of rules, and to keep themselves grounded as larger state schools moved into the realm of athletics as a revenue source.

Williams College President John Sawyer had initiated a NESCAC conference — New England Small College Athletic Conference (Amherst, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, Union, Williams) — stipulating that like-minded academic institutions should join and agree to no post-season play, affecting the NCAA championships, and no professionals on teams. Originally, there were two New York schools in the group. Union was in, too, but they left in 1977 and Connecticut College swapped in in 1983. Also, the Williams president that led the early years of the NESCAC, John Chandler, had been Hamilton president from 1968 to 1973.

Gene, like his father before him, was made an athletic director. It was in 1973 — a year into the formation of the new NESCAC. Gene was the athletics director at Hamilton, and his influence extended beyond Hamilton to all NESCAC schools as he worked closely with coaches across the league. He was admired for his kindness, seriousness of purpose, innovative methods, and commitment to enhancing all aspects of the league, including the welfare of every college and every team competing in the league.

What began as simply a collection of schools abiding by the same recruiting, admissions, and playing standards, (but lacking any conference schedule, postseason play, or collective identity) has coalesced into the goliath of New England athletics, and one of the strongest Div. III conferences in the nation. Three of the NESCAC schools have at least 35 NCAA championship teams each. One school (Middlebury) spent $40 million (the chairman of New Balance Sports is an alum and made the donation) on an athletic center. Another just spent $100 million (Colby), which in the author’s opinion looks like an Amazon warehouse. 

Because it began as a reaction to the perceived shift in intercollegiate athletics, eventually codified by the ascendancy of big-time Div. I sports, NESCAC created the most restrictive regulations in the nation at the time, many of which are still in place today.

Gene coached the first individual NESCAC champion. October 1975 was the inaugural NESCAC men's cross country meet, where Bruce Carter of Hamilton won the NESCAC individual title at Tufts. Prior to 1983, no team scoring was recorded at the conference meet; only individual scores were recorded. All team results were considered unofficial.

The NESCAC Cross Country Championship was one of the premier championships in the country — it was especially important because the NESCAC rule prohibited post-NCAA competition up until 2001. For the Hamilton men’s cross country team, from 1983 till 2023, Hamilton was never higher than fifth place, except for the fall of 1988. 

This past winter, Hamilton won its third-ever NESCAC championship — that was the men’s 2023 basketball. Prior to that, Hamilton won golf.  Hamilton’s first-ever NESCAC championship was won by Gene’s fall 1988 men’s cross country team.

I was on the team that won. The prior year we had been in eighth place. I spoke with Gene when he was 91, and lived in Clayton, N.Y., near the St. Lawrence River. I asked him how we won. He said, “It’s like a "sine wave." John: sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down.”

As for contributing reasons for our success that fall: for one thing, we all signed a no-drinking agreement for that season. In that pledge, we were led by Captain Brian Vaughn, who was one of nine students in his class at Hamilton from California (the College wasn't regional anymore). Today he is the co-founder and CEO of GU Energy Labs, a staple of long distance training and racing.

We hosted the NESCACs, and Gene changed the course to add three more monster hills (up to the observatory, Kirkland, Glen and College Hill Road) that we practiced on daily. Gene didn’t recruit runners, but we had a few children of runners who ran for him in prior generations, and some were very fast — Button, Armstrong, and Mead to name a few that scored that meet.

Hamilton will win future NESCAC championships. We have some of the fewest championship wins now — partly because for a few years we were competing in the NY Liberty League. While we will win championships in the future, we will only have one "first win," and I am proud it was under Gene Long. It was a team for which he didn’t recruit athletes — he coached athletes.

In other facets of his career, Gene helped the intramural sports program happen. During the height of the fraternity activity at school, the intramural stuff was very important.

He also developed the physical education program for the whole campus. He taught badminton. He had a challenge, too: he always said at the beginning of his classes that if anyone could beat him, they could be exempt from the semester class. The kicker was he would spot an opponent 15 points — meaning they only needed to score one point off of Gene. In 39 years, only one person beat Gene — a female tennis player. For years, when he traveled with the hockey team, he and the hockey coach would play badminton with the opposing team coaches during down time.

Gene was very involved with the conceiving, designing, and building of the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House, named after Harlow E. Bundy (Class of 1877) who had a business in Gene’s hometown of Oneonta — a punch clock company — the precursor of IBM. This venue is where many indoor track events, varsity basketball games, and Hamilton graduations took place, along with the Great Names speaker series. Gene’s practical sensibility was very involved in the design of a structure that touches many in the Hamilton community.  

Many of Gene’s runners have continued running — for example, Phil Sanderson has raced over a hundred 100-mile races, and a significant number of 200-mile races. One of Gene’s runners had the record for the masters (over-40-year-old) U.S. marathon — his daughter matriculated to Hamilton.

During Gene’s day, physical education teachers could be professors and receive tenure. Gene, who as mentioned above came to Hamilton two years out of college as a trainer, did receive tenure, a fact he was very proud of. I remember Gene telling me he and Arlene went sailing many times with Professor Sid (the provost) and Ellie Wertimer.

Gene once told me, during a time when a Board of Trustees meeting was taking place at the College, that he could get a vote passed by the board if he wanted, because so many board members were alumni of his running teams.

James Mitchener, in researching a comprehensive book Sports in America, reached out to Gene for research and quoted him in his work. Through Gene, Mitchener found the perfect athletic philosophy at Hamilton, with its idea of physical education for all, sports for life, plus intramural, varsity and junior varsity competition for those who desired more rigorous activity. Mitchener’s analysis stands as a tribute to Gene and the fine men with whom he was associated at that time. Later in his career, as director of athletics, Gene Long helped to provide the same opportunities for women.

In short, Gene challenged us to bring our best. He represented a different era of coaching, before the big money and the scandals and all of the trappings of scholastic athletics today. Gene was inspirational, supportive, and visionary – all of those things that a coach should be. He is gone – but his knowledge lives on, in his notes, and in the lives of his runners. 

“We were running against a really good team. Gene told us that we weren't likely to compete well solely on athletic talent, but that we should remember not to make mistakes. "Run with your brains, boys, it's your [only] advantage today."

“Gene told us that we could beat Division I Colgate because they put their jockstraps on one leg at a time, just like we did at Hamilton, to telling me I could break an indoor 800 record at a meet. Gene could make such statements with a conviction that never allowed you to think it wasn't possible.”

“I learned from Gene to be demanding, yet fair, and dedicated, yet balanced. While Gene was very stern, I remember vividly a time that he took me aside to reassure me that a job search in a difficult job market wasn't the end of the world, and that I should keep my chin up, a message he delivered with sensitivity and compassion.”

“Gene's advice that was built into his coaching was: ‘be prepared’. I did a mid-career shift and decided to go to law school later in life. It was the equivalent of finding myself at the bottom of College Hill at the end of an 8-mile training run, and realizing that I was going to have to get up the hill if I was going to eat dinner. There were times during law school when I wondered what I was doing running up that metaphorical hill, and thought about stopping, but I heard Gene in the back of my mind, shouting at me to keep pumping my arms. I was always one of the best prepared students in law school, and studying for the bar exam was much like training on Pasture Hill — when it came time for the toughest part of the race, I accelerated.”

“A piece of Gene Long advice that I have admired concerns his realistic attitude. While a lot of stereotypical coaches are known to have said ‘I need you to give me 100%, if you don't give 100% you aren't doing your best,’ coach Long had a humorous, practical attitude about the whole thing. I remember his saying once something to the effect of ‘It is impossible to put in 100% of yourself in an endeavor; if you did that, there'd be nothing left over. If you can put in 80 to 90%, that is commendable.’ This advice has proved important to me during my various careers in writing and education; it has given some scope for maintaining my own sanity, and a realistic mindset on what I can expect from others.”

“During my first season I began to suffer from some kind of tendonitis in my ankle/heel. Coach Long had just the thing. He put an athletic cup in the heel of my shoe. It really gave me just the right support to allow me to continue training. I never thought, as a runner, I'd ever need an athletic cup. It truly worked!” 

“Back in 1995, I learned I had a blood clotting disorder: While running the Bay to Breakers (a 7 mi. race in San Francisco), I threw a blood clot to my lungs. After a week’s hospitalization, LOTS of blood thinners, and a couple of weeks at home, I ran a 10K. I didn’t run very fast, but I finished in under 48 minutes. I often think about Gene and my other Hamilton teammates when I run, and the encouragement and support we all gave each other, and Gene really nurtured that as a coach. It’s something I drew on during that 10K in 1995, and that I still draw on today whether I’m running, whitewater rafting, writing a dissertation, or gardening with my kids. For me, Gene’s influence went far beyond cross country and track.”

“There were about 4" of snow on the course, and my feet were soaked and weighed 50 pounds each after about two steps. I was determined not to let that stop me, though. I wasn't a great runner, but between the team being short a couple of runners (for break) and the really odd running conditions, I had my best race of my Hamilton career. I actually counted for the team — I think I came in fifth out of our runners, and we beat Union that day. Anyway, Gene Long had always said that shin splints are just in your head. I sure did not agree with that analysis, because I personally always felt them in my shins; but that day on the snow-covered course, I finally understood what he meant by that expression. I applied it to that race and to my life since.”

“In May 2005, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with ‘at least stage III, possibly stage IV’ colon cancer.  My daughter was 3½ and my son was 14-months-old, and my husband of seven years was probably more terrified than I was.  However, I was not about to stop running in any sense of the word. After I recovered from major abdominal surgery, I kept running until it was not medically reasonable for me to do so — about halfway through chemo. Then, four weeks after my treatments were finished, I started running again. I started from less than zero — I had lost muscle, lost blood cells of all colors, lost stamina and cardiovascular endurance. But, I reminded myself every time I struggled out for a run that if shin splints are only in your head, then so is everything else. Less than 13 months after my cancer surgery and about six months after the end of chemo, I am scheduled to run my first post-cancer competitive 5K on June 2. Thus, I will miss the reunion and the Coach Long event, but I will be there in spirit. Turns out that the ‘shin splints is all in your head’ is sound, universally applicable advice after all. — Kim Troisi-Paton '91 (who passed away on Aug. 10, 2007)

Following are just a few of the comments posted online following the announcement of Gene Long’s death:

I knew Gene for 75 years. I delivered newspapers to his boyhood home in Oneonta, his dad “Shorty” was the AD at my high school, as the Ham Col trainer he wrapped my ankles for my 4 years playing sports, and we visited over my 41 years of my returns to the Hill for trustee meetings. I don’t use “THE BEST” to describe many people, but it certainly applies to Gene…RIP my friend. — Jerry Dirvin ’59

Gene was a terrific teacher, coach, and trainer, and was a great athlete. I never knew a badminton bird could be lethal until I played against Gene. He worked out with the football team every preseason, and boy did he have us in shape. He was indeed a great gentleman, and was an enormous positive influence on several generations of Hamiltonians. I’d say all of the coaches we had in my day in the ’60s were great people. Godspeed, Gene. — John Pitarresi ’70

Gene Long took a shot on me as a first-time cross country runner and taught me so much about the sport, endurance and loosening up on the downhills! I’ll always hold Gene’s supportive push and wisdom in my heart. — Betsy Nathan ’91

I remember Gene. He was our trainer, track coach and general medical advisor on the football team. It was big news when Cornell’s all-star goalie went to the Habs wearing Gene’s invention. He was our protector and our prod. RIP Gene. You were a mensch. — Sean Fitzpatrick ’63

[Gene] was my track coach at Hamilton, and I was his shot putter and discus thrower. But he was so much more than that: a leader, an innovator, a mentor. Once he was unhappy with my throwing technique at a practice, so the next time he spotted me far across the quad, he called out my name and started doing spinning drills to show me what I should look like. I was mortified but never forgot the moment! So many memories. Always teaching, always listening, helping us become better athletes, better students, and better men. Rest well, dear Gene. — Thomas Jasinski ’81

A wonderful athlete and innovative athletic director. Trying to figure out how much worse my aging face would look had I not had the benefit of a Gene Long goalie mask. Sad that we lose another of the great Hamilton leaders of the 1970s.  Robert Sinche ’74

I ran under Coach Long all four years, and he retired at the end of my senior year. I feel so grateful to have known him. He was like my dad away from home. — Lara Handsfield ’91

Gene Long was a legend — on and off Sage Rink! — Brett Mandel ’91

He never coached me, but I, along with so many others, benefited from his unsurpassed expertise as a trainer. He was definitely ahead of his time when it came to working out and training athletes for a variety of sports. While more than 50 years have passed since Gene put us football players through “Gene Long Day” preseason workouts, I remember them vividly. He helped us prepare for the season ahead and then took care of our inevitable bumps and bruises. — Jerry Pitarresi ’71

Gene touched the lives of many and was a wonderful coach. He used to drag Andy Wertz and myself behind his old Chevrolet Station Wagon with a rectangular bar that he attached to the back. Around the track we would go. Andy could run, and I was the flat tire. Rest in Peace Coach Long; you were one of the “good” ones at Hamilton College. — Michael Sullivan ’83

Great track coach and person. Got more out of me than I thought I had. I will always remember our team trips to Florida and The Garden. — Pete Hotine ’67

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