Behind any successful team, there are people who we don’t often see. We see the top scorer, the award winners, the all-county player, and the names that everyone talks about. Yet behind all of these wonderful accolades, there are the muscles that are working. Daily, they are being stretched, worked, even overworked, to make everyone else successful.
Assistant Coach Darryl Sumpter is undoubtedly one of those muscles behind the successes of the William Floyd Varsity Basketball program. The team is currently running with an undefeated season and ranked two in the entire county. We took some time to get to know Coach Darryl who has put in over a decade of hard work behind the scenes to push these kids up to the top.
Coach Darryl walked into our interview unshaven and tired while still graciously giving us an hour of his time on his day off. During the week, he works at Stony Brook Hospital from 5:00a.m. to 1:00p.m. Directly from work he gets to practice at the high school which lasts for a few hours, that is, of course, unless the team has a game which can be at Floyd or anywhere in the county. Sometimes, after work, practice, and games, he attends a youth Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) league, which he also runs. These leagues, which focus on introducing elementary-age children to basketball basics, can easily run past dinner time. The Sumpter family are permanent fixtures in the gym. His two daughters Dejah and Sierra, along with son Darryl Junior, all volunteer with their dad besides working and going to college.
Darryl grew up in the same community where he coaches, Mastic Beach, and he graduated from William Floyd High School in 1991. He easily admits to being a troubled kid in school and never being able to fully abide by the rules of the varsity basketball program. The late Coach Bob Hodgson ran a tight program and was also highly successful. While Darryl never fully committed to the program, his son Darryl Junior did. He started out as a kid on the bench giving out water until he worked hard to earn his jersey and spot on the team. Seeing his son on the team sparked something in Darryl that wanted to help, coach, and ultimately to reach back to other kids that reminded him of himself when younger.
“Seeing my son on the team is one of the proudest moments in my life. It changed me and here I am today still coaching,” says Darryl.
Coach Darryl describes his impetus for coaching and taking in high school kids, reflecting on his own past and origins.
“We do whatever we have to in order to get and keep these kids playing ball. I know the distractions out there and how easy it is to veer off into the streets,” says Darryl. He considers the current varsity players like his own children, and he keeps his house open to them, as well as his couch to sleep on and his refrigerator to take from. It’s not uncommon to see players hanging around his house; a few have even lived with his family over the years. There have been times kids showed up to open gym nights or basketball camp without registration money or wearing old sneakers.
“I’m not here to pat myself on the back or anything like that, but I will do whatever I can not to turn a kid away,” says Darryl. “I pick them up, get them sneakers, cover their fees, feed them if I have to. Every kid isn’t going to be a varsity star but everyone should have something to do. It’s just impossible to coach in this community and not actually care about the kids. Many come in looking for a father figure.”
While his job is completely voluntary, that doesn’t stop him from going the extra mile for individual players as needed. He has something called grade sheets that allow him to check in with the players teacher’s each week about their schoolwork. It’s not uncommon to see him driving players around or out raising money for behind-the-scenes needs of players and the program with the William Floyd Varsity Basketball Booster Club. Darryl believes in rolling his sleeves up and doing, sacrificing, giving of whatever he has all for the greater good of the kids and program.
Darryl reminisced on some memorable times throughout the last ten years. His son being on the team under Bob Hodgson, Sr. was undoubtedly one of them. Another was a first round playoff win against Copiague in 2012.
“We walked into their gym as an underdog. It was an electric atmosphere and just a sweet victory. We let everyone know that Floyd was for real that year,” says Darryl.
Another great memory was renting a bus with Rob Hodgson, Jr. They took a group of kids to a tournament in Pennsylvania. On the way home, one of the kids expressed that he had never been to Times Square. They ended up taking a detour through Manhattan to show him the center of the city.
“It was awesome to just watch him light up with awe seeing Times Square. He was really excited and that made me happy,” says Darryl.
Coaching has come with heartbreak as well. Darryl had a slight tremor in his voice as he spoke about Marcel Arrington, Tyrese Ramseur, and Devin Burney. Marcel was only eighteen years old when he was shot and killed in a park only a few miles from where we sat for this interview. Marcel grew up in the basketball program, graduated, and was unfortunately shot that autumn. Tyrese was seventeen when he lost his life in a car accident, and Devin was shot and killed while away at college in Rhode Island. All three young men were a huge part of the basketball program at William Floyd.
“It’s heartbreaking and life changing when you stand over the casket of a teenager you knew, coached and loved,” says Darryl. “It’s all made me want to be a better father to my own children and to the kids in the community. I try my best, that’s all I can do.”
Darryl also gives honor to all of the coaches under whom he has been assistant coach. He said that each one has taught him a lot and made him better all around. He said that he hopes the program continues to grow and flourish as it’s been. When asked what a personal goal of his was, he said: “To have a thousand people at my funeral whose lives I had an impact on. That’s the mark of a great man in my opinion.”