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Bob Bigelow, 71, Iconic South Side Coach

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

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

kim bigelow September 27, 2011 at 04:04 AM
Today I looked into the sky and it was beautiful. I then realized it's because you are there. Happy Birthday Dad.....love you, Kim
Tom March 02, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Having left the area, I only just learned of Mr. Bigalow's passing.  I was a student in his gym class in the mid-1970s, and I taped the basketball games for his team.  I remember that greenish car he drove with its strange clutch on the steering column because every day, early in the morning, he would see me walking up Milburn Street, and he would pull over to offer me a ride. Mr. Bigalow was such a decent, tolerant man who treated all his students with kindness and understanding. A patient teacher, he focused on the individual, drawing out their strengths so that they could realize their potential and grow in confidence. He was ahead of his time as a promoter of self-esteem, and as a professional and an individual, he lived to a standard of excellence and honor that most of us could only hope to achieve. My condolences to Mr. Bigalow's family, and my hope that they find some small comfort in the knowledge that this fine man will remain in our hearts and prayers forever.
Kathleen Fink March 02, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Thank you Tom for your condolences and kind words. We always knew Dad was an amazing person. He helped and touched some many people. We remember him always watching those tapes!! :) Thank you. If you have any old footage of the games can you please let me know some of the players were interested if anyone had some.
Tom March 02, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Kathleen-As I recall, Mr. Bigelow had to re-use the tapes.  You may be a little too young to remember, but back then, I think the videotape was still on reels.  The Betamax-VHS cassette standard was still to be resolved (as was men's fashion, e.g., leisure suits and quiana).  I think he was given a reel from the AV office (Mr. Schwartz).   If it's any consolation, the quality wasn't that great.  The recording was black and white and was taken from the bleachers, and the camera work was probably mediocre, at best.  I hasten to add, however, that if Mr. Bigelow ever thought the tape was sub-par, he never said a word.  He always encouraged me and thanked me for my efforts.  He was a really good person. All the best to you and your family. 
Kathleen Fink March 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Tom- Yes we remember those tapes he a room just to watch them..LOL.. Thank you anyways!! Again thank you for your kind words and if you are still in town in June hopefully you might be able to make a fundraising event that is being held in his honor. Thank you again!!

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