Irvington Coach Gina Maher Reaches Uncharted Ground 

The team celebrates Coach Maher’s 800th victory. Photo by Izzy Failla

At 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 1, the Irvington High School gymnasium was filled to bursting with people of all ages dressed in green and white, the Irvington school colors. The air crackled with excitement. The seats in the bleachers, the stairs between them, and the sidelines were so packed that no one wanted to move, for fear of losing one’s spot. They were all there to watch the Girl’s Varsity Basketball game against Eastchester, and what they hoped would be the 800th win in Coach Gina Maher’s nearly 50-year career at Westchester high school.   

Along with what seemed to be the entire Irvington School District student body, attendees of the game included her family, former players, and many of her coworkers. Many high-spirited spectators came to the game wearing shirts that boasted the victory before it even happened. It was only six years earlier in 2018 when Maher reached her previous milestone of 700 victories. She was the first coach in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to do so.  And, on that night, after an emotionally tense game, the Irvington Bulldogs beat the Eastchester Eagles 48-27.  

After the victory, the gym erupted in celebratory shouts and thunderous applause. Maher was gifted with balloons bearing the number “800” printed on them, and Irvington High School unveiled a poster in the gymnasium celebrating Maher’s accomplishment. The ceremony included a series of speakers, including Westchester County Legislator and Irvington alum David Imamura, current teachers, former players and more, praising Maher’s years of hard work and dedication. Talking about her players, current and former, and the milestone she reached, Maher said “it’s not really about me, it’s about them.”   

Coach Maher receives a commemorative ball from teachers Patrick DeBenedetto and Kathleen Tetro. Tetro played for Maher and was on her State Championship team in the early 90’s. Photo by Carol Dyer

Besides teaching her students how to be a successful basketball player, Maher also helps them navigate the everyday responsibilities of high school life, which she says have grown since she began coaching Irvington students in 1975.  According to her, she wants the girls she coaches to turn into good women and is proud of what her former players have accomplished.  

Besides basketball, there were few sports in which schools commonly fielded girl’s teams when Maher started coaching, and none that were taken seriously, as she began her career before Title IX protected women from discrimination in government-funded educational programs and activities. However, she let none of that stop her. After looking up to her own coach as a high schooler, Maher made a career teaching in New York City, and coaching at Mercy University (then Mercy College) and Marymount College. And, like her former coach, she always wanted to “have an impact on … young girls who would become strong women.”  

Maher’s accomplishments have earned her many honors. Not only does an Irvington High School gymnasium bear her name, but she was inducted into the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, the New York Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and the NYSPHSAA Hall of Fame in 2012.  

Maher’s reputation led the NYSPHSAA to call her “one of the most successful girls high school basketball coaches in New York State history,” and she proves them right time and time again.  

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About the Author: Charlotte Fuchs