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Fellow coaches and teaching colleagues were having difficulty today dealing with the news of what they believed was a heart attack that caused the death of Larry Novotney, who taught math and was head basketball coach at Putnam County throughout the 1990s. Novotney died Friday. He was 64.
“It was definitely a shock,” said John “Slick” Slingsby, who was varsity assistant coach for a few years and also sophomore coach for Novotney at Putnam County until 1999, when Novotney and his wife and PCHS girls basketball coach Betty Novotney resigned together after a school board meeting.
“First of all, he was a very nice man,” Slingsby said this morning. “He was really conscientious of the kids, and he was passionate about basketball, and he was a really, really good family man. He’s got a great family.”
Slingsby said he learned from Novotney a lot about basketball, about life and about dealing with off-court distractions — “not just the Xs and Os.”
Larry Novotney compiled a 105-96 record at Putnam County in eight seasons, and landed a job working with the freshman basketball team at Lincoln-Way after leaving the Putnam County job.
The past two years, Novotney helped Seneca grade school as athletic director, and he had taught math at St. Bede Academy.
Ed Swingel, former Putnam County High School athletic director, said he had just seen Novotney last week in Utica, where they talked about basketball tournaments he had gone to this past year.
“When you asked about his daughters, his face would light up,” Swingel said. “I remember he was just a tremendous family man. He was very dedicated and loyal as a coach. He loved basketball. He continued to attend games and tournaments throughout the state after retiring from coaching. The thing I’ll miss most about him is his sense of humor. I kept in touch with him quite a bit.”
Longtime Putnam County baseball coach Ken Jenkins said Novotney was good at teaching basketball fundamentals and was good for students.
“I think he did a very nice job. And I thought he was an excellent math teacher,” said Jenkins, who noted that Betty Novotney re-established the girls basketball program in the early 1990s and set up a program to teach the grade school girls to play. “She did a nice job getting girls basketball going.”
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