By Budd Bailey
October 14 will be a big night for the entire Gentner family – a double-header of honors. That’s the night for inductions in to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. One of the inductees will be Gerry Gentner, the late softball coach who had an amazing record at Williamsville South High School. Daughter Julie is headed for the Hall of Fame too. She was an outstanding player in softball, basketball and field hockey in her playing days, and now is following her father’s footsteps as the coach of the Billies’ softball team.
Julie recently sat down for an interview about the double dose of honors for the family:
Buffalo Sports Page: It must be overwhelming times astounding to go into the Hall of Fame with your father. How did they phrase it when they called to tell you about this?
Julie Gentner Murphy: The emotion has been overwhelming. I’ve been trying to keep it all together. When they called, it was an emotional night. I was with my husband. They said I was going in … and not only that, but I was going in alongside of my father. It’s a tribute to him and all of his successes. It’s been incredible to go in with him and be linked with him forever.
BSP: Athletics must have been a big part of your childhood. Did you have much choice in entering athletics?
Murphy: I fell into it naturally. At a young age, I remember being competitive in nature. My dad provided such a friendly, competitive environment to thrive in. He coached me early on, and I feel in love with any sport. I played basketball, softball and field hockey, and I played tennis until high school hit. Sports are such a huge part of who I am, and what are family was and is. A lot of incredible memories have come out of sports.
BSP: You weren’t part of the first generation of women to come into athletics. It was more of a second generation. Had it become cool for girls to take part in athletics by then, or did you still feel a little bit like an outsider?
Murphy: The ladies before me definitely paved the way. I can’t say enough about them. When I started playing, ice hockey and women’s golf was not as big as the others. It’s come so far. Being athletic was part of who I was. It was an identity for me, and I thrived in that type of environment. I think it was pretty equal when it came to women’s sports, but they have grown so much. It’s been tremendous to be a part of it.
BSP: I assume your mother had to be supportive of your efforts, and your father was a big advocate of more publicity for women’s sports.
Murphy: Absolutely. He was a supportive of women’s sports in general. Without them being so supportive, they provided the means to travel and go places and get opportunities. Sports have opened so many doors – professionally too. I think it’s molded me into the person I am today.
BSP: Did you play for your father?
Murphy: Yes. I played all through travel softball, 7 years and up. My senior year in high school, he ended up coaching me there. He was always a coach at heart, on and off the field. We had a great relationship, and later I coached with him so it came full circle.
BSP: There are many stories about sons who play for their fathers, with silent drives home. Did you have incidents like that?
Murphy: There definitely were a couple of times where he gave me the staredown at shortstop with the crossed arms on the bench. He was such an incredible coach. He didn’t coach by yelling and screaming. He built confident up and connected with his players. We didn’t have any huge blowouts. I understood him.
BSP: And it dominated the dinner table conversation at times, I’m sure.
Murphy: Absolutely. Anything he did, it was super-competitive – playing golf on a Sunday, whatever, everything was a healthy competition.
BSP: You went to college at Cortland and are in the Hall of Fame there. You were the Female Athlete of the Year in 2003. Is there any way to compare the honors?
Murphy: They’re all incredible. They all paved the path for me too. My father also went to Cortland. I have a 12- and a 14-year old, and I hope I can be the parent that my dad was to me. I still look up to my father, and I hope I can be half the parent he was. My son plays baseball and ice hockey. He plays golf and skis. My daughter plays ice hockey, field hockey and softball. We’re busy, but it’s all fun.
BSP: You played softball at a high level for almost 10 years after leaving college. Did you ever expect to continue that long?
Murphy: No, but I set my goal. There was an open division, and I thought that would be a really cool thing to work towards. I set my mind to it. It was a cool experience to be on the older side of it. I was able to reflect in looking back over the years. I played in the Empire State Games in high school in field hockey. It was pretty incredible to come back and play at 30.
BSP: What are you doing now?
Murphy: I worked alongside my father until his passing. I’m a certified financial planner. I work with all aspects of retirement, and work with clients. I’m still coaching, and we’re in the finals on Thursday. I do varsity softball, travel softball, and I also do high school field hockey and travel field hockey. I got my hands in a lot of things.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)
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