Remembering Coach Mac: “Do What I Mean, Not What I Say”

The following piece has been co-authored with DFHS Dean Scott Patrillo. Mr. Patrillo has taught middle and high school social studies in our district since 2001 and is currently our modified football, varsity basketball, and modified track coach.

History and tradition. Two words that fully capture what Dobbs Ferry is all about. From the murals that adorn our hallways to the our football games at Gould Park, DFHS holds a proud history that truly sets our school community apart from all others. In fact, our school Facebook page regularly welcomes comments and “likes” from so many of our former graduates and community members. Everyone wants to stay connected to Dobbs, and so many graduates choose to stay so that their children can walk the same streets and attend the same schools that they did as kids. There is truly no place like Dobbs Ferry, and perhaps no individual better captures what our town is all about than the late James “Coach Mac” Mackenzie.  

In May of 2006, tragedy struck the Dobbs Ferry Community when we lost our football coach, teacher, mentor, and friend Coach Mac. This loss was not only difficult for his football players, but also the student body and faculty of our high school. Coach Mac made an impact on every individual he encountered here in Dobbs Ferry. His personality was infectious. He had a larger than life aura and it was impossible for any person he met to forget him. Many would say it was his unique look and the “handle bar” mustache. Others might say that it was the fact that he would be wearing shorts on a sub-zero degree day in January. Those that knew him best though would argue that it was because he made every single person he came across feel important.  He made people, no matter who they were, where they came from, what their situation may have been, feel they mattered. He represented caring, unity, togetherness, and community. He represented the very best of Dobbs Ferry. He represented what we are all about, and what we always strive to be.

Coach Mac was also legendary for his sayings. He may have been second only to the immortal Yogi Berra in this department. A favorite was “Do what I mean, not what I say.” His starting quarterback knew this one better than anyone. But the one we remember best here at DFHS is “Who’s better than you?” That saying summed up better than any other what Coach Mac was all about. No matter what anyone has told you, no matter what you might think, “you matter, you’re important, and I care about you.”

So in the summer of 2006, just prior to the start of school, the students at DFHS wanted to do something to honor and thank Coach Mac for all that he had done for them and for this school.  They decided to name our annual field day in his memory, and the following year, on Friday, September 21, 2007, Fox 5 NY had its morning show Good Day NY broadcast live from our turf during our second MAC Day. The school spirit could be felt everywhere throughout town. It was a fitting celebration of Coach Mac, and a wonderful way for our school and community to show everyone what Dobbs was all about.

Fast forward to present day and our school is now prepared for our twelfth MAC Day. This year, and in the spirit of Coach Mac, our students have united to raise money for the victims of the hurricanes from the past month. In doing so, they chose the non-partisan “One America Appeal” because it speaks directly to what Coach Mac was all about–togetherness, community, and helping others. Our current students are already part of our school’s rich history, and they hope to inspire future generations in the same way that past generations have inspired them.


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