October 23, 2021

Eric Prior passes away while playing basketball

Eric Prior, the boys’ football and basketball coach in the Groton school district, died Tuesday afternoon after playing basketball at the YMCA on Tompkins Street in Cortland.

Prior, 51, of Cortland, also coached sports at different levels at Cortland High School as well as working with countless youth teams over the years. He was also involved in Cornell’s summer basketball camp and was to be an assistant coach with the Tompkins Cortland Community College men’s basketball team this upcoming season.

Cortland emergency responders responded at 12:24 p.m. Tuesday to a medical incident at the YMCA, but Deputy Chief Wayne Friedman declined to give details.

However, Jennifer Alexy, a family friend who created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Prior’s family, said Prior was the patient and had been playing basketball at the YMCA. Margo Upson, the YMCA membership director, confirmed an incident at the facility, but declined to give details.

The extent to which Prior influenced and was held in regard was evidenced by an outpouring of shock, grief and affection on social media. The GoFundMe page had exceeded its goal in just over three hours of being set up and nearly doubled its $10,000 goal by this morning.

“I can always remember how appreciative and proud Eric was when he was informed that he would be taking over as head coach of our football and basketball programs,” Groton Athletic Director Mark Triolo said this morning. “He could not wait to share the news with ‘his boys.’ Eric was and always will be remembered to be all about his family.”

“Eric had a lot of energy and was a good role model,” said former CHS football coach Jim Brown, on whose staff Prior was an assistant. “He was an enthusiastic person, a real good motivator, and the kids really looked up to him.”

“There isn’t a life he didn’t touch in Cortland,” Alexy said.