In 1991, the news of a local high school basketball coach suffering a heart attack was a major story for radio, television and newspaper sports reporters. The distinguished and decorated coach happened to be James "Duke" McGrath, an individual who achieved legendary status among his peers and the Central New York sports press. He recovered from his heart attack and continued to contribute to his community.
McGrath spent 23 seasons stomping on the sidelines at Skaneateles, Jamesville-DeWitt and Nottingham high schools. He won sectional titles at all three schools and two Federation state titles. Local basketball luminaries such as Danny Schayes, Jason Buchanan and Dorsey Levens all played for McGrath during his coaching career.
Prior to McGrath's coronary, Nottingham had won five consecutive Onondaga High School League Metro titles, four Section III Class B Championships and two state Class B public and Federation titles.
McGrath's coaching career began in 1968 at Skaneateles High School. From 1971 to 1981, he coached at Jamesville-DeWitt. After a four-year hiatus from coaching, he resumed his coaching career and had a 359-120 record when he finally hung up his whistle.
In 1998, McGrath was inducted into the LeMoyne College Gold Wave Hall of Fame. He was honored for his scholastic coaching career as well as his service to the Dolphins as an assistant basketball coach.