Friday night, May 2
After getting off the crowded D- train on New Utrecht Avenue alone, I am walking down 79th street in Bensonhurst, right across the street from New Utrecht High School. It’s a gorgeous night weather-wise.
On my side of the street there are residents sitting out on their stoops.
Some are people watching, an old lady is reading the newspaper paper and of course, there’s one person on their cell phone. One guy who looks to be in his forties is hard at work on his sweet looking car parked in his driveway. His head is buried in the engine. I pass a couple of men standing on the sidewalk talking New York Yankees baseball.
Their subject? Derek Jeter’s age.
“JETER’S TOO OLD!” one guy says.
I live in Michigan now so I feel like sticking up for Jeter; he’s from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
In one driveway there’s a hoop but no one is shooting.
Across the street to my left is the outdoor field at New Utrecht; it looks mint. Kudos to the groundskeeper.
Flashbacks galore I tell ya!
But Red, I thought you only write about the hood?
Well, I do but back when I was twelve I played for Ty Cobbs basketball team; Danny Piselli was our coach. We had a house crew. This was way before AAU.
The team was made up of a lot of kids from Holy Name. We played our games here at Utrecht on the weekends and would also practice here during the week.
Whatever happened to Buff?
Me and John Godfrey were the only sixth graders on the team. “Johnny G” was from 12th street. We were pretty good friends while attending Holy Name. “G” was a great teammate. We ran the pick and roll as well as Stockton and Malone.
At the time we were playing “up” with the seventh graders. Our Ty Cobbs roster had Ricky Ferro, Jimmy Cullen, Jimmy Corrar, Michael Campbell and Sean Reilly… all were great teammates.
Now, let me inform you we had a few kids from outside the parish too. Tyrone Williams and Keith Burroughs were from Visitation and Garnett Grissom was from ninth street.
All good dudes.
All good ball players too that had a role and filled it.
As I walked past the entrance to the gym, I had thoughts of going up the concrete steps to see the two gyms we played in.
We had cheerleaders too. I had a crush on one girl named Gina. During warm-ups I would look at her. As the game went on, I usually was seated at the end of the bench, always keeping an eye on Gina while she did her thing on the baseline.
But I was running late. Drinks at six, dinner at seven; it was now coming up on dinner time. Story of my life. Always tardy. Going to be late to my own funeral type shit.
These streets are long as I began to jog with my black dress shoes and the only suit I own. It doesn’t help that I have my black NorthFace backpack on my back. Actually, check that, I have a second suit back home but it doesn’t fit.
“Hey, I’m late for dinner…” We all have been there, right?
You see, I was attending the 55th Annual Basketball Old-Timers of America Hall of Fame Inductions at Sirico’s. This place was awesome. Something out of the Sopranos, Goodfella’s and a Bronx Tale.
Like the program says, “The venue may have changed but the character and characters surely haven’t.”
As I walked up to the front door I bumped into Pete Goyco. We exchanged pleasantries as he introduced me to an assistant basketball coach at Rutgers, Van Macon. I walked into the hall. The place was packed with basketball people.
Special thanks to the sweet lady in the front for checking my bag.
All around the room guys like Edgar De-La-Rosa, Frank “Gigs” Giglioli, Danny Leary, Dennis Nolan, Chris Logan, Bob Leckie and Donnie Kent are all engaged in conversations. Coach Leckie gave me a huge break in the coaching business; he hired me as an assistant at Saint Peter’s College over in Jersey City.
As for Edgar, Gigs, Danny and Chris? Four of my favorite Bishop Ford Falcons of all-time. Great dudes too.
My guy Gerard Trapp is in the house too. Howard Place, All Hallows and St. Francis College representing.
The joint has a “neighborhood” feel to it.
So many familiar faces.
Basketball is a small world; but the humans in that world have huge hearts. If we were choosing up sides for a game of five-on-five, it would be hard picking teams. And next year maybe I will add up all the wins by the coaches in the room.
Being inducted tonight was NBA official Dick Bavetta. Dick is from 8th street.
Also on hand to be honored was Ron Naclerio, Bob Wolff and Al Skinner.
Others who have been celebrated in the past are Lou Carnesecca, Chris Mullin, Red Holzman and Willis Reed.
Ray Nash, the President did a fine job running the show. Dennis McDermott did a tremendous job on the microphone.
Thanks coach Nash, you are responsible for my coaching journey. Loved the “Dr. Jack Ramsey” jacket you sported. McDermott, the former St. Francis College Terrier was the 140th player chosen in the 1974 NBA Draft. Bill Walton was taken first that year by the Portland Trailblazers.
Bavetta’s story about Alan Iverson was legendary. Wish I could repeat it. When you see Dick, you will have to ask him.
Skinner was short and sweet. I recall when he played with the Nets; I was hoping for a Super John Williamson story.
Wolff was awesome and Ron Naclerio gave us a great insight into being a coach in the PSAL. His Martin Luther King story at the end was amazing. Love Ron’s stories. I once recruited one of his players while I was at St. Peter’s.
“Yo Dennis, this thing is four hours, right?”
Others in the house were Pete Gillen (former teacher at Holy Name), Mickey McNally, Bob McKillop, Glen Braica., Timmy Leary, Richie Micallef, George Bruns, Billy McNally, Tom Murray, Joe Collins, Bobby Marcotte, John Carey, Sammy Albano, Curly, and Steve Schirripa, better known as “Bobby Bacala” from the HBO series The Sopranos.
I have heard Steve played some college ball back in the day. I hear John Jay and Brooklyn College. Hopefully someone can straighten this out. Where did he play?
“Yo Billy Mac, no one believes me about the car rolling down the street by Columbia University.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the guy at the dinner who got up every few seconds to clap.
As for the food, it was great. I mean this is Bensonhurst. The desert they put out on the tables, it wasn’t L&J but boy I wanted so bad to take some with me. There were plenty of rainbow cookies and cannoli’s and they were on-point.
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli’s.” Sssshhhhh…this is Benshonhurst.
The night before I showed up in New York tipping the scales at 205; probably going to leave on Sunday somewhere around 225.
We can all agree that New York City is the “Mecca of Basketball.” Being in the house tonight with some of the best players and coaches made my trip to Brooklyn special. I bet you every person in the room tonight played basketball in a schoolyard at one time or another.
My only regret of the night was not taking more pictures. I always get a bit wigged out when I take or ask people to take a picture. Next year, I plan on taking more.
I walked a few blocks to 86th street where I caught the bus to fourth avenue and switched for the R-train back to the hood.
But before getting on the train I stopped in a cool cafe on 86th street and 4th avenue. This place was the joint!