“Wish I could go back in time. I’d have gone D-I. Booze got the best of me. Man, I coulda. Man, I shoulda. Wish I could go back.”
Someone made an attempt to climb the tower at Bishop Ford.
Click the link below – the New York Post has the story.
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!
Bishop Ford High School is closing its doors in June. No doubt it’s a sad day at 500 19th street. Growing up in the neighborhood and having many friends attend Ford, I have so many memories of the Falcons. Let me take you back 34 years ago…
On a warm Friday afternoon in May, I was shooting all alone in my paved paradise; the boys schoolyard at Holy Name.
It was a little after three. Students from Bishop Ford were making their way to the F-train down on Windsor Place. Their route was simple. Exit the school up on nineteenth street, stroll a few short blocks across ninth avenue, hang a right at Joe’s Pizza down Prospect Avenue and make a quick left on Howard Place.
On their way down Howard they would pass the yard. I had seen them for years. Most would be walking pretty fast to catch their train. Some would walk slow and watch us play ball. I would see some kids smoking cigarettes and at times catch a boy and girl holding hands. The girls were pretty.
At times I was envious. Jealous too. I always wanted to go to Ford. Many of my friends attended the catholic school up by the cemetery.
The Ford kids had a habit of breaking balls.
“GET A JOB YA BUM”! I heard a kid shout.
I stood there motionless on the middle court. The kid kept walking but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was a wise-ass punk.
I was hurt inside, embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to run out and rip this kid’s fucking heart out. The only problem was I was alone and he was with a bunch of his classmates who were all laughing.
I let it go but deep down, it was building up inside of me. “It” was the rage.
“Hey man, you ever go to school,” another kid called out. I glanced up from my dribbling drill.
Boy, these kids love to fuck with me, I thought to myself.
This was actually the first time I had ever heard any comments from them.
Ignoring the jerk I dribbled through my legs, crossed over, and stutter stepped like Earl Monroe, down to the other end of the court against the church wall pulling up for a mid-range jump shot.
“Yeah man, you’re always here!” another kid barked.
Now I was pissed.
This was my yard. Of course I was here all the time.
I felt like going out there and fighting them but they were in large groups. On other days in the past some of them would stare at me and call out, “nice shot!” after I made a jumper. The girls would be watching too. When I’d catch one of them out of the corner of my eye I would try to show off by going behind my back with the dribble, just like Walt Frazier avoiding a defender.
One afternoon a tall white kid walked into the yard. He was wearing black slacks, a dark dress shirt and black shoes that were shiny and pointy. We called them, “cockroach killers.”
This kid must have been about six-foot-five. He had three expensive, looking gold chains hanging from his neck. He resembled a football player, but Ford didn’t have a football team.
“Hey can I take a few shots with you?” he asked.
“Yeah sure,” I replied, as I threw him a crisp, two-handed chest pass.
“Nice shoes.” I uttered to him. He didn’t hear me, he was too excited about having the ball in his hands.
I watched him as he shot the ball from twenty feet away and missed everything.
“Airball!” came a cry from outside the fence.
A bunch of kids paused to watch him.
There they go breaking balls again.
I chased the ball down and threw it back to the tall kid. He caught it and placed it down on the concrete. Looking at me he said, “Here we go.”
He we go? I thought to myself? This kid was clearly an inside player, he had no right stepping out and trying to make a long jump shot.
As he rolled up his sleeves he looked like someone who was about to have a fist fight. That’s what the tough guys did in the old days.
“Here we go,” he proclaimed.
Picking up the ball he attempted another shot from the same distance.
As the ball was on it’s way to the netless rim; another comment came from the peanut gallery.
“Hey Tony, give it up man, you suck!”
The ball sailed through the air and ended up being another airball.
It didn’t hit a thing.
No rim or backboard. It just landed on the ground and bounced away.
This kid sucks, I thought to myself. I chased the ball down again and listened to some more kids ridicule him.
“Tony, you suck man, that kid will school you!”
“Yeah Tony, go home and study!” another kid screamed. They all laughed.
I looked at Tony and shrugged my shoulders.
“Later for them man, they probably suck anyway.” I pointed out to him.
Tony looked at me and asked, “You wanna play one on one?”
This kid was kidding, right? I thought to myself. How the fuck was he going to guard me wearing shoes?
I started dribbling the ball between my legs and said “your ball first.”
I zipped another crisp chest pass to him catching him by surprise as he fumbled the ball.
Tony took the ball out first and couldn’t buy a basket for the next five minutes. I scored with ease every time I touched the ball. I took it right by the uncoordinated kid. His first problem was trying to shoot from deep. I was waiting for him to back me down into the post. He had me by at least a hundred pounds.
When I had the ball and he tried to get close to me on defense, I would back him up with a few pump fakes and jab steps, and launch my jumper. A crowd had gathered outside the fence, and after enough of taking it to him, the tall fella called it quits.
Tony was like a defeated boxer in the ring throwing in the towel, he had enough.
“Hey man, you’re good, what school you go to?” He asked me.
I looked at the kid, thought about the question and tossed up a long jumper that went straight though the rim.
“I go to Jay.”
“What year you in?” He asked
“Wow! You’re fuckin’ good, you play varsity?”
I chased the ball down and didn’t answer him.
“I gotta get home, take care. It was nice playing with you,” he said.
The kid extended his hand. He told me he was the center on the freshmen team at Ford.
“Nice meeting you,” I answered.
Tony took off out of the yard and down Howard Place.
I continued to shoot…alone.
When I stepped out of my apartment on Windsor and ninth all one had to do was turn right and walk four short blocks to Bishop Ford High School.
Despite not being a student at Ford I spent a lot of time at 500 Nineteenth Street.
On Monday, Ford announced they are shutting it down for good in June.
I received the news via text message on Monday afternoon.
“FORD IS CLOSING IN JUNE!”
I had to look twice at my i-phone.
Bishop Ford is closing?
Back in 1977 when I was in the seventh grade at Holy Name it was time to take the co-op. They had you select four high schools that you had an interest in attending. Did I ever tell you I was petrified when it was time to take a test? My palms were moist, I had butterflies in my stomach and I would gag. In the sixth grade I once faked sick at home just to avoid a test.
3-Christ the King
The year before, after watching the Panthers play in the King tournament at St. Thomas my mind was made up where I wanted to attend high school (my tenure at Kareem’s alma mater lasted two days).
I’m not sure why I wrote LaSalle down and I think I filled in Christ the King because I had watched their basketball team play in the summer league at Holy Name. Little did I realize how far away the school was and what kind of commute awaited me. F-train to Delancey and switch for the M?
Sitting there I thought to myself, “I’ll complete the list with Ford.”
How stupid was I?
At that time my good friend Glen Thomas was a freshman at Ford. Two classmates at Holy Name, John Godfrey and Mary Kawas put down Ford and would soon be enrolled. It would have been cool meeting up with Mary and Johnny G on the corner of Windsor and ninth and walking to school with them every morning.
How stupid was I?
Why not attend high school with my friends?
As a young boy I would go up to Ford to watch the Falcons basketball team play as much as possible. Neighborhood guys like Danny Piselli, Jimmy Rauthier, Charlie Alberti, Willie Lanzisera, Edgar Dela-Rosa, Joe Santos, Artie Lee, the Ferro’s, Brian Lang and Andy Purdy all wore the red and black.
There was nothing like a Friday night game against Xaverian; the gym would be packed. I would sit way up at the top of the bleachers against the wall on the Ford side of course and watch all the action. Besides the great games between two very good teams was the passion and spirit felt throughout the gym. The student sections from both schools were always hyped up.
“SINK THE SHIP, SINK THE SHIP, SINK THE SHIP!”
“EAT THE BIRD, EAT THE BIRD, EAT THE BIRD!”
I know, I know, different chants back in the 70’s compared to what we hear today.
(Container Diaries shout out to Brian Keating of sixteenth street who ran the point for the Clippers.)
Back in the early 70’s the Los Angeles Lakers held a practice at Ford between championship games with the Knicks and Jo-Jo White filmed a commercial for Pro-Keds.
It’s hard not to think of basketball when I hear about Bishop Ford. If I had to do it all over again, I would have put Ford at the top of my list. I probably would have played for their basketball team and came out all right.
It’s a sad feeling knowing that after June, Bishop Ford will be gone forever.
Like Alice Cooper said in his song, “School’s out forever, school’s out for summer, school’s out completely. No more pencils, no more books…
Mark it down…
April 12, 2014. Bishop Ford High School (the school I always wanted to attend…)
7:00 PM to 12 midnight (I’m sure the party will not end there…)
My main man Mike Purdy has informed me that the Neighborhood Reunion is on!
An important note:
YOU HAVE TO REGISTER BEFORE APRIL 12.
TICKETS WILL NOT BE SOLD AT THE DOOR! I REPEAT…TICKETS WILL NOT BE SOLD AT THE DOOR!
And don’t try to sneak in the back door…Hoolie will have extra tight security all around the building.
So start clicking those heels. Get on the horn and phone a friend…
It’s about to go down up at 500 19th street.
Living just four short blocks away from Bishop Ford High School and wishing I had attended the outstanding school at 500 19th street, I watched a lot of basketball up there; practices and games included.
I never understood why Coach Nash only used the half-court during practice; but after learning more about the game, I think I found out why.
I was also lucky to be the head freshman coach under Coach Nash and that experience jump-started my coaching career. Today I list my all-time favorite Bishop Ford Falcon basketball. (Keep in mind, this list only includes players I watched in person…) And oh yeah, it’s not the best players, it’s my favorite players!