Alfieri won championships as a player and a coach; now he is being honored with the Lapchick Character Award on Thursday in New York. After writing a biography of his mentor, Joe Lapchick, the coach of the Knicks and St. John’s University, Alfieri helped originate the Lapchick Character Award Foundation to honor coaches who demonstrate the good side of sports.
In a world of award ceremonies, this annual November luncheon is special. It comes up Thursday at 11:30 AM at the Wyndham New Yorker, catty-corner to Madison Square Garden, hours before the 2K Classic, benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project Coaches for Cancer doubleheader.
This is probably the most equitable awards event in any sport. No women are being honored this year but since the first luncheon in 2008 the Lapchick Award has gone to pioneers of women’s basketball -- Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Kay Yow of North Carolina State among others. In 2012 I loved hearing Cathy Rush, who won three national titles with tiny Immaculata in the 1970’s, telling stories about the low budgets, the buses and dicey flight connections, the recruiting.
Bootstrappers have great tales to tell. One of the best was Clarence (Big House) Gaines from Winston-Salem State, who died in 2005. His protégé, Earl Monroe will talk about him on Thursday. Another recipient will be John Kresse, who played for Lou Carnesecca at St. John’s and led the College of Charleston into Division I and the NCAA tournament.
Alfieri will be honored by his associates in the Lapchick Foundation, a no-brainer, considering this award was his idea. He is the epitome of the student-athlete that all sports schools like to envision. He played for Lapchick, helped win the National Invitation Tournament in his senior year – and kept going, right through a Ph. D. and a long run as coach of St. Anthony’s in Huntington Station, N.Y.
Later, Alfieri wrote “Lapchick: The Life of a Legendary Player and Coach in the Glory Days of Basketball,” published in 2006. Like any responsible author, Alfieri included the complex parts but also pointed out how Lapchick came to warn younger players about gambling after being burned by two teammates of Alfieri, and how Lapchick was a pioneer in race relations as a player, hugging his African-American opponent before every barnstorming game.
Alfieri is completing his next book, “Once in a Lifetime: A Basketball Coach’s Memoir of a Championship Team,” about his St. Anthony’s team that dominated New York State in the 1970’s.
For information: http://www.characteraward.com/