Contributors To The Engineers: Funny Quotes and Laughs From Western New York Basketball Coaches and Players

“Frankie Harris got the award for passing on an UNCONTESTED layup at Grover Cleveland High School but it was better than getting the ball SHOVED down your throat!”

Humorous Basketball Stories

The following are funny quotes from the many contributors to my book project entitled, The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. Telling this story with depth and substance the way I wanted to tell it was truly a team effort. I could not have done it on my own. Telling this story was furthermore a long process. There were bouts of self-doubt where I wondered if this was a waste of time. Each contributor though reminded me in their own way that I was creating something worthwhile and to stay the course. Thank you to all of you.

My story (and the contributors’) had high points and low points. There were likewise many humorous memories, reflections, and stories shared during our discussions. To further promote The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story, I thought it would be fun and worthwhile to share some of the funny excerpts from my 40 interviews. Please note that while real names are used in this offering, many will be changed in the final book to protect. This will be to protect the privacy of those who did not agree to participate.

Context and a Disclaimer

The excerpts below are from a few of my interviews and I decided there was room left in this piece for more discussion. For context, I added commentary underneath each quote to give insight into what was said. I hope you get a chuckle out of some of these as I have. And to the contributors, thank you all again. I finally want to give a disclaimer as the creator of this content. Some of the stories shared below are a little bit on the edge and reflect the emotions and memories of the interviewees. Thus, while I am sharing these stories, they do not necessarily reflect my views. The images used throughout this are likewise from a variety of sources. Thank you to everyone who shared your materials and pictures. Best regards and yours in good sports!

Adrian Baugh, Player, Buffalo Traditional High School

“Those schools were not even a match for us. It was not the Section VI schools, but the Section V schools from the Rochester area that were the issue. I think every year we would just clown John F. Kennedy (JFK). JFK was usually our opponent in the overall Section VI Class C final. Newfane? We smacked them!”

No. 30 Adrian Baugh was one of the unsung heroes on the Jason Rowe– and Damien Foster-led Buffalo Traditional Bulls teams in the early 1990s. The Bulls put strangleholds on the Yale Cup and the Section VI Class C playoff bracket for a four-year stretch. Adrian shared that he and the Bulls were not concerned with the Section VI Class C schools, especially those from the suburbs like JFK and Newfane. Their true competition was from Section V (the Rochester area) in the Far West Regional, and any team they faced in Glens Falls.

Carlos Bradberry, Player, LaSalle Senior High School

“Oh, I was pissed off and Coach Monti made a point of it too. He would play mind games with us to piss us off. He would say, ‘Look at this guy. He’s got ‘DA MAN’ on the back of his head!’ I was ready to go nuts just when I saw him. I was thinking this dude thinks he’s really THAT GUY! I got enraged before the game because we were all sitting in the stands watching the game before ours and he’s laying down sleeping in the stands! I’m going nuts saying, ‘Look at this dude, he’s over there sleeping, and he’s got to play us!’ Everything he did made me go sort of nuts, but he backed everything up though.”

No. 50 Carlos Bradberry was one of the top guards in the LaSalle Senior High School basketball dynasty. He led the first Explorers team that I saw in person during the 1991-92 season. In the 1992 postseason, the Explorers matched up with the Greece Athena Trojans from Rochester, NY. It was the Class A Far West Regional. The Trojans were led by the All-American and Syracuse-bound star No. 44 John Wallace (pictured above and at the end of this piece). Wallace went on to play in the NBA after college. In this excerpt from our interview, Carlos talked about the hype and the perceived disrespect from Wallace leading up to the game. The match up was nicknamed ‘The Meeting of the Perfect Strangers’ as both teams rode into the game 22-0 with a trip to Glens Falls on the line.

*To read the full interview with Carlos Bradberry, see parts one and two.

Curtis Brooks, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“He always had those damn throat lozenges (Coach Ken Jones). He was hoarse and it was probably because he was always screaming!”

Two of the key figures in The Engineers are Coach Ken Jones and Curtis Brooks. I describe Brooks as the ‘engine’ that drove the 1990-91 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. He led them to a 13-0 Yale Cup record and the overall Section VI Class B Championship. Brooks played under Ken Jones for three years. He was there when Ken Jones took the reins as the head coach. All of Coach Jones’ players remember his hoarse and raspy voice which was the product of his passion for the game. He yelled at his players at practices and in games. He yelled at the officials in the games. One of the characteristics most of his players thus recall about him is his voice. Coach Jones wore many hats and in one-on-one settings, his voice took on more of a patient and grandfatherly tone.

Modie Cox, Player, LaSalle Senior High School

“That was the game he had that bad game in Glens Falls (Eric Gore). Yes I remember that and I was a freshman and I knew I was not playing. I was from the eastside of Niagara Falls. I grew up around drug dealers, prostitutes and hustling, getting over and things of that nature. That was my mentality. As a freshman I was thinking we are out here and I am trying to get some money. You know some guys you can hustle. I grew up trying to hustle because that is what you see all the time. So I felt like I could hustle, so I would hustle other guys. So sometimes I would try to hustle, those guys would beat me and I would be like, ‘Okay I will be right back.’ I would go into somebody else’s room and hustle them out of some money. It is funny. That happened in 1988. That is 30 years ago and Eric Gore remembers that. I am glad Coach Monti did not know that!”

Maurice ‘Modie’ Cox was one the great guards to play in Head Coach Pat Monti’s LaSalle basketball dynasty. I only heard of Modie’s legend and never saw him play like many of the great players in Western New York. Modie was the leader of the LaSalle dynasty between the Eric Gore- and Michael Starks-led 1988 Class B Federation Championship Team and the Carlos Bradberry-led teams of the early 1990s. This excerpt comes from Modie’s visit to my sports YouTube channel Big Discussions76 Sports. It gave the other side of the same story Coach Pat Monti told me about Eric Gore’s tough semifinal game against the Gloversville Dragons in 1988.

*My live interview with Modie Cox is on my YouTube channel Big Discussions76 Sports.

Francis Daumen, Coach, Hutch-Tech High School

“NO, I did not reach them. I am not talking about everybody on the team. The key players were mavericks or renegades if you want to call them that. They were not necessarily bad kids. All of the forces of – On judgment day if the good Lord asks, ‘Why did you yell at all of those kids?’ I will say, I will tell you what JESUS, you sit on that bench and see if it brings the good side out of you! The game by nature brings out the bad in people. You are required to be violent and to be a team player. You are required to run, and hit, and SMASH into one another – to jump and run and to be physically and mentally exhausted – and that is only practice. The games are fun, it is the practices – the day-to-day grind. It is a tough sport!”

Coach Francis Daumen took over for Coach Jones for my senior basketball season at Hutch-Tech High School. In my chaotic junior year I had to play on the JV team for Mr. Daumen. My circumstances led to my having to play on the JV team as a junior and I did not want to be there. Coach Daumen’s yelling was also different from Coach Jones’ and I did not know how to take it. A team’s energy and environment can change drastically with the head coach. This was the case for our transition on the boys’ basketball team. Coach Daumen’s quote gives insight into how he saw coaching the great game of basketball. As opposed to being an art or a craft, it was battle.

Demoan Daniels, Player, Seneca High School

“I think that was the best game that I ever had (against Damien Foster and Jason Rowe’s Buffalo Traditional team). I scored 26 points in that second half. My totals were 35 points and 12 rebounds. I still have the clips. We beat Traditional and we still did not get the respect we deserved. We were going home on the bus and people said, “How many did you lose by?” I looked and I said, “LOSE? We did not lose. We WON!” They said, “You won?” I said, “Yes we won!” Nobody knew who we were. They said, “Well who is this Demoan Daniels dude?” I did not say anything. “Whoever he is, he is putting up buckets,” they said. I did not say anything. My boy Chuck said, “That is him right there.” They said, “That is you? I did not know who you were.” I said, “WELL YOU ARE GOING TO KNOW WHO I AM THIS YEAR!”

No. 32 Demoan Daniels emerged as the leader of the Seneca Indians in the 1992-93 season, his senior year. Daniels gradually ascended as a player in the Western New York high school basketball scene and reached his apex in his senior year. He learned about the complex but exciting world of high school basketball gradually like a lot of Yale Cup basketball players. Demoan put Seneca basketball on the map and helped ascend to heights it had not seen in a long time. His senior season coincided with the rise of Damien Foster, Jason Rowe, and the Buffalo Traditional Bulls. He led the Indians to victory over the Bulls that 1992-93 season. They did not receive the respect deserved immediately after the victory as humorously described in this story.

Dewitt Doss, Player, LaSalle Senior High School

“We would get some shots up, play and workout in the gym. I remember the first time playing against Tim (Winn), and saying, ‘Awe man he can play. I did not know how fast he was and I think I got lucky, crossing him over one time and making a jump shot. Roddy Gayle was in the gym at the time and was just like, ‘OOOOOHHHH!’ He cracked jokes and laughed at Tim at the time (laughing), but he was one of the best defenders I have ever played against in my life. I thought that if I crossed over Tim Winn, then I could do it to any other high school kid. That was going into my junior year of high school.”

No. 11 Dewitt Doss was the last of the great guards in the Niagara Falls LaSalle Senior High School basketball dynasty. He was further on one of the last LaSalle Explorers teams before the school permanently closed its doors in the late 1990s. Dewitt shared how the mentorship from the older LaSalle players was instrumental to his own growth and success as a basketball player in this excerpt. This story involving Tim Winn and Roddy Gayle was one of the funny stories involving the LaSalle basketball players, most of which involved the fierce competitive nature of the program and its players.

Damien Foster, Player, Buffalo Traditional High School

“Well, my understanding back in the day is that the Yale Cup did not even have the three-point line (laughing). Curtis Aiken (of Bennett) and those guys played when there was no three-point line. You play in some of the gyms in some of these schools and it was like you were playing in a bowling alley –.”

Damien Foster and Jason Rowe seemingly burst onto the scene together the 1992-93 season as freshmen. I was amazed by their play when I first saw them. In The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story, I describe what it was like playing in the Yale Cup in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that era, the Yale Cup players and teams played in less than stellar facilities and had meager resources. Most of our jerseys did not have our school names on them for example. Some of the gyms were also abysmal. Damien Foster jokingly recalled in this excerpt that the gym at Performing Arts Academy looked like a bowling alley. It actually did. Buffalo Traditional coincidentally closed and Performing Arts Academy now occupies the former home of the Bulls.

*To read the full interview with Damien Foster, see parts one and two.

Dion Frasier, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“He was intense and would go off sometimes. He was sometimes a little bizarre. There was one time he was shooting in the gym and I came in and he said something and I started laughing. He said, ‘What are you laughing at? You think I’m a joke?’ He got all in my face and I said ‘dude what is wrong with you?’ Curt was a little – I don’t know what to call him (laughing). He was on the spectrum, I don’t know, but like I said you get him on the court man, that dude could ball. That dude could ball……..”

Reverend Dion Frasier was a four-year player for Coach Ken Jones. No. 24 was a key role player on the 1990-91 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team that won the city and the sectional championships. Finally, he was a senior on the 1991-92 team my sophomore year. I did not know the Class of 1991 seniors personally. I initially knew of them only through stories. In this story, Dion reflected on the intensity No. 13 Curtis Brooks played with when they were teammates.

Anthony Harris, Player, Burgard Vocational High School

“I went to Burgard because I followed the idiots to Burgard! Ma was like, ‘Go to Tech. Go to Tech!’ I was like, ‘I don’t want to go to Tech.’ Everybody was going to Tech. Jimmy, Chippy, Squirrel, Brian, everybody, I didn’t know anything about Burgard. I was just going with them. Ma just got tired of me and said, ‘Go ahead to Burgard.’ Come to find out, going to Burgard, Brian changed his mind, Squirrel changed his mind, and it was me, Jimmy and Chippy. Chippy flunked out freshman year. He got thrown out for tardiness and absences, so they let him go. Jimmy left after the first year too, so out of everybody, I was the only one there after one year. And back then after my freshman year, I was tired of this and said, ‘I’m going to Riverside.’ It was overcrowded and I couldn’t get in, so it was back to Burgard again and I was stuck at Burgard. And that is how I got into Burgard.”

A key character in my story is my Uncle Anthony ‘Tony’ Harris. He appears in the beginning and then towards the end. Uncle Tony knew a lot about sports like all of my uncles. I later found that he played a considerable amount of basketball when he was younger and even played a little bit in college. I wondered how having his mentorship would have impacted my own journey afterwards. He had multiple stories to tell about growing up in Buffalo, playing basketball and life in general when I interviewed him. Consistent with his personality, many of them were funny. I knew he went to Burgard but I had no idea about how he got there until our interview.

Ed Harris, Player, Riverside High School

“We came into Traditional, had that game won. Mush (Damien Foster) shot a fucking shot from half court and the ball bounced in. That was right after one of their players died and so it was an emotional game for them (Cameron Calvin). Cardinal was happy. He met us at the door. ‘COME ON IN 5-0!’ This is what he said when we walked in the building. ‘COME ON IN 5-0. COME ON IN! COME ON IN 5-0!’ This is what Cardinal said as we walked in the door. ‘COME ON IN 5-0! COME ON IN!’ We were waiting for this. We want this one. I had a good game. It was just that half-court shot that won it for them. It was their time, and I think they went on to do great things after that. We went the opposite way and they kept soaring. He knew he had a squad! Cardinal knew that he had a squad!”

Edmund Harris was one of the key pieces on the Riverside Boys’ Basketball Team that won the 1991-92 Yale Cup and Section VI Class C championships. They had most of their pieces coming back for their 1992-93 senior season. Like many teams in the Yale Cup that season, they ran up against the young Buffalo Traditional Bulls led by No. 33 Damien Foster and No. 12 Jason Rowe and lost on a legendary buzzer beater by Foster. This memory involved the infamous Coach Joe Cardinal of Buffalo Traditional and made me laugh as the interviewer. I think it amused Ed Harris when he reflected on it himself.

Frankie Harris, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“I remember. Did he used to get out there and practice with ya’ll (Coach Ken Jones)? He would take his shirt off and get in the action with us and play pick up and anything like that. He would tear you up (laughing)!”

Frankie Harris was a part of Coach Ken Jones’ rebuild of the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. He was a member of the Class of 1990, so I missed him by one year. I saw pictures of him in my brother Amahl’s yearbooks though. When I joined the team, Coach Jones talked to us regularly about ‘Frankie Harris Syndrome’. It involved being too unselfish on offense. Frankie told me his version of where the syndrome came from. We also talked about what it was like to play basketball with Coach Jones who was a physical, gritty and tough player. He would put his body on you for rebounds and use his forearms in the lane. His physical play surprised me initially but eventually you learned that was how he played the game.

Derrick Herbert, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“I mean the voice first. It was raspy and it seemed like he smoked eight packs of Newports (cigarettes) and drank Jack Daniel’s (whiskey). It was just really raspy! You know what I mean? That is how it came off to me. So his commanding voice hits you at first, and then I noticed how good a shape he was in for his age (Coach Ken Jones).”

Derrick Herbert was a player from the Class of 1990 like Frankie Harris. We were put in touch by Pep Skillon shortly after Coach Jones’ passing. In our interview, we discussed a lot of things. I asked him about his first impressions of Coach Jones like I did with all the guys who were there when he took over. Most of us noted his unique physical attributes first, his voice being one of the most notable. He was also in tremendous physical shape in his early 60s.

Earl Holmes, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“I mess with Adrian every time I see him. I told him, he let you do whatever you wanted to (Coach Francis Daumen). That almost got Calhoun cut our senior year when Coach Richardson took over. Do you know who stopped him from cutting Adrian and Reggie? It was my Dad. He said, ‘I don’t think you want to do that because Adrian could stroke the ball and Reggie could handle the ball!’”

Earl Holmes was a teammate from the Class of 1995. He seemed to really like picking on classmates at times, myself included. Earl always told you what he thought and gave it to you straight. He was the same way 20 years later. Part of our discussion involved reflecting on our 1993-94 team my senior year at Hutch-Tech. That was the year after Coach Jones retired and where Coach Francis Daumen took over. It was a tough year where some unusual things happened. Many of the team dynamics changed. Some things were allowed to fly that would not have been allowed in previous years. Some players were at the center of those changes, and it was very, very reflective of dynamics I and others would see in the adult world in the years to come.

Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, Coach, Hutch-Tech High School

“If you can beat your man one on one, you beat him. When you can’t, then pass the ball! If I say we do not shoot anything except uncontested layups, you don’t force it! Frankie Harris got the award for passing up an UNCONTESTED layup against Grover Cleveland HIGH SCHOOL but it was better than getting the ball SHOVED down your throat (rejected). Getting an uncontested shot is better than getting it driven down your throat! So that is when Brother Brooks was sitting next to me early in that game!”

Coach Jones’ spirit is all throughout this project. We talked about the challenges he experienced when establishing his program at Hutch-Tech High School throughout my research. There was a learning curve for the players on his teams. One surprising example involved No. 13 Curtis Brooks, the engine that drove the 1990-91 Yale Cup and Section VI Class B championship teams. Coach Jones’ story about Brother Brooks involved learning how to run his offenses. The centerpiece of one of his most successful teams had to learn how to play in his program and how to run his offenses.

*See the Engineers book page for more promotional materials discussing Coach Ken Jones.

Pat Monti, Coach, LaSalle Senior High School

“Well what was great was that Sal Rizzo who was the nicest guy you will ever want to meet, God rest his soul – I honestly don’t think he knew a lick about the game of basketball. He had so much talent year in and year out – he should’ve been in the Far West Regionals every year – that’s how talented East High was. He got so ticked off because the score at halftime was something like 17-15. Coach Rizzo came out at halftime and came over to me and said, ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THIS ISN’T BASKETBALL!’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m doing the only thing I can do to give our team a chance to win!’ He said, ‘WELL TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME COACH!’ And guess what he started doing –. HE STARTED DELAYING THE BALL (laughing)! I said to my assistants, ‘Oh my God! Can you believe this? He’s playing right into our hands!’”

Coach Pat Monti led the Niagara Falls LaSalle Senior High School basketball dynasty to a decade of domination in Western New York. The Explorers won the Section VI Class A championship for 10 years straight and were regular visitors to the Far West Regionals where they matched up with the Class A Champion from the Rochester area. One team they matched up with regularly was the East Orientals. In this excerpt from our interview, Coach Monti discussed the year he attempted to slow the game down to negate the Orientals’ athletic ability and size. Coach Sal Rizzo responded in the most unexpected way by also delaying the ball. He helped create a memorable game with lots of laughs for years to come.

*To read the full interview with Coach Pat Monti, see parts one, two and three.

Phillip Richardson, Player, Bennett High School and Coach, Hutch-Tech High School

“Well, first off. We had our first meeting. We are going to run, run, run. You are going to be in shape and you are going to have to be in shape. So we are practicing and I am seeing Reggie and Adrian do this and that, and Earl trying to do his thing, and trying to squeeze Andre in there. I stopped practice and sat them on the floor at half court. I told them, ‘One of you three motherfuckers, I am going to kick off the team! I do not care who it is! I am just waiting for you all to do something DUMB! What I mean by dumb is that in a game, if I tell you to do something and you don’t do it, that’s dumb and you’re DONE! So from that point in time, they fell right in line and did everything I wanted them to do.”

Coach Phillip Richardson took over the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team the year after I graduated. He inherited the highly confident and talented players from the Class of 1995 and brought on his own younger players. New coaches must establish their culture and control over teams whenever they assume the reins and take over. In this funny excerpt, Coach Richardson shared an exchange with his 1994-95 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team which had me rolling when he told it to me. I knew the players he referred to well so it had extra significance for me. Under his leadership, they went on to have a great year. Coach Richardson was also my cousin. I did not discover his athletic pedigree until late in my short basketball journey due to family circumstances and dynamics.

Bill Russell, Coach, Riverside High School

“I do not remember. I know he had an interesting life story (Coach Ken Jones). He was out of the school system for a little while and then he came back. That would have been the time that you were with him. I thought he was quite an interesting guy – fanatical but in a good way. And I think he was a fanatic about physical fitness. I heard one story – I do not know where I heard this. He challenged any player on his basketball team, I am thinking about one All-High player, but with one stipulation and that was it had to be a full court game. I do not remember where I heard it, but normally I would say that was ridiculous but not in his case. I think he was just a bit eccentric enough and in great shape where he would go like that. It very well could be true. I do not know, but I heard that.”

Coach Bill Russell led the Riverside Boys’ Basketball Team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He coached the legendary Cliff Robinson before starting his college and professional basketball careers. All 14 Yale Cup coaches knew each other or knew of each other. In some instances those relationships were contentious and in some instances they were amiable. In my interview with Coach Russell, Coach Jones came up and he shared this funny story which I vaguely remembered about him. Challenging a player to a full court one-on-one game sounds like something Coach Jones would have done, especially with the remarkable shape he was in for his age.

Jermaine ‘J-Bird’ Skillon, Hutch-Tech High School

“Mike (Brundige) was on the ‘BENCH MOB’ (laughing). We were playing in practice, and we always used to go at his boys, but he hates Mike (Coach Ken Jones). Mike was never getting in. He would get in at garbage time with the rest of the Bench Mob. Like I said he shits on Mike all the time. Mike had a little attitude too, he was a little ass holeley. We go to another gym and Mike does not have a jersey, just a white t-shirt. This is when I knew Jones was full of shit. Pep gets hurt and all of a sudden it is, ‘That a baby Mikey!’ Now he loves Mike! Mike is his man!”

As described in my essay entitled, Lasting Lessons Basketball Taught Me: Different Things To Different People, some of Coach Ken Jones’ biggest detractors were on the bench with him wearing maroon and gold uniforms. I knew that J-Bird Skillon may not have had the most positive experience with Coach Jones but I thought it was still critical to listen to his story. Good writers look to create a balanced perspective.

J-Bird referred to himself and some of the other players that did not play much as the Bench Mob. It was a play on words. Those who are familiar with the West Coast rap scene of the 1990s know that Ice Cube led a rap group called Da Lench Mob. J-Bird also shared something about another player who had a contentious relationship with Coach Jones, the highly talented Michael Brundige. In J-Bird’s account, Coach Jones ended up having to play Brundige late in the 1989-90 season when Jerrold ‘Pep’ Skillon went down due to an ankle injury.

Jerrold ‘Pep’ Skillon, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“You come up playing in the summer leagues with all of these guys, so a lot of the best hoopers, I knew. They saw the way we warmed up, and we did not just have the regular layup line like everybody else. Jones had other stuff going on, and we were like, ‘What the hell is this? This is crazy! Why can’t we just do a regular layup line?’ So Jones had his little program and it’s funny, he had his dribble, drive, reverse pivot and handoff – and don’t get me wrong, Jones’ fundamentals, to this day, to this day – I learned more from Jones fundamentally than any coach I played for, even college. From the basic fundamentals – drill after drill after drill – no question, I teach kids stuff I learned from Jones. At the time there was pushback. It was like, what is he doing? I mean this is crazy! Why can’t we have just a regular layup line? We never had that, we never did. Everything we had was structured, our layup line was structured, our pregame was structured – structure, structure, structure – like I said he was creating the culture!”

My interview with Pep Skillon was arguably one of the most of fun of them all. Pep was a key piece of the 1990-91 Yale Cup and Class B sectional championship teams. He was a two-sport athlete like his brother Jermaine (football and basketball). You could hear his enthusiasm about those times throughout our discussion. Pep jokingly shared his disbelief when Coach Ken Jones arrived at Hutch-Tech and established his culture and program. Pep played basketball long before being exposed to Coach Jones’ basketball teachings and it was unusual for him and his teammates. Coach Jones was my second basketball coach, so I assumed his methods were typical.

Christain J. Souter, Player, Hutch-Tech High School

“There was one time – I don’t remember the school, but I remember getting on the NFTA metro bus from downtown. I had to walk from the school, walk to the metro and I caught whatever bus that took us to Kensington High School or to Burgard or whatever we were doing that day. And I just remember it was probably my sophomore year, maybe the first time it happened, but I got the, ‘Yo. You the white boy that plays for Tech? You need to come sit back here!’ And you’re on the bus with people you don’t know that you get recognized because you played basketball or you know that you’re the white kid who plays for Hutch-Tech.”

Buffalo and the Western New York area have both a history of racism and segregation as do many cities in the United States. This is discussed subtly in The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. The students in the Buffalo Public Schools system were mostly black when I came of age in the 1980s and 1990s. Our high school basketball teams were likewise mostly black with a few exceptions. No. 44 Christain Souter was one of the captains on the 1991-92 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. In our interview he told a story about a memorable experience on a metrobus on the way to a game. There were in fact a handful of non-black players in the Yale Cup at that time. We laughed about it as it was consistent with what we saw.

Tim Winn, Player, LaSalle Senior High School

“Yep, it is. It always starts at the top. The players these kids look up to – they’re all friends. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are really, really good friends. For me, I could never be that good a friend with someone to where it will impact my approach on the court. It didn’t matter who you were, I wanted to go through you on the court – family included, friends included, it didn’t matter – my MOTHER couldn’t get a bucket on me!”

No. 11 Tim Winn is one of the most storied players in the Niagara Falls LaSalle Basketball Dynasty and Western New York basketball. Tim was one of the first players I interviewed and he even returned to my sports YouTube channel for a follow up. In our first interview, we talked about many of the professional layers being friends. I thought about LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade during our discussion as they were the players today’s youngsters looked up to. Tim agreed that many young players are taking their cues from the above-mentioned players and are all friends. Tim jokingly shared that there were no friends for him when it came to the great game of basketball, not even his beloved mother.

*To read the full interview with Tim Winn, see parts one and two. Also my live interview with Tim on my YouTube channel Big Discussions76 Sports.

Bonus- Eric Gore’s Modie Cox Story from Glens Falls in 1988

“This guy here (Modie Cox) as a youngster in Glens Falls was brought up from the junior varsity team to support the squad. We as a team were excited but knew we belonged there. This guy would not allow me to sleep for the first game because we started a dice game that went on into the wee hours of the morning. HA, HA. This guy continued to leave my room broke but would return back with a pocket full of paper. I would get that too and this went on until the morning. Needless to say I did not contribute my normal game because of exhaustion. We still won and I knew I could not mess with this dude the following evening. Experiences like this last a lifetime.”

I did not interview Eric Gore, but his name came up in interviews with Coach Pat Monti and players from the LaSalle Senior High School basketball dynasty. No. 50 was one of the key players in the Explorers’ magical 1988 Class B federation championship run. Coach Pat Monti described Eric struggling in the Explorers’ state semifinal matchup with the Gloversville Dragons due to quick whistles by the officials. Gore jokingly attributed it to not getting enough sleep the night before the game years later on Facebook when he saw that I was going to interview Modie Cox on my sports YouTube channel. A mischievous freshman Modie Cox from the JV team kept him up all night playing dice. The Explorers fortunately went on to win everything and go undefeated.

Closing Thoughts and Memories

A common saying is, “It’s a small world,” which in many cases is true. Later in the 1990s, I met the mother of one of the players on the Gloversville Dragons team that the 1988 LaSalle Explorers outlasted in Glens Falls. I came to know her well. I first saw a Final Four program with a picture of Coach Pat Monti and the LaSalle Explorers in it. Later on when interviewing Coach Pat Monti, that team came up. That player on the Gloversville team was Robert ‘Bones’ Francis, the son of my stepmother Pam Dunbar.

The opening excerpt/quote for this piece comes from Coach Jones himself. He told us lots of jokes as a team in addition to many basketball strategies and life teachings. He particularly enjoyed the Frankie Harris story. Frankie laughed about it as well when I met him at Coach Jones’ memorial service.

More Promotional Content

Thank you again to the other coaches, players and teammates who shared your stories with me. This project would not have been possible without you. This was a long process, and with each interview I gained the strength to keep going, and resolved within myself that I was doing the right thing.

I have created other promotional/teaser pieces for The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story, both via print and video as I journey through the final steps of completing the book. I created a page here on Big Words Authors to give a background of the book and grouping together all the promotional pieces such as this in one place for interested readers.

There are interviews with some of the most accomplished Section VI players from my era on my first blog, The Big Words Blog Site. Those interviews are with Jason Rowe, Tim Winn, Carlos Bradberry and Damien Foster. I also interviewed legendary LaSalle Head Basketball Coach, Pat Monti. Finally, there are several other basketball-related essays related to my book project. If you liked this piece, please share it on your social media and leave a comment beneath this piece.

The Big Words LLC Newsletter

For the next phase of my writing journey, I’m starting a monthly newsletter for my writing and video content creation company, the Big Words LLC. In it, I plan to share inspirational words, pieces from this blog and my first blog, and select videos from my four YouTube channels. Finally, I will share updates for my book project The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. Your personal information and privacy will be protected. Click this link and register using the sign-up button at the bottom of the announcement. If there is some issue signing up using the link provided, you can also email me at [email protected] . Best Regards.

A Look Back at the Yale Cup: Section VI’s Basketball Diamond in the Rough

“The Yale Cup teams developed the reputation for not playing defense or with structure of any kind. It was considered a renegade league!”

“It’s an altogether different picture from when you played at Tech to when I played, and it’s even more of a different look for the kids who are playing in the Yale Cup now. Back then the Yale Cup was not represented in Section VI. There was no state title representation or anything. This was in the late 1960s. I think they went to Section VI in 1971. Our group of athletes and the kids the year after me, we were really upset that in 1971 or 1972, they allowed the Buffalo Public Schools to play in Section VI and compete for the state championship. It was around 1971 and 72 or something like that.”

“That was one of the downfalls or pitfalls which kept our schools from being recognized because there were quite a few kids who could’ve played Division I football or basketball that were not seen at the time. You either had to be a Bob Lanier or a Gil Harmon, who were the biggest and the most athletic – Bob Lanier was 6’9” in high school; or like Marty Cott who went to Tech the same year that I did. He ended up playing baseball for the Houston Astros.”

The Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team: My Introduction To The Yale Cup

This story is another promotional piece for my two-part book project entitled, The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. The previous piece paid tribute to the late Kevin Roberson. I’ve created a page here on my writer’s blog for the book, if you’re curious to learn some more about it. In the numerous pieces I’ve already created surrounding the book, I’ve shared that I’ve conducted 30-40 interviews for the project. These discussions with former players and coaches from Section VI have revealed several interesting facts.

One of the focal points for my story is the 1990-91 Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team. Our school nickname was the Engineers, for which the books are named. During my freshman year at the school, they went on a magical run. They first won the city league championship, the Yale Cup, with a 13-0 record. They then won the Section VI Class B championship, coming within one game of a berth in the Class B State Final Four in Glens Falls. From my vantage point at the time, it was a big deal, and I dreamt of doing what they did.

The Yale Cup And Section VI

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While my story focuses on the Hutch-Tech Engineers, it also involves other teams from Western New York. Many of the teams are from our league the Yale Cup. It also tells the stories to a lesser extent of some of the other teams in Section VI. Even today, Section VI is the western most section of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA). There are 12 total sections spanning from the Great Lakes to the Adirondack Mountains and finally down to Long Island.

Section VI of the late 1980s and early 1990s was comprised of many city and suburban public high schools and leagues. They were located in the numerous Western New York State counties including Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Niagara, and Orleans. Our league was called the Yale Cup. It was a 14-team league comprised of schools within the Buffalo Public School System. At one point the Yale Cup was considered the best high school basketball league in Section VI. However, like the City of Buffalo and our region in general, it went through hard times which were arguably rooted in the loss of steel industry. This essay is a tribute to the Yale Cup as I and others knew it, and to a lesser degree Section VI.

Oh, by the way, the private school teams played in the Monsignor Martin League. I must mention them because they had some of the best players and teams in Western New York every year. Some of the schools included Cardinal O’Hara, Canisius, Turner/Carroll and St. Joseph’s.

A League Named After An Ivy League School But Wasn’t Ivy League

One of the more interesting things about the Yale Cup, was its name. I don’t know who named the league, but it seemed to have been named after the prestigious Ivy League institution of higher learning in Connecticut, Yale University. Coincidentally, our city football league was named the Harvard Cup, I guess after Harvard University. The girls’ basketball league was called the Canisius Cup, most likely after Canisius College. I don’t know who named the leagues and why, but ‘The Yale’, now affectionately referred to by some of its former players, was anything but Ivy League in quality as I’ll describe.

14 Schools Of Varying Sizes

There were 14 schools in the Yale Cup of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The lineup of schools in general changed over the decades. Like the private schools, some of the Yale Cup schools were closed or consolidated for economic and logistical reasons. I think the core line up of schools remained the same though. During my youth, I heard numerous stories of an East High School. During my teen years, it was converted into the Buffalo Vocational and Technical Center (BVTC). City Honors (described below) played its home games there. The schools comprising the Yale Cup of the late 1980s and early 1990s, their nicknames and school colors were as follows:

Bennett: The Tigers, orange and blue
Burgard Vocational: The Bulldogs, red, blue and white
Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts (aka Buffalo Arts or Performing Arts): The Cavaliers, black and gold
Buffalo Traditional: The Bulls, navy blue and gold
City Honors: The Centaurs, burgundy and gray
Emerson: The Eagles, red and white
Grover Cleveland: The Presidents, green and white
Hutch-Tech: The Engineers, maroon and gold
Lafayette: The Violets, violet and white
Kensington: The Knights, lime green and gold
McKinley Vocational: The Macks, orange and black
Riverside: The Frontiersman, purple and gold
Seneca: The Indians, dark green and white
South Park: The Sparks, red, black and white

If you watch the documentary Hoop Dreams or its sequel Hoop Reality, both take place in Chicago. Watching them, you’ll see that most metropolitan areas have city leagues where most of the student athletes are black. The bigger cities actually had multiple conferences within their boundaries. With Buffalo being a smaller city, there was only one conference.

Three Phases Of The Season

“What’s about to start after the New Year is the meat and potatoes of the season! Our non-league schedule was just the gravy!” In my first year on the Hutch-Tech Boys’ Basketball Team, our coach, Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones told our team this after a lackluster start in the ‘non-league’ portion of our schedule. He further told us that our Yale Cup league play was the most important phase of the season. It brought with it the potential for a league championship. Our league record would also dictate our qualification for post season sectional play. There the final destination were potential state and federation championships for the truly elite teams.

During the next three years, as I learned about high school basketball on the fly, I realized something interesting. We only played our opponents once in league play. That is the location of the games would alternate yearly. In my first year on the team for example, Hutch-Tech hosted Riverside in our gym and that was it. This was the game that clinched the Yale Cup title for the Frontiersman that 1991-92 season, coincidentally. The next season we played in their gym.

Playing Each Other Once A Year In Conference Play

In the private and suburban school leagues, the teams played home and home series meaning that each team played in the other’s gym during league play. Likewise teams would play each other twice in one season. In some leagues, there was also a potential championship game where the top two teams in the league would battle it out for the league title. With the Yale Cup, you only got that one shot at your opponent in league play and that was it. In those days the final records determined the champions as well. This was probably because of the size of our 14-team league.

If you were in the same preseason tournament, scheduled a nonleague game or were in the same sectional class, there was the possibility of seeing certain teams again. If you were a Class A or B team in Section VI though (described below), you only got one shot at teams like Buffalo Traditional. The Bulls were the perennial power in our league who played in Class C sectional. It wasn’t ideal, but it’s what we had at the time.

The Gyms We Played In

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Another aspect that made our league unique were the gyms in which we played. Most of the gyms were less than stellar compared to our counterparts in private and suburban schools. City school gyms were old and antiquated. While many of us look back on it with nostalgia; the gym at Hutch-Tech was essentially a box with a shortened court. It amazingly transformed into an electric venue during games and when fans filled it. It was a less than ideal facility though. The backboards were solid white with non-breakaway rims and the seating was minimal.

At Hutch-Tech, we also had a ‘small gym’. It was a smaller box with one basket which you could barely cram 15-25 student athletes into. Our boys’ basketball team practiced there for the first hour or so of practice after school. The girls’ basketball team used our ‘big gym’ (described above) for the first hour of practice and then we swapped.

It was nothing like the modern facilities at my alma mater right now. Today there is a regulation-size court, window backboards and breakaway rims. Nor was it anything like the three gyms at my best friend’s high school, Cleveland Hill in Cheektowaga. Cleveland Hill High School was in one of the suburban conferences, the Erie County Interscholastic Conference VI (there were four of these conferences). Still, there was something special about our little old gym, and the Hutch-Tech gym was not alone, or the worst.

Playing In Older And Antiquated Gyms

“You play in some of the gyms in some of these schools and it was like you were playing in a bowling alley (laughing)!” In my interview with Buffalo Traditional legend Damien Foster, we discussed the gyms we played in for Yale Cup play. I think the gym he was referring to was at Performing Arts. It was the most unusual of all the gyms in the league. It didn’t have a regulation width, so it didn’t have a complete three-point arc. The floor was concrete-like, and it was in a room very similar to a theater. Other high school gyms, like those at Lafayette and South Park, had those cumbersome tracks overhead. They were similar to the East Ferry YMCA, so you couldn’t shoot the corner three-point shots.

The largest gyms at that time were at Grover Cleveland, McKinley, and Seneca High Schools, and maybe Emerson. This is probably why Coach Jones always had to host our Hutch-Tech Tip Off Tournaments at other schools. Safety and security were reasons why we couldn’t host sectional games. This would have involved teams and families from the suburbs coming into Buffalo at nighttime. All these factors are why it was amazing to go into the college, private school, and suburban gyms as a player and see how well equipped they were. They had bleachers on both sides of the gym, window glass back boards, breakaway rims and complete three-point arcs.

Playing In Uniforms With No Name

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Now admittedly you must typically go to the Division I level to get players’ names put on the back of their jerseys like in the pros. Typically, in the lower levels, you would at least get the school’s name and/or nickname on the front of the uniforms. Except for City Honors, Grover Cleveland and South Park, most of our uniforms in the Yale Cup, it wasn’t that way.

“It takes a little bit more to be a Champion!” The uniforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s were made by the sports apparel company Champion. The only thing that differentiated them between the schools were the school colors. Because the pictures in the Buffalo News were black and white, you couldn’t tell the teams apart without reading the caption when the teams were featured. If you were familiar with the teams and players, you knew who was who. The uniforms all had the same block numbers and were all made with the same thick polyester or nylon, non-mesh fabric. I have fond memories of our old maroon and gold Hutch-Tech uniforms though.

A Lack Of Feeder Systems For The Varsity Teams

In my research for The Engineers, the above-mentioned Coach Ken Jones and I talked about was the lack of a feeder system for the Yale Cup varsity basketball teams. The Buffalo News coincidentally wrote about this a season or two after I graduated from Hutch-Tech. Simply put, there were no official modified or junior varsity (JV) programs to feed the varsity programs. Thus, most of the players had to make the varsity team and learn on the fly if they weren’t receiving any training outside of school. See my interviews with Jason Rowe, Damien Foster and Tim Winn. That said, the best team in any given year could have been the most athletic team, the most talented or the healthiest team (or some combination of the three).

Some of the coaches at the time, including Coach Jones, attempted to create ad hoc JV teams and the games. They did this for the most part with no extra pay, and there was thus no official JV league. Most of the games were likewise played on Saturday mornings. All our classmates were still at home sleeping or doing something else, and thus few people saw them. For suburban schools the JV games were often scheduled and played at night before the varsity games. This was significant becasue classmates, relatives and the entire community could come out and support them which was a big deal as a player.

One Of Many Legendary Yale Cup Coaches

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“You don’t know who Romeo McKinney is?” One of my interviewees for this project was Carlos James Gant from City Honors. City Honors was the other ‘academic’ school in the Yale Cup. They experienced their own basketball resurgence during my four years with players like Gant himself, Shaun Nelms, and their highly talented big man Larry Gilbert. During our discussion, Gant shared with me that the legendary Romeo McKinney helped coach their team during the 1992-93 season. He taught them a trapping style of defense which contributed to their increased level of competitiveness that season. By their senior year, they had an exceptional team, but they ascended at the same time as the above-mentioned Jason Rowe– and Damien Foster-led Buffalo Traditional Bulls.

I believe Coach McKinney was the coach of the South Park team that was involved in the infamous fight with Christian Laettner’s Nichols team at the Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. I think he finished out his coaching career at Kensington. Carlos Gant was surprised that I didn’t know who he was. A recurring theme of my story is that I only started learning about Section VI basketball in the early 1990s, and even then, my coach never talked about him. There were several legendary Yale Cup coaches over the years just like Coach McKinney.

Varying Qualities Of Coaching

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My coach at Hutch-Tech, Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, called himself a ‘true student of the game’ and was in fact a basketball junkie. His program was an extension of himself and was very organized and textbook. The suburban and private school coaches were likewise amazed by the disciplined style of basketball Coach Jones’ majority black rosters played. The Yale Cup teams had developed the reputation for not playing defense or with structure of any kind. It was considered a ‘renegade’ league as stated by Adrian Baugh, another key contributor on the above-mentioned Buffalo Traditional teams.

From the interviews I conducted I learned that the quality of coaching in the league also varied from school to school. While researching The Engineers, I found that not every coach in the Yale Cup was in fact a trained coach, who approached the game as a craft. Some of them were simply faculty at their schools or gym teachers. Likewise, not every coach taught the game and treated it like a craft. Not every coach genuinely cared about his players, or what happened to them once they left the doors of their schools. The coach you got was arguably a matter of fortune and luck.

Playing Different Numbers Of Games

“We were one of the only city schools to play a full 20 games. Remember, at that time there were 14 high school teams in the city, and you only played those 13 teams if your coach didn’t give you another 6-7 games to fill out your full 20 games. Russ did that,” said Ed Harris, a star guard from Riverside’s above-mentioned Yale Cup and Class C Section Team in our interview. Ed attributed his Coach Bill Russell’s dedication to his playing development. “He had us playing the Frontiers, the Oleans, the Fredonias – going out there and playing John F. Kennedy (JFK), Williamsville East, South and North.”

Harris’ words described the fact that not every Yale Cup coach scheduled games outside of their 13 Yale Cup league games. This meant that their players didn’t get exposure to other styles of basketball and may not have started playing games until the new year. After interviewing Coach Russell, he turned out to be a lot like my coach at Hutch-Tech in that he put together a complete non-league schedule. He also cared about his players and did extra things for them like getting them into summer leagues and taking them with him to scout opponents.

Our League Games Were Immediately After School

Another interesting thing about the Yale Cup is that our games were immediately after school. If students were allowed into the games, this was advantageous for the home teams. Students weren’t allowed into games at every school though, due to safety considerations.

But what about the players on the teams; the visiting teams in particular? If you were the visiting team, you had to leave your last class early, which I’m sure none of the students took issue with. Unfortunately, none of the city schools had their own buses so players had to catch public transportation to the opposing school. This meant that team members could trickle in at varying times, sometimes after the games had started unless the coaches had a way of transporting the entire group.

Another consequence of this was the difficulty for many of the parents and relatives to come to our games. Many were still working at 3:30 pm in the afternoon. If they worked a 9-5 job, many parents could not get out of work early. As a player, having relatives in the stands can be very, very important psychologically.

Visits From The Trainer Once A Week And Wasted Talent

As described, none of our schools had their own individualized transportation. Nor did we have our own athletic trainer. We had a student trainer who came in from Canisius College to check on injuries once a week. It was better than nothing, but if a student athlete didn’t have the proper specialized medical care at home, injuries could linger and destroy whole seasons altogether. I experienced something like this during my journey.

Some of the players I interviewed suggested that there was a lot of wasted talent in the Yale Cup of the late 1980s and 1990s. The lack of a feeder system was mentioned earlier in this piece, but there was also academics. Some of the more talented players also didn’t receive the proper academic guidance to prepare to play at the next level. Specifically, some players weren’t prepared to take and achieve competitive scores on the standardized tests (SATs and ACTs). As a result, they never went on to play college basketball, and if they did, they had to play in junior college first. Some of them didn’t get to play at the Division I level at all, which they may have had the talent to do.

The Players That Emerged

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The opening excerpt for this piece was from my interview with my cousin, Coach Phillip Richardson. When we spoke, it was amazing to hear that he and his peers didn’t compete in Section VI postseason play. Thus, they didn’t have the opportunity to compete for the state or federation championships. They simply put their basketball uniforms away and prepared for baseball or track after a league champion was determined. A few years after Coach Richardson graduated from Bennett High School the rules changed. Competing in Section VI’s postseason play was commonplace for the Buffalo Public Schools 20 years later when it was time for me to go to high school.

In this snippet, Coach Richardson stated that there were several talented players who didn’t get the opportunity to play Division I basketball because of the lack of exposure. Some players did make it though over the years. Among them were Bob Lanier (Bennett), Ray Hall (McKinley), Curtis Aiken (Bennett), Lester Rowe (Lafayette), Cliff Robinson (Riverside), and Keith Robinson (Grover Cleveland). There was also Trevor Ruffin (Bennett), and Jason Rowe and Damien Foster (both from Buffalo Traditional). After I graduated, there was Damone Brown (Seneca) and Mark Price (Riverside). There were also numerous Yale Cup players who played at the Division II and III levels.

I also must acknowledge a couple of guards. There was the great tandem of Ritchie Campbell and Marcus ‘Ice Cream’ Whitfield (Burgard). There was also Antoine Sims (Grover Cleveland and Turner/Carroll) and Jeremiah Wilkes (Burgard and Cheektowaga Central). I don’t know where their paths led after high school. They all played at a high level though. There were so many players and I may have missed some names. If so, please mention them in the comment section below.

Competing In Section VI

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In my era, Yale Cup schools competed in Section VI Classes A, B, C in postseason play. Again, the letters designated the size of the school. Classes A and B designated the larger schools and C the smaller schools. The Buffalo News made a similar distinction in its weekly ‘Cage Polls’. None of the schools competed in Class D.

Postseason sectional play was arguably the most magical part of the season because we were now competing with the suburban teams and potentially teams from places like Grand Island and Niagara Falls in a one-game elimination format. This post season play could ultimately lead to a game with the Rochester area champions in the Far West Regionals. There a trip to Glens Falls was at stake. Only a few teams ever made it that far.

A Look Back At The Yale Cup Of Years Past From A Former Burgard Bulldog

“But going back to the junior year, when Gene exploded onto the scene and made All-High and Honorable Mention All-Western New York, the scouts came out and whatever. As a matter of fact, when Gene was a junior, we were playing Tech. The scouts came to scout a guy named Roger Brown because he was Mr. Everything that year. Gene played a good game, but we lost to Tech.” One of the most powerful interviews for The Engineers was with my Uncle Anthony (Tony) Harris. Uncle Tony played at Burgard in the 1960s with the legendary Eugene Roberson and corroborated much of the same information shared by the above-mentioned Coach Richardson.

“Tech had the Cott brothers, Orv and Marty Cott, back then and they had a couple of other stars. Gene had a spectacular game, but we lost.” My Uncle got excited talking about those days and I became equally excited listening to him reflect. As a part of my story, I learned that our family patriarch had a basketball history himself – he was All-High Honorable Mention! This is an important part of my story. I found out about it after my playing days.

“I mean there were some bad people (in a good way) back then. There were a couple who were really good like Bob Lanier. Bennett just ran over everybody, and East had some really good players too. Bennet’s team was so strong that all five guys should have made All-High, but they couldn’t.” Uncle Tony continually emphasized the number of strong players in the Yale Cup season he played in, and you could just feel it when he spoke. We spent a lot of time discussing Bob Lanier and the Bennett High School teams, and so many others.

“My main claim to fame was that Lanier was averaging 26 points per game, and I held him to 24 (laughing),” my uncle joked. “Of course, they took him out, so he sat on the bench in the last quarter. He almost sat out a whole quarter.”

Section VI’s Basketball Diamond In The Rough

“I always wanted to play against each of the city schools. When I was a ‘youngin’ just learning how to play the game – if you go back to when I was a freshman, I can tell you every school had a guy or two guys that could ball. At South Park, you had Damone Solomon along with those Hutchinson boys,” Riverside’s Ed Harris enthusiastically said about the Yale Cup during our era. It was like what my Uncle Tony said about his era 20 years earlier.

“You go to Emerson, and you’ve got Shawn Cunningham. You go to Burgard and you’ve got Ritchie (Campbell) and you got the Pat Jones kid. Each of those teams had guys on them that could play,” Ed Harris continued. “That’s when city ball was city ball. You had a chance to do something, and I looked forward to playing those guys, you know?”

Celebrating The Yale Cup

I’m hoping that this piece came off more as a tribute to our beloved league and not a pity party. I personally still get butterflies thinking about those games in the old gyms, our uniforms, and the school colors. We played in lesser conditions than our counterparts at the private and suburban schools. Still, there was nothing like that feeling of competition no matter where it was and who it was against. Those were fun times.

Again, the Buffalo News covered much of this in writings by Jerry Sullivan, Mike Harrington, the late Allen Wilson and others. While working on this ambitious project it was necessary to revisit the Yale Cup and all its aspects. As a writer, promotion is a major consideration. You also must set the story world for your readers, and the story world for my project is the Yale Cup and Section VI.

Playing Yale Cup Basketball

I’m closing this piece out with one more Yale Cup coach some of you may be familiar with. Bob Mitchell (pictured) was the Head Coach of the Kensington Boys’ Basketball Teams in the early 1990s. Just as in the picture, the times we played Kensington, I remember him wearing suits and being a fiery coach. Names I think of when I think of those Knights teams are Taka Molson, Radaun Hill and Kilroy Jackson who were all stars on their squads. The Knights were generally athletic, long, physical and tall. They played zone defenses and liked to get out in the open court and run like racehorses. Furthermore they liked to score the ball in transition via dunks and layups. They played Yale Cup basketball.

One of my many interviewees likewise played on the Kensington Boys’ Basketball Team, Coach Samuel “Quinn” Coffey. I thus got a feel for what it was like to wear the green and gold. In another promotional piece for The Engineers, I plan to discuss the difference between coaches who set out to build basketball programs versus simply assembling teams. As described earlier in this piece, it was different for all of us, depending upon which schools we attended, and which coaches we played for.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading this piece. As you’ve seen, I’ve used numerous pictures from the Yale Cup and players from the 1980s and 90s. These images came from an archive of Section VI basketball, carefully assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News. Dr. Kenneth Leon Jones, my first Coach at Hutch-Tech created this archive. Coach Jones was a mentor, a father figure, and is a central in my story. None of this would’ve been possible without him.

While this piece focused on the Yale Cup and Western New York high school basketball in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the themes are universal. They thus may apply to the basketball league you played in as a youth wherever you grew up. Thus, feel free to share your high school basketball experiences and memories in the comments section below. And especially if you played in the Yale Cup, please share any of your experiences below.

More Promotional Pieces On The Way

I’m creating more promotional/teaser pieces for The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. These will be via print and video as I journey through the final steps of the book’s completion. I created a page here on Big Words Authors for the purpose of giving a background of the book and grouping all the promotional narratives such as this in one place for interested readers. On my first blogging platform, the Big Words Blog Site, there are interviews with some the most accomplished Section VI players from my era including: Jason Rowe, Tim Winn, Carlos Bradberry and Damien Foster. I also interviewed legendary LaSalle Head Basketball Coach, Pat Monti. Finally, there are more essays related to my book project. If you liked this piece, please share it on your social media and feel free to leave a comment.

The Big Words LLC Newsletter

For the next phase of my writing journey, I’m starting a monthly newsletter. It will promote written and video content from the Big Words LLC. In it, I plan to share inspirational words, pieces from this blog and my first blog, and select videos from my four YouTube channels. Finally, I will share updates for my book project The Engineers: A Western New York Basketball Story. If you sign up, I promise that I will protect your personal information and privacy. Click this link and register using the sign-up button at the bottom of the announcement. If there is an issue with the sign up form, you can also email me at [email protected] . Regards.