4 Things That Make Your Gym Business Great

Three of the focuses of my blog are Athletics/Sports, Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. If run correctly, gym businesses can be very lucrative. There are keys to a great gym business. The following contributed post is entitled, 4 Things That Make Your Gym Business Great.

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There are almost 40,000 gyms, health clubs and fitness centers in the U.S. While the fitness industry remains a profitable sector, it is also clear that as a new gym owner, you will have to face a lot of competition to attract and keep your customers. Price plays a significant role in their decision; however, customers are willing to pay more if they find the right gym. The quality justifies the cost of membership. A handy rule of thumb, for new gym owners, is to consider what local fitness enthusiasts expect. Giving your gym business a competitive edge is all about finding the additions that make it go the extra mile for your audience.

Fitness class

#1. Your clients expect great equipment at all times

If you’ve joined a gym in the past, you’ve probably identified the first complaint of every fitness enthusiast; the equipment. The main reason why people choose to work out at the gym and not at home is that they want to train on specialist machines. A gym club that can only provide standard equipment such as treadmills or dumbbell sets fails to keep customers entertained. Offering a variety of choice to support all training routines and adding even custom made accessories to help people with disabilities to use the machine – if you are wondering how to adjust your equipment, you can view more here about accessories. You also need a partner to order parts when your equipment breaks.

#2. A friendly personal coach can make all the difference in the world

Personal trainers make a great deal of difference for new gym goers. However, you want PTs who can sympathize with the different health and self-confidence issues of their clients. Someone who is struggling with weight doesn’t want to feel judged by their trainer. Indeed, not everyone is a fitness junkie, and working with a coach such as Drew Manning here who shows understanding and patience can help them to work out confidently and focus on improving their health.

Find a PT who understands people

#3. Yes, you need an individual decor

When was the last time you stepped in a gym studio and admired the interior decor? If you can’t remember, it’s probably because most gyms lack personalization. They feel like a giant sweating box, which is never appealing to customers. Think of your gym as something that could feel as comfortable and welcoming as a home for your audience. Add art prints, colorful accessories – yes, your gym needs a rest area with cushions – and personal touches.

#4. A place where everyone can feel safe

Everyone is different, but everyone deserves to feel safe and respected. Make it your mission to create a friendly environment for people of different generations, genders, religion, nationality, sexuality, and fitness levels. Depending on their faith, some people might feel more comfortable in a same-gender class, for instance. Others might feel self-aware practicing in an open space. Understanding and addressing those differences can create a place of tolerance and respect for all – because the last thing somebody wants when they work out is to feel threatened by other gym goers.

Running a profitable gym business is a delicate art. Your offering needs to match your audience’s expectations, both in terms of equipment, services, but also emotional value. A welcoming and respectful gym is a strong pillar of a united community

Should We Compare The Sports Heroes Of Today To The Ones Of Yesteryear?

A key focus of my blog is Athletics and Sports. People debate sports all the time. What’s particularly compelling is the comparison of heroes/players from different eras. While great points are made on both sides, these comparisons of eras are typically impossible to make and inconclusive due to numerous factors. The following contributed post is entitled, Should We Compare The Sports Heroes Of Today To The Ones Of Yesteryear?

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Flickr

They just don’t make them like they used to, do they? Or is this statement completely irrelevant in the modern age? In terms of sports, we always look to the Muhammad Alis, Johnny Unitas’, and Magic Johnsons of the world, and think that the modern sports hero cannot hold a torch to them. But is it even fair for us to compare the sports heroes of today to the ones of yesteryear? Or do we just have a romanticized view of sport back in the olden days? In fact, is it even fair to compare the two? Are the modern sports heroes under so much more pressure, and are they more physically adroit than the older champions?

The Trials And Tribulations
You can look at it from two perspectives: the social media struggle, and the political one. You can look at the modern sports hero fighting a torrent of social media abuse, which is part and parcel of any game. But even if you look at the heroes of yesteryear, like Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry, there was a different sort of struggle. Naturally, there was a major political struggle back in the heyday of sports in the 1960s and 1970s, which is still, in some areas, carrying through to today. Especially when you look at the topic of transgender issues in sport and even the topic of religion can bring up a whole plethora of debate. Whether it’s the major NFL stars that are observing Ramadan, or younger players like Parker Sniatynski and their Christian beliefs, the modern sports hero has their battles on more than just the playing field. The modern sports hero, it can be argued, have fewer issues to contend with because we supposedly live in a more tolerant world. But it all depends on who you ask! There is still an inherent amount of political struggle in any sport.

The Physical Strength
This depends on the game. While there is a steady increment of records being broken in pretty much every sport with every passing year, can you even compare the physical prowess of a modern football player to the heroes of the 50s and 60s? Training regimes are tougher, and there’s more science behind it, but likewise, you can still argue that the old training methods are the best. There’s a reason why many bodybuilders stick to the classic approaches pioneered by people like Reg Park. These days, from the perspective of an outsider, the modern approach to building muscle is all about quick fixes and cutting corners, when physical strength is really all about the classic methods. With this device, you can also argue that the modern sports star has a lot more comfort in their lives. This could have a major bearing on how they play the game.

The Evolving Of The Game
Most may think that there hasn’t been much change to the game, regardless of the surroundings. But from the Olympics to football and everything in between, there has been a major period of evolving. Because any athlete has to work harder to break the previous records, this means that the game has to change with the times. The game can become harder, not necessary by the rules changing, but by the people playing the game becoming a higher caliber. As the game evolves it’s blatantly unfair to make comparisons to those that came before. The game can change, but only by the stimuli that surrounds it. The rules remain the same, but the players will change.

The Inspiration Of The Old Guard
The reasons that these big names are considered legends, because they are pioneers. As such, we need to hold these members of the old guard in high regard. And when we look to our heroes, and those that triumphed over adversity or limiting circumstances, we can’t help but feel inspired, but also feel that we have got a lot more to help us become better at the game. The sportspeople of yesteryear had to overcome trial-and-error, whereas we can have it put on a plate as to the right workout plan, nutritional guidelines, and so on. We just have to stick to them. But we need to make an impact on the game in a different way. It’s about learning that mental toughness that those heroes overcame. As such, while it may be unfair to compare the sports heroes of today to those of yesteryear, in terms of physical prowess or the game itself, most definitely, the people that came before us have had it more difficult.

Amahl Dunbar discusses his new Helmet Tubing Impact System (HTIS) invention

While one of the purposes for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is the pursuit of new knowledge, a second purpose is to use that knowledge to create new innovations and products to improve our lives. Likewise, while one of the goals of my blog is advocacy of STEM awareness, a second goal is to use my platform to give exposure to others and their own projects. The following interview – the first of its kind on my blog accomplishes both goals, and it aligns with one of the principles of my blog which I haven’t discussed much up to this point; Creative Thought. Creative Thought is a key component of all the innovations that have emerged from the STEM fields that have changed the world.

Over the past couple of years, inventor Amahl Dunbar has worked on an invention to increase the safety of football helmets; the “Helmet Tubing Impact System” (HTIS). He recently agreed to the following interview to give the world a glimpse of the HTIS, to introduce his new idea, and his goals for it going forward. The pictures used in this post of the HTIS attached to football helmets were graciously shared by Amahl Dunbar himself.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Amahl. Thank you for agreeing to talk about your new system for making football helmets more protective. As my brother, I know who you are and what you’ve been doing. For the readers though, talk a little bit about your background. Haven’t you always been a ‘design and build’ type of guy?

Amahl Dunbar: Yes. Around the time I was in the third or fourth grade, I enjoyed using hand-held tools to disassemble and re-assemble my toys. My “Transformers” toys were very complex in terms of design. They were an endless puzzle of hinge, sliding, and ball joints. Usually I’d have everything reassembled before our mother got home from work. In parallel with those experiences, I began to do the same process with my bikes, though when it came to bikes, the stakes were higher because a bike could fall apart while in motion. Over all, I have more years of experience learning the visual arts versus engineering or product development.

Anwar: At Hutch-Tech High School, didn’t you major in Architecture?

Amahl: Yes, I had dreams of an office-oriented career. Architecture is more of a ‘design studio’ career. During high school my understanding of Architecture was limited. I thought it was just good to design. Years later, I learned the best forms of Architecture involved designing and customizing around the lifestyle of the occupants.

Anwar: How did you come up with the idea for the HTIS?

Amahl: The idea for this invention came to me while watching an NFL game during the 2014 or 2015 season. A highly valued player for the Buffalo Bills took a bad helmet-to-helmet collision. As I watched this player writhing in pain, it occurred to me that the standard helmet is as much a weapon as it is a system of protection. Also, I thought the sound of a helmet to helmet hit may be damaging to players as well. Imagine being inside of a large speaker when it receives sudden microphone feedback or static. The sound would be jarring, disorienting, and unpleasant.

Anwar: What makes your system unique from what’s currently on the market?

Amahl: The Helmet Tubing Impact System (HTIS) is lighter than similar exterior helmet products. It distributes forces ‘longitudinally’ versus absorbing or muffling direct strikes. The tubes are transparent, so team colors and logos stay visible.

Anwar: Are you referring to something like the “Gazoo” helmet shell that the Buffalo Bills’ Mark Kelso used the wear?

Amahl: The Gazoo was never brought to the mainstream market, which speaks to its effectiveness. Most products that attach to the exterior of helmets are modeled after boxing head gear. From that perspective, players are still receiving a muffled version of helmet strikes. Those products are made of foam and absorb impacts without dispersing the forces. The HTIS distributes forces cylindrically and longitudinally.

Anwar: We see a lot of head and brain-related injuries in American football. Is your new system designed to prevent paralysis? Concussions? Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

Amahl: Those conditioned athletes won’t escape the wear & tear of American Football. The HTIS will lower the amount force in head impacts over years of practice and play for players. Specialists in those fields have found that the repetitive and cumulative number of impacts is what hurts players over the long-term.

Anwar: Now I imagine at this point, you’ve legally protected your system, you’re being very prudent in terms of whom you’re sharing your data with. In terms of your initial findings for the HTIS, what have you found thus far in terms of its ability to mitigate the force of collisions? Which test have you used to generate your data?

Amahl: As of now I do have a patent on the HTIS. I used the “Weighted Swing Test”. This test shows that the HTIS lowers impacts forces by an average of 70 – 73%. Again, the force of helmet strikes is distributed over the soft, cylindrical, hollow, plastic surface area of the tubes. The HTIS is designed to divide the linear and rotational transfer of impact forces.

Anwar: What are your plans for this going forward?

Amahl: In the near future, I’m looking to form an LLC for production and sales of the product to individual customers, teams, and leagues. I’m open to licensing or selling the patent, if a fair offer is presented.

Anwar: If anyone wants to directly reach out to you regarding the HTIS, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Amahl: If anyone would like to contact me for sales or to purchase the patent, contact me at amahldunbar@gmail.com

Anwar: Well thank you, Amahl, for sharing your exciting project. Do you have any other comment?

Amahl: Yes. The HTIS has the best chance for success of them all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my new YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Breakthroughs In Brain Injuries

Three key focuses of my blog are Athletics/Sports, Health/Wellness, and Technology. An area of high interest particularly in American Football is brain injuries. The protection efforts to protect against brain injuries are continuously unfolding. The following contributed post is entitled, Breakthroughs In Brain Injuries.

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Image Courtesy Of Jesse Orrico

It is not an uncommon fact that more and more people are suffering severe brain injuries these days. This is especially true in contact sports such as football. It has been reported that between 1.7 to 3 million sports-related concussions occur each year. That is a staggering number with severe consequences to the mental well-being of human beings.
There is a movement around youth football organizations to put an end to tackling. The horrific stories that have come from the National Football League has really raised many red flags on why contact like this is allowed with such hazardous consequences.

One of the biggest problems many parents will face with their children playing youth sports will be concussions. It is a scary thought for parents to think of the seriousness of the injury, but also the medical expenses that may follow depending on the severity of the injury. It is crucial for parents to know their legal rights as well as what treatment or preventative options are currently in the works.

Legal Rights
A rare inside look into the legal system and submitting insurance claims and making sure that you are being taken care of fairly can be found at Pennsylvania Workers Comp. This book provides insight to make sure that you and your loved one are being well taken care of in your scariest of moments.

You can also find information about how serious the National Football League is starting to take in regard to the number of concussions occurring each week. Traumatic Brain Injuries is something that cannot be ignored, and parents need to know their rights to medical attention. Real life tragedies of NFL players can be found here as well as the financial responsibilities the NFL has recently taken on to settle disputes.

Fortunately, the world of Science and Technology has allowed researchers and scientists the ability to delve deeper into studying the brain and coming up with ways to help diminish this problem. However, there is still much work to be done.

Current Research
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has a mission of pursuing new knowledge and then use that knowledge to invent new mechanisms to improve our lives. This has been vital in the brain injury world. One particular study has been looking at the impact of American football helmets. One invention currently in the works is a Helmet Impact Tubing System. The goal is to lower the number of head force impacts over years of use. However, it is proven that the repetitive hits that players take day to day and week to week are what eventually takes its toll on the brain.

Another study being done is looking at if stem cells can help to repair traumatic brain injuries. This clinical trial involves using bone marrow-derived stem cells are repair agents. Traumatic Brain Stem Cell Repair is trying to find at least of an invasive measure to work on the brain and replace those damaged cells. It is still in the early stages, but in the world of Science and Technology, this could potentially be a massive breakthrough in helping to save millions of lives every year.

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part two

“Me, Jody, Shino and Fat Jack were all inseparable – we were always together. I wanted to see them do as well as, or better, than me or anybody else.”

This is the conclusion of my two-part interview with Niagara Falls LaSalle High School basketball legend, Carlos Bradberry. In part one, Carlos discussed his background, how he started playing basketball, and how he became one of the legendary point guards in the LaSalle basketball dynasty. In part two we talk about his senior year at LaSalle where he led the Explorers to Glens Falls, his college career, and then life after basketball.

The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Section VI basketball, carefully assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Section V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Carlos himself, and his Head Coach at LaSalle Senior High School, Pat Monti. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Anwar Dunbar: After the season-ending loss to Greece-Athena your junior season, what was your mentality going into your senior year? Was it, ‘Glens Falls or bust?’

Carlos Bradberry: Yes, it was Glens Falls or bust. There was no other thought in our minds besides getting to Glens Falls. We weren’t thinking about local teams. Our biggest rival was Niagara Falls Senior High School, and everybody thought it was a huge game. It wasn’t for us at that time. Our whole goal was Glens Falls from day one.

AD: Well, I recall you guys having one shocker against Kenmore West in league play.

CB: It was almost two. They played us really close in the sectionals too. They were a good team. They had Rob Fitchlee, Shawn Bryan and Joe Thomas – they were stacked. I think we played them three times that year, and I’d say that all three games were close and none of them were blow outs. They were really good!

AD: Well you know that was the big story and it was like, ‘LaSalle lost!’ So, it sounds like they were legitimately talented, and you guys didn’t just overlook them.

CB: No. They were loaded. They would’ve gone to Glens Falls almost any other year. They ended our win streak. St. Joe’s had a ‘monster’ win streak of their own with Eric Eberz and Jeff Muszynski. Kenmore West ended theirs as well – both in the same year. That was Dick Harvey’s team.

AD: I was watching the 1993 Class B-1 sectional final between Amherst and Kenmore East once again at Alumni Arena. Towards the end of that game, you guys walked in as a group and sat right in front of me. I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh boy. LaSalle is here!’ Just as that game was ending, you got up in a business-like fashion and went on to defeat Hamburg and the rest is history.

So, your team beat Kenmore West in the Class A semifinal 61-51 and beat Hamburg 61-42 in the Class A final to win Section VI yet again. Did you feel confident matching up with Section V’s McQuaid? That game was at Rochester War Memorial Arena. Aside from losing Shino Ellis and Willie Cole, you basically returned with the same core group with the addition of Tim Winn.

CB: I’d say confident, but for me leery. My last memory of McQuaid was going out there and getting ‘stomped’ a few years earlier. I wondered how good these guys were and I knew that they had a big guy. I think his name was Jay Wandtke or something like that and he was 6’6” or 6’7”. Obviously, he wasn’t on John Wallace’s level, but I was thinking they had a big guy and I wondered how we were going to match up.

AD: So, it did end up being a close game. The Buffalo News reported that Todd hit a last second late shot and –.

CB: Yes. Todd hit a huge shot from the elbow to give us the 46-45 win.

AD: And you guys advanced to the Final Four in Glens Falls where you matched up with Hempstead from Long Island. You lost a close game to them, 70-67. What was it like getting there? Was it, ‘We’re here,’ and you were happy to just do that or –.

CB: No, we wanted to win. It was huge for us to get there, but as soon as we won that McQuaid game, our focus was, ‘Man you know what, let’s go down there and win this thing!’ I’d never heard of Hempstead before, but I’d always heard about how good Mount Vernon was. Our mentality was to go down there and beat Mount Vernon or whomever we were going to play. All of us were beyond happy to get to Glens Falls, but we weren’t settling for that.

AD: Obviously you want to win the whole thing, but the way it ended, were you satisfied with your senior season?

CB: I was satisfied, but I hate to lose so that last game wore on me for a long time. I probably sat there for a week or two and thought of every play I could’ve done differently. I still remember it to this day. We lost by three points and I missed five or six free throws. I said to myself, ‘If I’d made those six free throws, we would have won the game!’

For me it was bitter-sweet because we got there and showed well, but I thought we could have gone one step further. What made it worse was, I think Hempstead either won or had a very close game with Mount Vernon. I thought we could’ve been the state champs if I’d played a little bit better.

AD: Did Hempstead play you a particular way?

CB: I think we just came out and got into a hole. I think we feared their size and played zone against them. We didn’t really think they could shoot it, but they came out and shot it in the first half. We eventually went to our ‘pressure’ defense and they started turning the ball over left and right. Looking at them warmup, how athletic they were, and how quick they looked, that was one team I can say that I was intimidated by. But man, once we started playing and we got through that lull where they jumped on us, I thought from that point we could win. I thought they had some Division I players and some good guards, but I thought as a team we were better.

AD: Before we move on, how did Coach Monti pick his captains? Was it his best two players? Was it his most senior players?

CB: I’m pretty sure it was always upperclassmen. It wasn’t a team vote or anything. In my freshman year I want to say that it was Milo Small and Duke Davis, who were seniors. Sophomore year it probably fell to Modie, Scotty Rose and my brother. It was always your junior and senior guys who’d been through it. In my junior year I was a Co-Captain with Shino.

AD: Who was Co-Captain with you in your senior year?

CB: I believe it was myself, Chris Frank and maybe Curtis Ralands.

AD: When we played you guys in the 1991 Festival of Lights Tournament, I remember you consistently ‘slashing’ to the basket. What was your game like by the time you graduated from LaSalle?

CB: I spent a lot of time over the summer shooting and I came back as a ‘respectable’ three-point shooter. I was hitting a couple of threes every game, so I was mixing it in more than my junior year when I was just getting to the basket. I knew for me I wanted to play at the college level. It was funny because we would go down to the YMCA and we used to have these unbelievable runs on Saturdays with guys who were in their 30s and 40s. I’d go to the basket every play and they would just ‘hammer’ me. They’d say, ‘Listen, you’re not going to be able to get to the basket on everybody! You’re going to have to learn how to shoot!’ Those guys had a point and it made you get in the gym and work on your jump shot.

AD: Do you remember what your best game was?

CB: One of the games that sticks out was against Lockport. It was probably my junior year. We were down 10-12 points in the third or fourth quarter of a sectional game. We were going to lose and that was huge because we hadn’t lost a game up to that point. They had a guy on their team named Calvin Shellman who was really good. I scored 17 of out of 30 points in the fourth quarter to help us come back and beat them. That’s probably the game that sticks out to me in high school, just off the top of my head.

Also, a game against Niagara Falls in my sophomore year sticks out. Modie had an ankle injury and no one thought we could win without him. I was scared out of my mind because Modie was our guy. I played shooting guard that season, but I had to play point guard in that game. It was a low scoring, tight game. I went to the free throw line with zero seconds on the clock and hit two free throws with all the Niagara Falls High School fans lined up under the basket to win the game. It was crazy because they stormed the court and thought they won the game. Then the court had to be cleared and I had to shoot two free throws with no one else on the court.

AD: Based upon the way that the players were brought up and the way Coach Monti ran the team, it sounds like your teams had good ‘chemistry’ together, and that you guys were a pretty tight group.

CB: The majority of us were always together doing something. It’s funny now because you see some kids and teams that are really disconnected. We were sort of like a family. There were always four guys over my house, or I was always over someone else’s house – nine out of your 11 guys were doing something together.

AD: Tim said that he was over at your place playing video games regularly. It’s strange. I don’t know if it’s organic, but on some teams if no one explains it to you, you don’t realize that chemistry off the court is important as well.

CB: It’s huge! It makes you trust people. It makes you like people more. It makes you want to make something happen for that next guy and they become more than just some guy you’re playing basketball with for two hours a day. They’re almost like you brother or your cousin. Me, Jody, Shino and Fat Jack were all inseparable – we were always together. I wanted to see them do as well as, or better, than me or anybody else.

AD: You said it was yourself, Jody, Shino and who else?

CB: It was me, Jody, and Fat Jack – Tim. (“Fat Jack” as we called him).

AD: Why did you guys call him Fat Jack?

CB: Oh, that’s his name. Everybody knows him as Fat Jack. If somebody calls him Tim, it’s rare. If you’re around Niagara Falls or Buffalo, he’s Fat Jack. That’s been his name since he was younger which was funny because he was the skinniest kid growing up. But those were the guys. Obviously, Shino is a year older than me, so he graduated a year earlier; and Curtis, obviously. That was our other guy. It was crazy how we were all close.

AD: Was there anyone you looked particularly forward to playing against?

CB: Definitely, Calvin Shellman. He was younger than me by a year and played at Lockport, but he was amazing. I don’t know if you remember Anthony Scott from Grand Island. He went on to play football at the University at Buffalo (UB). He was the biggest trash talker in Western New York, so I looked forward to playing against him. We were friends, but those were two of the guys who I looked forward to playing against.

Eric Eberz, from St. Joe’s, was a guy I looked forward to playing against, but never got to play against him in high school. We used to play on some ‘travel’ teams together, and we always used to talk about who was better between St. Joe’s and LaSalle. However, we never got a chance to play each other. So probably, it was those three guys.

AD: Now the Buffalo News captured how fierce the Niagara Falls High School-LaSalle rivalry was and your team owned it for the most part. I read in one of the clippings that at one point a fight broke out. What was the most surprising thing you saw when you played at LaSalle? Was it the fight? Was is someone getting cut? Was it playing against John Wallace? Was it something else?

CB: The rivalry with Niagara Falls was different than anything. A lot of things stuck out. You had hundreds of people outside the gym who couldn’t get in. You had guys looking through windows to try to watch games. That’s something you didn’t see every day around Western New York. Even though we had good crowds, that game was just different. To us it was crazy because we felt like we were never going to lose to Niagara Falls High School.

We had the confidence. We knew the guys and we played against them every day, so we knew we were the better team; but when you got into that environment it was just nuts. It was people on top of people. People stand on the baseline, and it sort of made a lot of the games ugly. We probably didn’t play some our best ‘LaSalle’ games, because at that point you hear everybody in the town screaming and yelling your name. and everyone was trying to make a name for themselves. That’s what sticks out – those Niagara Falls High School games for sure.

AD: Does that mean that during those games, you guys ‘freelanced’ a little bit more and broke from the structure?

CB: Yeah, and I’m sure that Coach Monti would agree. I don’t think he was happy with some of those games. Some of them were ugly and they were the one game out of the year where we didn’t follow the game plan to a ‘T’. The one we played during my sophomore year – that’s when we had Duke and Milo. Niagara Falls High School complained that we always played in our home gym just because it was so much bigger and could accommodate more fans. And they had a right to complain. Their coach at the time kept complaining and we finally played at Niagara Falls High School which is another one of the more meaningful games that sticks out.

We went there, and this was a team with Willie Cauley, who was unbelievably talented. We walked into their gym – the little ‘box’ that they had, and it was supposed to be a close game. We ended up beating them by 40 points. We just ran our offense to the T – everything we did was perfect and after that, they never asked to play there again. It was crazy.

AD: Coach Monti did say that their teams were bigger and more talented, but you guys still owned the rivalry/series.

CB: They were always bigger and had a few better athletes. Willie Cauley was on their team all our years and he was the best player on the court talent-wise every year. It was amazing.

AD: What kind of student were you when you were at LaSalle? It sounds like Coach Monti kept a tight rein on how his players performed in the classroom.

CB: There were progress reports every week that you had to turn in – even when it wasn’t basketball season.

AD: Really? Wow.

CB: You had to be on top of your grades and it wasn’t just your 65s, getting by and passing classes – it was basically to your ability. If you were a 70s kid, Coach Monti expected you to get 70s. If you were an 80s kid, he expected you to get 80s. I was an ‘80s kid’ in high school. I know Jody was a 90s kid and if he had brought in 80s, Coach Monti probably wouldn’t have been happy – do you know what I mean? There wasn’t one grade that everyone had to get. He knew what kids were capable of and that’s what he expected you to get.

AD: When did the colleges start recruiting you?

CB: I was a ‘late bloomer’ – it was the end of my junior year and really it coincided with the start of AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball. Mickey Walker used to run “Upstate Basketball” which was basically an AAU team. He took me on my first few tournaments going from my junior to my senior year. That’s when I really started to get interest from some schools.

I wasn’t heavily recruited. I had around seven interested schools. Most of them were from going out just that little time in the summer with Mickey. I know Fat Jack (Tim Winn) ended up playing later for him as AAU kept getting bigger and bigger. So basically, it was more the middle of eleventh grade.

AD: Obviously, one of them was Niagara University. I remember going to Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium your freshman year and seeing you play against the University at Buffalo. Were there other Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) schools interested in you?

CB: Locally it was Canisius College, where John Beilein coached, that showed me the most interest from day one. St. Bonaventure recruited me, but they didn’t make me an offer, and that’s where I wanted to go locally. I probably wasn’t an Atlantic 10 Conference-level kid, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I was more of a MAAC- level kid, which included both Niagara University and Canisius College. There were some teams from outside the MAAC like Marist and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Canisius and Marist were probably the earliest in terms of recruiting me.

AD: How did you end up deciding on Niagara University?

CB: This is a great story as well. I loved Canisius, Coach Beilein and Coach McDonald who is now a local Head Coach at Daemen College, but I was young, and I was waiting for that big school to come, which was never coming. It was getting late, and Canisius had been recruiting me for my whole eleventh and twelfth grade years and I think it was around the time of the Final Four.

I talked to another one of the coaches and he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got another guy on hold for the whole year. You’re our No. 1 guy,’ but they wanted me to give them a commitment and it was halftime of that Final Four game and I kept going back and forth on them. I called Coach McDonald after the Final Four game the next day because I was going to go to Canisius. I told them, ‘Hey, how is everything going?’ He said, ‘We really didn’t think we were going to hear from you, so we signed another point guard.’ At that point they said, ‘Your offer is still here. We want you here,’ but then I called Niagara a minute later and just told them I was coming there.

And the other thing – the sticking point for me, which was just being young and dumb, was that Canisius had a good senior point guard that I knew I was going to have to play behind named Dana “Binky” Johnson. Coach Beilein let you know, ‘You’re going to come in and you’re going to learn as a freshman. You’re going to play under him, but we’re going to groom you to be our next point guard!’ Niagara University had just lost their point guard – a kid named Lloyd Walker and they told me, ‘Hey, you can come here and start right away!’

So that’s where I was torn. As a young kid all you want to hear is that you’re going to go to a college and start right away. So, while my heart sort of knew that Canisius was the right place and I loved Canisius, Niagara came into the picture later. With a coach coming and telling me that I would start my freshman year – I just went with it.

It was funny because guys like Coach Monti – he wouldn’t tell me what to do, but he told me, ‘Hey I think Canisius is a good fit for you.’ My Dad also said Canisius was a great fit and I thought it was a great fit too. It’s just that when you’re a kid turning 18 years old, you just want to play, and you don’t think about all the other stuff involved. I ended up leaving Niagara, but I loved the time that I was there and the guys I played with were great. I don’t regret anything about the way that it worked.

AD: Where did you go after you left Niagara?

CB: I went to the University of New Hampshire which was in the “American East Conference” back then. I transferred there halfway through my sophomore season.

AD: Well, hey man, after talking to Jason Rowe and Tim Winn, it sounds like there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things to consider when kids are getting recruited. Playing time was one thing you described as important, in addition to how much the schools seem to want you, while also recruiting other players at your position.

CB: Yes, it’s confusing especially for a kid – you sort of want someone to make that decision for you. My Dad told me what he wanted, but he said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to make this decision on your own! I’ll tell you what I think, but you’ve got to make your own decision!’ Sometimes when you’re 17 and 18, you’re not going to make the right decision.

AD: When you went to New Hampshire, you were obviously with another coaching staff. Were there major differences in playing at New Hampshire versus playing at Niagara?

CB: Oh yeah! It was just a whole different approach. I’m not saying one was better than the other, but it was two different systems. One was ‘night’ and one was ‘day’. It’s tough because I had a to sit out a year and when you sit out, you get ‘rusty’ because you don’t really play. You practice, but you don’t play in games for a whole year, and then you come in and you’re in a whole different system. It was a different role than I ever had to play before when I ended up at New Hampshire.

AD: Were you playing the ‘point guard’ position, or did you slide over to ‘shooting guard’?

CB: I played the point guard position at both Niagara and New Hampshire. At Niagara you’re young and dumb. You’re playing in front of your hometown and friends are telling you stuff. At Niagara I had a ‘long leash’ as a freshman and as a sophomore, but maybe I wasn’t doing as well as people thought I was as I wasn’t putting the numbers up. I thought I could and should be doing more so I wound up leaving and going to New Hampshire where the coach was more of a ‘You’re going to be more of a guy to set up our offense and get us into this spot,’’ -type of guy. I learned how to play it in two years and I don’t regret going there either.

AD: Did you guy’s make the Men’s NCAA Tournament any of those years?

CB: No. At Niagara University we were young. We would have been good if everyone had stayed. In my freshman year, we brought in seven freshman which was nuts. Three or four them ended up starting. I think if we could have stayed together until our junior year, we would’ve had a special group at Niagara, but four of the seven ended up leaving. At New Hampshire we just weren’t a very good team. The America East was just a really tough conference and we were a few games under 0.500, so we never got the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.

AD: Who was in that conference?

CB: Vermont, Boston University, Delaware, Drexel – all those guys. Hofstra had the “Speedy” Claxton kid who went to the NBA. The conference was just tough. Boston University had the Joey Beard kid who had just transferred from Duke and –.

AD: Didn’t Drexel have Malik Rose at that time?

CB: Yep. Malik Rose was Drexel’s big man and he was a ‘monster’, but yes, it was tough conference.

AD: Well, you know coincidentally, the first time I ever saw Malik Rose play was the opening round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament when Drexel matched up against John Wallace’s Syracuse team. What did you major in?

CB: Social Work.

AD: Did you have any aspirations of playing professional basketball the way Tim Winn and Jason Rowe did?

CB: No, I had no aspirations to play overseas at all. Nothing interested me about going to another country to play ball.

AD: Is Social Work what you got into once you graduated?

CB: No, I came back and started working in the school system in the Department of Special Education. Unless you get a Master’s Degree, you’re not making too much money in Social Work. My wife is also in the school system and it’s good for our family – to work for the school district and to have our kids come through it. We always have an eye on them and it’s been great.

AD: Okay, well I guess this is a good transition into your kids. We’re Facebook friends now and it looks like your son is following in your footsteps. Did you have expectations for him and put the ball in his hands as a baby? How did he start playing?

CB: So, Jalen is my middle child and he’s a ‘basketball nut’. He played in his first tournament at six years old, and he’s been playing ever since. I’ve got a daughter who is older. She was never really into sports. My younger son never really got into it. My things is that you can’t make kids do something or put them in something they don’t really want to do. My middle one just picked up on it early and loved it.

AD: I saw the video footage of you working him out, and I saw that you took him out to Syracuse for a camp I believe. Are you ‘hands off’ father, or are you ‘hands on’ and coaching him all the time?

CB: Well (laughing), I had an AAU team for years and I had the chance to coach a lot of really good kids who are mostly now juniors and sophomores in high school. I started the team probably when our kids were around fifth grade and I coached a group of really good kids from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. You know what, when you get to a certain point, you’ve got to let go of coaching your own kid, being the Head Coach and doing the whole thing.

My goal was to let that go once he became a freshman which was last year and have him go play for a bigger program that’s not a local program and not me coaching him. So, this last year he started playing with the “Albany City Rocks” which is our only Nike-sponsored team in the state other than teams in New York City. So, he started playing with those guys.

AD: And it looks like Jalen is playing for Niagara Falls High School?

CB: Yes. Niagara-Catholic closed, so now he’s playing at Niagara Falls High School.

AD: Does he know how good you were? Has he heard the legends of Coach Pat Monti, the LaSalle Explorers, Eric Gore, Michael Starks and the ten-year dynasty?

CB: He hears about it and I wouldn’t say that I’m hands off. We were in the gym just before you called. I’ll get him in and do his workouts. I’m basically his ‘rebounding machine’ – I’ll run around and chase his balls for him. I’ll do that, but other than that, at this point you want to get him around other people. He’s older and it’s time for me to turn it over to somebody else.

AD: On Monday, I saw you say that you had a game. Was that him playing or do you still play?

CB: For Niagara Falls High School, I’m going to be an assistant coach. A couple of kids are coming from Jalen’s old school and it’s good that we got them in a league so that they can start to mix in with the other players and get a feel for each other. Hopefully when November comes, everybody will know each other a little bit better. I was previously an Assistant Coach at Niagara Falls High School and I took a couple of years off when Jalen started middle school.

AD: Okay, Carlos, we’re almost done. I can see from Facebook that you still literally eat, sleep and breathe the game, and I see you frequently posting about today’s players, their skill level, and what kids don’t know how to do. How has the game changed since the early 1990s when we were out there playing? Is the game more about shooting like Steph Curry and the Warriors? What are you seeing? Are the kids less tough?

CB: It’s funny, because I get into arguments with guys about this because I say that I know that if I was in high school right now, with the same skill level I had in high school, I would’ve never been a Division I player today. These kids are so skilled at a young age now that it’s unbelievable. So, when I say that to the older guys and they start talking about Jordan and Bird – yeah, pros are pros – pros are going to be unbelievable – they’re all skilled and they’re all great.

I tell guys that, to me, this generation is so much more skilled than ours. Now the flipside, and I’ll probably get a knock for this, I think our generation was intellectually more ahead of these guys. I think so much time gets spent today on skill work and one-on-one training that it doesn’t translate into ‘team’ basketball. You’re individually always working with a trainer, working on your handle, and working on your shot. You’re working on all of these individual skills, whereas back in the day we were just playing, so we just learned how to play the game a little bit better.

So, I think they’re more skilled. They’re way stronger than we were – the athleticism is just ridiculous across the board and that’ my take on it. The younger kids’ skill level is just ridiculous compared to what we were back in the day.

AD: Interesting.

CB: And just watching my son and other kids – we have a lot of other kids who are amazing. You go to some of these events and you have younger and older kids. I can tell you right now that we weren’t playing against kids that were doing some of the stuff these kids are doing now.

AD: In terms of athleticism and dunking?

CB: I’m talking about skill set. You’ve got 6’9” guys who can handle the ball like point guards. The post-game isn’t seen anymore, which I think is a bad sign, but I just think individual skills are way higher than they were back when we played in high school. I look at the teams we played on, the guys I played with, myself included – I couldn’t do half the stuff I see ninth and tenth graders doing now.

AD: Where were you when you heard LaSalle was going to be demolished and how did you feel about it?

CB: Ah man. When was that, 2000? I was back here from New Hampshire and I was devastated just because LaSalle was so much more than a basketball team. It was like a family and I don’t mean just your basketball guys. It was a family in terms of your friends and the people you grew up with. LaSalle was a tight knit school. There wasn’t much violence or fights or all that crazy stuff going on. When you heard that it was breaking up, you felt like things were going to change. I’m not just talking about basketball, but in general; it was just something that I felt was bad for our city.

AD: So, aside from the LaSalle basketball dynasty going away, has there been an effect on the city?

CB: When you’re relating it to sports, I look at it as having a negative effect. It’s funny, because every year you hear parents, friends and people who have issues and say, ‘Hey there’s a lot of favoritism going on at this high school because our kid didn’t make the team, or this kid didn’t make that team!’ They don’t realize that you combined these two schools (LaSalle and Niagara Falls Senior High Schools) so you used to have 24-26 spots, and now you can only grab 12 kids.

I think it has taken away from our kids from an athletic standpoint where you have a lot of kids walking around that high school now that are really good at some sports, but unfortunately, there are 12 guys better than them. Do you know what I mean? I think it’s just negatively impacted it in that way and I thought just having the option of two different schools was something that gave a lot of kids more options and a better chance than they have now.

AD: Okay. For any youngster aspiring to play basketball or to achieve any other life goal, what advice would you give them?

CB: The first one is that you must have the books over everything. Being from Buffalo and up in the Falls, you see so much talent wasted because kids aren’t there academically. There are a million stories of guys who didn’t get out (of the neighborhood) and were amazing in any sport, and my thing is that education must be first. You’ve got to get that education and you’ve got to work hard in the classroom.

Then obviously, with the sports part, you can’t cheat it. There are those rare guys who are born good at something, but you can’t cheat the process. You’ve got to get into the gym, and you’ve got to work at it. It’s a grind and you’ve got to be in there really working at whatever your goal is almost daily now. And really those are it. I think we’ve had a lot of guys from around here go off to college and play and it shows that if you really put your time in and you do your work in the classroom, you can get out of here.

AD: Is there anything you would change about your playing days?

CB: My playing days? No, nothing at all.

AD: Well, Carlos, unless you have any other comments or stories, we are at the end. I really appreciate this. One thing that will be evident from my interviews with you, Tim and Coach Monti, is that while you guys were the team that everyone was trying to beat, I developed a lot of respect for LaSalle basketball and what you all accomplished. I’ll also try to catch a Niagara Falls High School game when I’m back there over the Holidays.

CB: Okay, great, thanks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls basketball legend Time Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp

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Niagara Falls basketball legend Carlos Bradberry discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one

“Our whole family, including my cousins, was a basketball family and I just grew up watching basketball.”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. A key aspect of creating them is hearing the stories and experiences of those who have made it to where we want to be. Like many kids, an early dream of mine was to play basketball. That dream didn’t reach fruition, but the lessons I learned playing in Section VI, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s western-most section, laid the groundwork for me to go on to further my education and start my career in science.

I’m currently working on a project chronicling my early basketball journey, and as a part of the research for that project, I’ve interviewed numerous Section VI basketball players and coaches from my era. On September 26, 2018, I had the honor of interviewing Carlos Bradberry – one of the many great guards in Coach Pat Monti’s LaSalle basketball dynasty. Carlos was the floor general for the Explorers following Michael Starks and Modie Cox, and then prior to the ascension of Tim Winn, Jody Crymes and Terry Rich.

In part one of this two-part interview Carlos discusses his background, how he started playing basketball, and how he became one of the legendary point guards in Section VI and the LaSalle basketball dynasty. The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Section VI basketball, carefully assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Section V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Carlos himself, and his Head Coach at LaSalle Senior High School, Pat Monti. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

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Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Carlos. First, thank you for telling your story. As you know I wrote some pieces on Coach Monti and Tim Winn. I’m a blogger and, as you may also know, I’m writing a book about my high school basketball experience and what that taught me about success and failure in life. The experience of high school basketball was my first attempt at effecting a personal goal and it set the stage for everything else.

To make the story as authentic as possible I wanted talk to some of the other Section VI players from that era – teammates and opponents to see what their experiences were. This is relevant because LaSalle was the premiere program in Section VI for 10-12 years and for a stretch of that, you were the guy. Also, when I started this project, I actually said to myself, ‘It would be great to interview Carlos Bradberry,’ as you were a member of the ‘All-Western New Your First Team’ during my sophomore and junior seasons.

Before we start, I have a quick story. We played your team in the 1991 Festival of Lights Tournament in the opening round. You guys handled us by about 30 points (laughing). My story is one of discovery, so I was literally figuring everything out as I went along. The day before the game, just after our Coach gave us the scouting report, one of my teammates said as we were leaving the gym, ‘We’re not going to beat LaSalle!’ I wondered how he could say such a thing. The next day as the game gradually unfolded, I saw his point (laughing). I remember you slashing to the basket repeatedly, and the announcer calling your name repeatedly. I developed a respect for you after that game and kept my eye on what you were doing.

With that, let’s start. Where is the Bradberry family from? Are you all from Niagara Falls or somewhere else?

Carlos Bradberry: My grandfather is from Alabama, but we’re for the most part, from here.

AD: Don’t you have an older brother named Cazzie?

CB: Yes. Cazzie is two years older than me. He graduated with Modie Cox, Scotty Rose, and Anthony Wallace – those guys.

AD: How old were you when you started playing basketball?

CB: I was eight or nine when I started playing in the Boys Club, which was a ‘rite of passage’ for everyone in Niagara Falls back then. It was the only thing going on. If you were anybody playing basketball, you came through the ‘Biddy Leagues’ or the Boys Club. I played for the actual Boys Club team.

AD: Was your Dad a basketball player? Did you see your older brother play and wanted to play as well, or did you just naturally want to play?

CB: I think my Dad was a good high school football and basketball player. My Dad’s playing days were done by the time I became interested in basketball. Our whole family, including my cousins, was a basketball family and I just grew up watching basketball.

My Dad used to take us to high school games when Trott-Vocational was really good back in the day. We’d go to see Trott and Niagara Falls play. That’s what really got me going and it was just a family thing. Basketball was it for my cousins and me. My cousins always played, so I was always playing with them.

AD: I think I saw in one of the Buffalo News stories that there was a Niagara Falls Senior High School player who also had the last name Bradberry. Did you have a cousin over there?

CB: I had two cousins over there – Darien and Cortez. They graduated the same year as my brother in 1991.

AD: This is fascinating because what I’m gathering is that Niagara Falls was a much smaller community compared to Buffalo which had 14 high schools and the city was bigger, so not everyone knew each other. It sounds like you guys all knew each other, and you were all playing together, even before you got to the high school level.

CB: Yes, everybody knew each other, and everybody played together. Growing up I didn’t know where I was going to play because of how they had the school districts sectioned off. I lived within walking distance to Niagara Falls Senior High School, but they bused us to LaSalle.

I was a LaSalle kid and it was miles and miles away from my house. I didn’t really know until I reached middle school – I went to LaSalle Middle School instead of Gaskill. Gaskill was the other middle school at the time, and it still is.

AD: What was it called?

CB: Gaskill. So primarily those kids went to Niagara Falls Senior High School, and the LaSalle Middle School kids obviously when to LaSalle Senior High School.

AD: I discussed the Biddy Leagues with Tim Winn. We had middle school teams in Buffalo, but it sounds like Niagara Falls did not have those. And so everyone played in the Biddy Leagues until you were ready to play in one of the two Junior Varsity (JV) programs. Were guys getting quality coaching in the Biddy Leagues or did they just throw the balls out there and let you run around?

CB: It’s funny. We always had the older guys who knew basketball. I know that Mike Hamilton, who is a referee now, coached me primarily when I was in the Biddy Leagues. He’s a real ‘basketball’ guy. There was the Boys Club, the Thirteenth Street Center, and there was another community center – so there were three to four centers and all of them basically had basketball guys in those positions. It wasn’t just guys showing up off the street and wanting to coach their kids or something.

AD: That’s fascinating, because I think the coaching, we had in Buffalo was really varied. Which players did you look up to in college or pro?

CB: I’m showing my age here but growing up I was a huge Dr. J guy when I started watching basketball, and then I was a Jordan guy obviously. Allen Iverson was more my age, so he was my favorite player once I got older. But at the time I didn’t know much about him because we were around the same age. I also have a weird one. My favorite college player was Greg Anthony. Most people would say, ‘Who?’ Greg Anthony was my favorite player back when the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) had those great college teams. I wore number 50 which was an odd number for a guard, but that’s why I wore that number in high school.

AD: Yes, I remember you wearing that number. So, you had your eyes on the college teams. That’s interesting because Tim told me that he had his eyes on the Niagara Falls high school basketball teams, for the most part.

CB: As far as when I was younger, Modie was a couple of years older than me, so he was more like a peer. There was a guy named Mike Starks who played for LaSalle – he was amazing and one of the best guards that no one ever talks about. When I started going to LaSalle games, I was in the sixth and seventh grades. Me and my buddies would just go to games. We wanted to be the next Mike Starks. He was the guy that I looked up to around here basketball-wise.

AD: What was special about Michael’s game? Could he do everything?

CB: Man, he could do everything. He was 6’3”. He could jump, he could shoot, and he could handle the ball. He was the point guard and his game was rare back then. Your point guard was the guy to set guys up, but man he could shoot, he could get to the basket, and he could jump – he had the whole package.

AD: Okay. So that was the 1988 Class B Federation Championship team. It was loaded then because they had guys like Eric Gore.

CB: Yes, Eric Gore, Frank and Michael Starks, Elon McCracken, and Modie (he was young).

AD: Well obviously, you had Christian Laettner in the Niagara Frontier League (NFL) then, but were you aware of any of the Buffalo guys like Ritchie Campbell and Marcus Whitfield?

CB: Ritchie and Marcus were the two guys I’d always hear about in seventh grade and that’s when I started to play for LaSalle. Those dudes were amazing!

AD: And the JV team – Coach Rotundo oversaw that?

CB: Yep.

AD: Early on, what kind of player were you? Coach Monti described you as a ‘scoring’ guard. Were you that right away or did you have to grow into that role?

CB: I always thought I was a scorer and that was always my mentality, ever since I was younger. In my freshman year, I started on the JV team and was moved up midway through the season to play on the Varsity team. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a bigtime scorer on the Varsity level as a freshman or as a sophomore, because we just had so many senior guys.

I was a starter, but Coach Monti let you know your role. It’s something that’s lost today. Kids don’t have roles today and everyone thinks they’re a scorer and a star. I had to earn my minutes and if I got an open shot, I was happy because I knew that it was Modie’s, Milo’s, and Duke’s team, and I was there to play my role.

AD: What was your role? Was it to play defense on the other team’s best guy?

CB: No, I wasn’t the greatest defender, especially when I was in the ninth grade (laughing). He brought me in for offense as a freshman and I may have averaged around nine points a game or something which was decent back then. He basically brought me in and let me know that, ‘Hey, you’re basically here to score when the chance comes,’ so more than anything I was there to help offensively.

AD: Talk about playing for Coach Monti. After talking with him, I got the impression that he was very, very intense.

CB: Oh yeah. Very intense. Intense, but giving great attention to detail was his greatest asset. You never went into a game unprepared. You knew what was going to happen and you were either prepared through game plans he spent a bunch of time on, or you were prepared because of what we practiced and worked on every day.

There were things that he did that had me college-ready that I know other high schools weren’t doing at that time like defensively, positioning off the ball, how you play ‘one pass away’ and ‘two passes away’. Coaches around here weren’t teaching that. Everything was tight. Again, not knocking any of the college coaches. I played at two Division I schools and I always say that Coach Monti was the most knowledgeable coach that I’ve ever played for!

AD: Wow. Well let’s talk some ‘Xs and Os’. You said that you were brought on as a freshman and your role was to score. Coach Monti described LaSalle’s offense as unselfish – everyone sharing the ball. Tim basically did too. From the outside looking in, you seemed to be the featured guy. Were you guys running a ‘motion’ offense or were you running an ‘isolation’ for someone?

CB: I know it changed during Tim’s years and he let those guys ‘freelance’ more. Basically, our main offense in my freshman through my senior years was called “Flex”, which is a ‘dinosaur’ offense now, as no one really runs it anymore. It’s about ball movement, body movement, setting picks for each other. You were working with each other and there wasn’t a lot of ‘one on one’ stuff. It was basically five guys working together, and it was weird when we wouldn’t get open looks. Flex was one offense, but there were a million different ‘wrinkles’ in it.

So, it wasn’t like, ‘Okay here’s this one offense and if this one thing doesn’t work we’re shutdown.’ It was more like, ‘Okay, they took this away, so here’s the next option…..’ There were always four to five options to that one set where something was going to be open. That was our base offense for four years. We did a little bit of some other things, but we spent a ton of time on Flex and its different options and it worked for us.

AD: Before we move on, you got moved up as a freshman. Were all the guys you graduated with in the same group? I’m referring to guys like Curtis Ralands, Chris Frank, Todd Guetta and O’Neal Barnett – all the guys who were on the Varsity team when you were a junior and a senior. Were all of you on the JV team and you got moved up first? Or was it a gradual thing?

CB: I went up in the ninth grade. I don’t think the other guys came up until the eleventh grade. Shino Ellis may have played on the Varsity team in the tenth grade if I’m not mistaken – he was a year older than me. Todd, Chris, Curtis and those guys all came up in the eleventh grade. Curtis came over from Niagara Falls Senior High School, which was a boost for us. He played JV there and then ended up at LaSalle in the eleventh grade.

AD: What was so special about Curtis coming over? I remember the goggles, the bald head, and the intensity, but what would you say was his major contribution?

CB: Curtis was like our ‘enforcer’. He brought toughness to our team. He didn’t care if he scored 1 point or 20. He was going to do all the dirty work: rebounding the ball, defending and taking charges. He was definitely a Dennis Rodman-type.

AD: So you had your role as a freshman. Was it the same as a sophomore or did Coach Monti give you more ‘leash’?

CB: As a tenth grader I started the whole year. I had more leash, but it still obviously wasn’t my team. That year Modie, Cazzie, Scotty Rose, Anthony Wallace and myself were the starting five I believe. I had a larger role on offense and I think I was depended upon more to score because Modie was our guy – he was great at distributing – he was a pure point guard. If you ran the floor, you were going to get a bucket. Scotty played a lot more ‘down low’ and was probably our second leading scorer after Modie. On the wing I think I was our next guy, so I had a much bigger role in my sophomore year within the offense.

AD: That’s awesome. So, you got a lot of quality minutes early on. Were you there against Lancaster, and in the Far West Regionals against schools like East and McQuaid?

CB: Our 86-57 loss to McQuaid was the worst I’d ever taken in high school.

AD: What was so bad about it? Did you guys just have an off day?

CB: We had an off day and they had the big 7’ kid – I think his name was McKinney or something. They had size, but they also had these guards who were coming down and pulling up a step beyond NBA range. We just weren’t seeing that in our area in Section VI. It almost seemed like the perfect game for them and the worst game for us. Anything they shot up went in and it just snowballed on us. It was the worst game I’d played in as far as taking a loss in high school.

AD: So that was your sophomore year. Before you talk about your junior year, what kinds of things were you guys doing in the offseason? I know that was before Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball got big.

CB: I can’t remember if I went to a camp that year or the next year. It was more so playing locally. There was the big travel-AAU type of thing. We’d go down to Philadelphia and play against Rasheed Wallace who went to North Carolina, and the Jason Lawson kid who went to Villanova. The Public Athletic League (PAL) tournaments used to be huge back then. The Head Coach at Niagara Falls High School now, Sal, was the one taking us on all the PAL trips back then. You played Division I guys from other cities, and that was sort of our AAU-thing back then.

AD: You said Sal?

CB: Yes, Sal Constantino. He was the PAL guy who took us on those trips to the big PAL tournaments back then which were huge.

AD: Going into your junior year, Modie and his fellow seniors graduated so it was basically your team. What was your mentality going into that year?

CB: I knew what we had, and not being cocky, but I thought we were going to be very good. A lot of people didn’t know what we had, but I knew. We had Shino, Todd, Curtis and Chris Frank – we had guys who could play basketball. But our Varsity program was so good that those guys didn’t get a chance to play yet. Our JV teams were awesome, they got awesome coaching and they came out of the system, so we had guys who could really play basketball. Now, we wound up losing only one game. I didn’t think we were going to be that good, but we had a good run until we played John Wallace.

AD: Okay, we’re going to get to John Wallace and Greece-Athena shortly (laughing). Your team ran mostly the Flex offense, but it seemed like you were the guy. You were LaSalle’s leading scorer. Was that just something the team understood – that you would be the number one option – or did Coach Monti make that explicitly clear from day one?

CB: Coach Monti made no reservations about letting guys know their roles. It was, ‘Shino and Carlos are going to be our two scorers and everyone else is going to fit in where we fit them in!’ We had a guy named O’Neal Barnett who knew that he was going to come in and defend our opponent’s best guy. Some nights he’d score 2 points and some nights he’s score 10 points, but he could care less. He knew that he was going to come in and lock down our next guy and he was fine with that.

We had Curtis who knew that he was going to come in and just grab every rebound. Coach Monti would have talks at the beginning of the year, and the middle of the year. There wasn’t any question of who was going to be doing what or what their role was. It was laid out and you knew what was going to happen.

AD: Wow. So everyone accepted their roles.

CB: Yes, everybody bought in and I think that’s just because of the success of the program. If you’re winning every year, it’s easy to sell that to kids. If he was losing every year, I don’t think it would’ve happened.

AD: So you guys went on to go 23-0. You beat us, and you started that year winning the Corning Cup in Albany, NY and, Carlos, I’ve got a funny story. Were you a trash-talker? The reason I’m asking is because in the Class B-1 quarterfinal in 1992, we matched up with the Niagara Falls Power Cats at LaSalle’s gym. In the lobby, the trophy case had individual polaroids of you and your teammates standing there posing in each of photos because you were undefeated at that point and riding a lot of momentum.

One of our seniors – this a true story – saw your picture in the case and he said, ‘Man. I can’t stand that Bleepedy-Bleep!’ I looked at your picture and I looked at him, and I said to myself, ‘This person must’ve have been guarding Carlos Bradberry when we played LaSalle, and maybe Carlos was jawing at him.

CB: Yeah, (laughing) I was, and I forgot to mention that another one of my favorite players was Gary Payton. You watch him play and you’re going to pick up some things from him. It’s funny because Coach Monti used to say that I was this quiet and reserved guy, but once I got on the court it was different. I was a different animal and I’d consider myself a trash-talker for sure.

AD: Now, was that you or was Coach Monti rubbing off on you? I got the sense that he was very, very confident and I imagine that was contagious.

CB: I think it was just me. It was never predetermined or preplanned, and once you get into that moment you get so focused and lose yourself on the basketball court. I was raised with a bunch of uncles and cousins who were hard on me. We went to the basketball court and they’re talking junk to you, they’re beating up on you, and you learn how to be tough and not back down and that’s how it manifested itself for me.

AD: In the 1992 Class B-1 Sectional Final at UB’s Alumni Arena, we had just lost to Grand Island and as we were exiting the court, your team came charging out in a single-file line. You were at the front, and I remember reaching out and ‘dapping’ you up. You had the ball in one hand, saw me and we slapped hands and then you went into your pregame warmup before going on to defeat Williamsville North that night 62-52.

After defeating Williamsville North, your team advanced to the Far West Regional against Section V’s Class A Champion, Greece-Athena from the Rochester area. They were also 23-0 and they were calling the game the “Meeting of the Perfect Strangers”. Rochester is basically our ‘sister’ city and it’s only an hour away. Did you know about John Wallace ahead of time?

CB: I heard of him, but social media wasn’t big back then so I may have heard his name, but I didn’t know him like that until Coach Monti showed the video and we started to scout for them and I was like, ‘HOLY COW!’ It was ridiculous what you were watching. But no, I didn’t really have a beat on the Rochester and Syracuse guys. I just knew the Niagara Falls and Buffalo guys.

AD: So the team was able to watch the film before the game. What stood out to you?

CB: He was dunking on everybody. He was blocking everybody’s shot. For me it was exciting because I knew that we would get into it at some point during the game, because it was in my competitive nature and his. We did get into it at some point, but I hadn’t played against anything like that personally in our area. We didn’t have a guy like that, so seeing him on video – what he was doing at 6’9” was ridiculous. Back then, 6’9” guys weren’t popping out shooting jump shots like he was, and going ‘inside-out’. I just knew we were going to have our hands full.

AD: Yes, there weren’t any big men like that here. Well actually, weren’t Kevin Sanford and Eric Eberz at that level?

CB: Yes, Kevin was close. Maybe I played against him in a few leagues, but I never played against him in a real high school basketball game and didn’t see him much. So it was just different seeing that.

AD: Leading up to the game, did you have ‘butterflies’? Or did it feel like this was just another game?

CB: I think our whole team was confident, but we all had butterflies every single game. That game was no different and I think we all went in thinking that we had the game plan and that we would win it. Somehow someway we were going to make it happen. We did for a half (laughing).

AD: When you guys went out for the jump ball, you saw that he had “DA MAN” cut on the back of his head (laughing). You know what’s funny, is that both Coach Monti and Tim Winn mentioned that with a bit of snark. So the fact that he cut that on the back of his head, even 25 years later, really seemed to stick with them. In general, did that strike you as being arrogant?

CB: Oh, I was pissed off and Coach Monti made a point of it too. He’d play mind games with us to piss us off. He’d 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 play us!’ Everything he did made me go sort of nuts, but he backed everything up though.

AD: One last question about the game. As Coach Monti pointed out, you guys were right there with Greece-Athena for three quarters and it was close. What happened?

CB: As I remember it, and Coach Monti probably has a better memory than me, I think we were either down two or tied at the half and I know that at that time Greece-Athena was playing us in a regular “man to man” defense. If they had done that for the rest of the game they would’ve lost. At the half, I think we had 27 points. I had 10 points and Shino had 15, so we had 25 of our 27 points.

Their Coach did a great job and came out in a “Triangle and Two” on Shino and me, so we didn’t score a point in the second half; they basically took us away. Our other guys got the open looks and shots we wanted, but they just didn’t fall. Their Coach wasn’t going to let Shino or me win that game that night. I kicked myself numerous times afterwards wondering what I could’ve done to be more aggressive and if Shino and I could’ve done more. But the fact of the matter is that it was a good move for their Coach and it worked out for them that night.

AD: You know, I taped that game. I watched it at home and, unfortunately, didn’t go. After watching it and thinking about how you guys beat us handily all summer long, I thought about how I wanted to get on the court and play against you the next year. First, I got injured and secondly, they flipped the brackets. So we opened against Niagara Falls Senior High School in the Festival of Lights Tournament. They narrowly beat us and you played them again while we played in the consolation game again against Bennett. I’m not sure how much of a difference I would’ve made (laughing), but I was at least looking forward to getting on the court with you.

In part two of this interview, Carlos talks about his senior year at LaSalle, his college career, and then life after basketball. Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Niagara Falls basketball legend Time Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Niagara Falls Coaching Legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp
Lasting Lessons basketball taught me: An introduction

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site or add the link to RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Ohio State 62, Michigan 39: My short take

Okay I’m going to try to keep this short. As one of the many Michigan football fans still hungover from yesterday’s 62-39 loss in Columbus, the idea to write a short take on yesterday’s annual game literally came to me during the conclusion of a church service here in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I’m not trying to be funny, but it’s true. In any case here goes.

First, I want to sincerely congratulate Head Coach Urban Meyer and his staff, the Ohio State Football Team, and their fan base. They did a great job preparing for the game and they executed their game plan damn near perfectly. Despite the rankings and all the chatter leading up to the game, I had a feeling they were going to play at a high level and they did. I also want to note that the game seemed to be officiated fairly and there was little controversy surrounding this contest as was the case in 2016.

I watched the game with my usual crew at Buffalo Wild Wings on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda, NY – our annual spot for watching the two school’s annual meeting. What stood out to me as the game unfolded, was that our team didn’t seem to be prepared for the contest in terms of intensity or scheme. Offensively, the game started off positively with a nice run by Karan Higdon. The second play was a pass play in which Shae Patterson got sacked which was a bit of a head scratcher for me, as I would’ve gone back to the running game.

In general, the offense did what it had done all year long which was to try to pound the ball with occasional shots down field. Throughout the year despite its talent level, our offense was never a consistent force, but instead methodically picked and chose its spots with varying amounts of success – sometimes due to a lack of execution, and at other times due to questionable play calling. This worked well as long as the defense stood its ground and repeatedly got the ball back which brings me to my next point.

Early on it was clear that Ohio State’s approach to our physical and blitzing defense was to get the ball out of Dwayne Haskins, Jr.’s hands quickly using crossing and wheel routes out of the backfield. In instances where Ohio State spread its receivers out and were able to neutralize Coach Don Brown’s pass rush, Haskins which is not known for his mobility was able to run the ball up the middle and slide when our coverage held. In other instances, Ohio State was able to draw pass interference calls on our defensive backs which were left on ‘islands’ by themselves in ‘Man’ coverage – No. 28 Brandon Watson particularly got targeted and torched by Haskins. Their running game by itself didn’t hurt us so much.

Approaching halftime, our Wolverines were down 21-6, and with the Buckeyes getting the ball back after the half, it seemed as though it was going to be a maize and blue ‘blood bath’. A special teams fumble by the Buckeyes helped put us in position for Chris Evan’s touchdown late in the second quarter. If not for that gaffe, we would’ve been in serious trouble. That said there was a potential touchdown that we missed out on because Zach Gentry couldn’t secure the ball after a Buckeye defender slapped it out of his hands.

On both sides of the ball as the game progressed it seemed that Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff were being outcoached by Urban Meyer and his. Our offense started slow, interestingly didn’t seem to be taking advantage of our three talented receivers: Donavan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tariq Black. I also wondered why our 6’8” tight end Zach Gentry wasn’t getting targeted more. In a game of this magnitude, we needed to challenge the Buckeye defense more downfield especially when they were ripping our defense to shreds and scoring at will. This brings me to my next point.

My comments on many of the postgame YouTube press conference footage mostly involved my surprise that Don Brown seemingly didn’t look at what Indiana and Northwestern had done his defense and planned for Ohio State to do the same thing or more. During the game, I wondered if he would adjust his blitzing style, and go with more defensive backs, like how Bill Belicheck and Bill Parcells did to my Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV where they slowed down the Buffalo Bills’ powerful offense. Instead he seemed to stick with the same game plan which he used all year which brings me to my last point.

It’s very easy for us as fans and commentators to criticize what’s happening on the field and I acknowledge that. I’ve also never coached a sport though it’s something I’d like to try one day. That said, I know enough to know that in athletics, particularly in big games it’s important to be able to adjust your plan of attack if necessary – or to anticipate having to do so. I discussed this in my interview with legendary Niagara Falls high school basketball Coach Pat Monti, who thoroughly scouted his opponents and figured out what he needed to do to give his teams the best chances to win even if meant making games ugly and unwatchable.

As we’re closing in on the end of Jim Harbaugh’s fourth year, this is something I’m wondering about, and something I wondered about during yesterday’s game. As much fanfare as there was when he got hired, how well can he and his staff really coach when going head to head with opponents like Urban Meyer and his staff on the opposite sideline? I asked myself this for the first time as yesterday’s game unfolded. One of my buddies I watched yesterday’s game with came down hard on defensive end Rashan Gary who was the top high school player five years ago and with good reason. That said it’s the coach’s job to motivate the players and put them in position to succeed. While we support him, right now, me and others in the fan base are questioning the ability of our coaching staff to do this on the biggest stages.

What’s going to happen from this point on? I honestly don’t know. I’m going to close by saying that I feel bad for our players, some of whom may have been looking ahead to Indianapolis and beyond – some of whom who have never beaten Ohio State which is something they’ll always have to live with. As we got closer to the Ohio State game, I became weary of talk of the “Revenge Tour” and Karan Higdon’s guarantee of victory as the team, the program and the fan base might suffer a black eye like we have now. Anytime ever I’ve competed, I’ve never been a trash talker and am a firm believer in just letting your play do the talking.

Like Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams who couldn’t get over the hump, for the remaining players and staff, perhaps this humiliating loss may be a part of their growth process that will eventually push them over the hump. We’ll have to wait and see. This year the Wolverines will once again be in Ann Arbor during the College Football Playoff. Hopefully Coach Harbaugh and his staff will ready first for their bowl game, and then when the Buckeyes come back to Ann Arbor in 2019. There’s a whole year to think yesterday’s game over.

Thank you for taking the time to right this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Michigan loses to Ohio State 31-20: Reflections on the 2017 game and the season
John U. Bacon presents his new book Endzone to Michigan’s D.C. Alumni Club: A look back
Michigan defeats Maryland 35-10: Two weeks until the 2017 Ohio State game
Michigan beats Florida 33-17: A recap of the maize and blue’s season opener
The 2016 Michigan-Ohio State game, the Big Ten Officials, and the College Football Playoff

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Stories from my interview with Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti from the LaSalle basketball dynasty

“People probably don’t know this, but Coach Monti is a better classroom teacher than he is a basketball coach.”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. As a part of a writing project I’m working on regarding my high school basketball experience and what it taught me about life, success and failure, I was granted an interview with Western New York coaching legend, Pat Monti who was the Architect of the LaSalle basketball dynasty. I’ve already published parts one and two of the interview, but Coach Monti blessed me with enough material for one more piece. His was unlike any interview that I’ve done up this point, in that during the interview, he told numerous ‘stand-alone’ stories in addition to the question and answer portion of our interview.

The following are the numerous stories Coach Monti told about his coaching career and the LaSalle basketball program – stories which were too long to publish in parts one and two of our interview, but which also were too valuable to not share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Western New York basketball assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Sections V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones. Other pictures were generously shared by Coach Pat Monti himself. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

The Syracuse Parochial Schools

Back in Syracuse we had what we called the “Parochial” league which were ten small Catholic schools. You went to school and right across the street was a church. All we had was basketball and baseball as our sports. It was an unbelievable basketball league – phenomenal. We used to beat up on all the public schools. I went to St. Patrick’s High School in Syracuse, but there was also St. John the Baptist, the Evangelist, St. Lucy’s, Cathedral, Assumption – there were ten and none of them exist anymore obviously – they just got devoured and private education was taken over by a couple of bigger Catholic schools.

The 1975-76 Explorers – Coach Monti’s First LaSalle Varsity Team

First off, a little background how I landed the Varsity job. As you know I graduated from Niagara University in 1968 but being from Syracuse and not being local, there were politics like everywhere else, and I was unable to get my foot in the door as a coach even though I was teaching in the district. So, in 1968-69 I landed the Freshman job at St. John Neumann under Johnny McCarthy, former Buffalo Braves and Canisius College Coach. I did that for one year, and then the late Bob Laurrie who was the Varsity Coach at Bishop Duffy which became gave me a job as his Junior Varsity (JV) Coach for the next three years from 1969-72 which was great because I was close to home and LaSalle where I taught. By the way Niagara Catholic just closed its doors this summer.

Finally, after applying for years, I got hired as the LaSalle JV Coach from the 1972-73 season thru the 1974-75 season. At 29 years of age, I then landed the Varsity job at LaSalle replacing legendary coach Matt Mazza for the 1975-76 season. After coaching those previous three years as the JV coach, if memory serves me we had records of 15-3, 12-4, and 16-2. The Varsity team with most of those kids I coached on the JV were struggling big time. They lost their last seven games of the 1973-74 season and then went 0-18 in 74-75. I guess the administration had had enough after the 25-game losing streak and hired me for the 1975-76 season from a pool of quality applicants.

So obviously going into my first season I had nothing to lose, and we went 8-10 and became fairly competitive. Our starters on that first team were led by: Co-Captain Edwin Keith Ridgeway and “Buckwheat” Harris at the guards, Kevin Downey and Keith Taylor at the forwards, and Wayne Gould at center. Co-Captain Mike Roberts was the ‘sixth man’ and became the starter with Ridgeway when we lost Harris to grades. The rest of the squad was comprised of: Chris Hyla, Ricky Williams, Dan Ciszek, Mike Amato, Dan Coombs, and Alan Valentine!

We went 8-10 that first season and almost made the Sectionals under the leadership of seniors Ridgeway and Roberts – two very solid players and really great kids who almost immediately bought into what I was trying to accomplish with the program. With Downey and Taylor, two outstanding very strong forwards returning and many of the returning players who were juniors that first year, we went 9-8 the following season including going 8-7 in the regular season, and then winning in an upset at Amherst – the first sectional win for a LaSalle team in many years! Back then you had to qualify for Sectionals with a 0.500 or better record! We beat Amherst on the road in that 1976-77 season on a buzzer beater from Alan Valentine on a great pass from Billy Clingersmith who had come over from Niagara Falls High School that year.

It was a HUGE upset and the kids went crazy it was as if we won the Sectional Title instead of simply a first-round game! Well that was the start of it all, and the players the following years started understanding that it was all about: fundamentals, no nonsense and structure. Things at LaSalle turned around and by the 1979-80, and the 1980-81 Michael Freeney-teams, we won consecutive Niagara Frontier League (NFL) titles – the first and second of our 13 league championships. LaSalle High School basketball had arrived on the scene in Western New York after many years of mediocrity!

LaSalle’s late 1980s matchups with Christian Laettner and the Nichols School

During Christian Laettner’s (pictured) junior year which was 1986-87 – they beat us twice – both times were single digits – six to seven points, and we hung right there with them. After not losing a game his junior year, they won the Class C state title. The next year 1987-88 was his senior year. We went to Nichols’ little dingy gym in late December and I don’t know if they took us for granted which would’ve been crazy because we had everyone back, and they lost their point guard, even though they still had Laettner.

You can look back at my teams, especially when we got really good starting in the early 1980s all of the way up until the school closed – my teams were really run and dominated by guard play. We never had any size to speak of, and that year Eric Gore was probably our best player. I had to use him inside at 6’4” though he ended up playing the two-guard position in college down in Texas. We went down to their gym and blew them out. We turned their guards over and took Laettner out of the equation because their guys couldn’t get him the ball the way they needed to and I think we beat them by 17 points.

We then went on a run where we were 19-0 and they were 18-1 – we were ranked the top ‘Large School’ and they were ranked the top ‘Small School’ in the Buffalo News, and they came into our gym for the last regular season game in the Niagara Frontier League. It was unbelievable – a zoo. If you were a Junior Varsity (JV) player, you had to be crapping in your pants. The JV game started at 6 pm, and if you didn’t get into the gym at quarter to five, you didn’t get a seat – our gym held well over 2,000 people.

Everyone was there – Mike Kryzewski (Duke) and Digger Phelps (Notre Dame) – all the bigtime coaches. It was a game for the ages. I can still see it as if it was yesterday, and it was 1988. Nobody led by more than four – they didn’t take us for granted this time – they were very well coached.

It was back and forth, back and forth – just an incredible high school basketball game. I think that with about a minute or so left, we might’ve been up four. They came down, scored, called time out and cut it to two. I only had one time out left and I’ve always taught my young coaches to save your time outs for the fourth quarter. If you know, you’re going to be in a tight ballgame, don’t waste time outs. It’s amazing how simple it sounds and how important it is in coaching.

They obviously knew us inside and out, and I should have been smart enough to change our ‘press-breaker’ but I didn’t, and they pressed us. They double teamed my point guard Michael Starks – great player – 6’1” or 6’2” – really smart with the ball – a good decision maker. His brother Frank was a 6’2” 210 lb. rebounding machine but didn’t handle or shoot the ball very well. They took Michael away and Frank had the ball coming up the right side of the court across from the benches. I couldn’t get my timeout fast enough and it was so loud that the referees couldn’t hear me. I could see it coming but it was too late.

Laettner left Gore and Frank Starks is dribbling the ball above his waist – it looked like he was dribbling a beach ball. Laettner stripped him clean and went in for what would have been a thunderous dunk which would have sent the game into overtime – there were 20 seconds left at the time. He was the only guy across half court now. He looked up just as he crossed near the foul line – I think to see where he was with relation to the basket, and he kicked the ball out of bounds believe it or not.

So, I called my final timeout and drew up a different press-breaker. At the time I didn’t give it a name, but since then I called it my “One-Breaker” where my point guard takes the ball out of bounds. Because we’re leading the game, they must go trap the ball. We got the ball back into Michael Starks’ hands. He got fouled and made both shots – we beat them by four 61-57 – we went on and went 20-0, we won the Class B Sectional pretty easily, went to Rochester and won that pretty easily, and then we went to Glens Falls and beat some really, really good teams – the state’s ‘Public School’ part of it.

The 27-0 1988 Class B State and Federation Championship Team

We beat a local team out of Gloversville that had two brothers – stars and both great basketball players – one was a quarterback who I think went on to play at Boston College – one of the Boston schools for football. But they were local – right outside of Albany in the Glens Falls area. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Glens Falls to watch basketball, but the Civic Center is a beautiful venue for watching basketball – very unencumbered, no pillars in your way. It holds about 7,000 people and the place was a sea of red – Gloversville fans galore and the game went back and forth, back and forth. We ended up beating them in a tightly fought contest in overtime.

It was funny because we used to play the semifinals on Friday nights and the finals on Sunday – later in my career it was Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, our kids would go and watch the Cs, the Ds and the As, and the talk all over the Civic Center, and even the local newspapers was, “How is little LaSalle going to handle this Nottingham team out of Syracuse with Dorsey Levens?” – the great running back who would go on to star for the Green Bay Packers. He was a tremendous basketball player.

Jason Buchanan went on to star at St. John’s as a point guard. They had won something like 45 straight games, they were the defending state champions, and they were undefeated as we were so you had two great teams. We ended up beating them and people were talking as though they were going to blow us out of the gym by 30 because we barely beat Gloversville 61-60 who was good, and they crushed a team from Section XI on Long Island by 35 points.

But what they didn’t see was the real Eric Gore because he was scoring 27 points a game, and I hate to say it but against Gloversville it was a ‘home job’ – a setup, and the poor kid couldn’t breathe without being called for a foul – it was ridiculous. He finished the semifinal game zero points. He got his third foul at the start of the second quarter. I joke with my old assistant coach who is still works in the Niagara Falls school system Frank Rotundo, who coached for a while at Niagara County Community College.

Frank came down to me with about five minutes left in the game and we were up by six against this great Nottingham team out of Syracuse coached by the legendary Jim McGrath. Coach Rotundo said, “Look at Eric. His head is down at the end of the bench.” I said, “We’re doing okay.” We had Elon McCraken who played at Niagara who stepped in as a junior at Eric’s spot for me and we were handling them with no problem.

Coach Rotundo asked, “Would we be here without Eric?” It gnawed at me and gnawed at me, so I put him in. We had the game basically won. We had no shot clock back then and I ran a really good “delay and strike” game back then where we could kill the clock and surprise you with a back-door layup every once and a while.

I shouldn’t have put him back in, but I listened to my assistant whom to this day I jokingly say to Frank, “You know that’s the last time I ever listen to an assistant.” Eric having such a bad performance got in the game, turned it over, took a couple of bad shots and before you know it, here we are tied in a game that never should have been like that. It ended up going into overtime and Eric fouled out in regulation anyway.

We were down three to Nottingham with ten seconds play in regulation. We had just fouled Dorsey Levens. It was a ‘one and one’, and I called one of my timeouts. I told my players, “Okay remember the power of positive thinking,” hoping it happens but never expecting it to.

They had just instituted the three-point line. If Dorsey missed his shot, we’ll fire up the court and if we don’t get a good shot, we’ll call a time out, draw up a play and get the ball in Michael Starks’ hands. He misses it, and Frank Starks his brother gets the rebound – the player who turned it over against Laettner and Nichols. We never let him shoot it beyond eight feet because he has no touch at all. He pulls up right in front of our bench – it was almost an NBA three – nothing but net, we go into overtime and we win the game going away. It was an incredible game.

That week after we won the State Championship for the public schools, we had to go back and play for the Federation Championship. We played two really good teams out of the Public School Athletic League in New York City – Samuel Gompers and then Nazareth out of Brooklyn who had Robert Phelps who went on and started at Arizona. We beat both of them and ended up 27-0 and I still think that’s a Western New York record. We had successes before then but nothing like that.

The closing of LaSalle Senior High School and retiring

Don’t get me wrong, Niagara Falls High School was built in the 1920s and it needed to be replaced, but if it were up to me, I would’ve built Niagara Falls a new high school downtown somewhere on Main Street to try to revitalize the inner-city area there. Leave us alone and let us have the 1,200-1,250 kids like we had. That was another amazing thing in New York State – you had some of these Class A schools who had 3,000 to 4,000 students, and we had 1,250 kids when we would go to Glens Falls and play some of these schools from around the state, and some of the New York City schools.

To me building that one big mega-school with the four towers was crazy. You had teachers who didn’t like each other. You had students who didn’t like each other because of the rivalry and that’s when I retired. Niagara Falls High School has only won one New York State title in 18 years with twice the enrollment since the two schools combined in 2001. That was the year they had Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn amongst other Division I players.

Coaching at Niagara Catholic after the closing of LaSalle Senior High School

“Coach I know you’re not going to the new high school. Would you be interested in helping us out at Niagara-Catholic?” When they tore LaSalle down in 2000, that was it for me, and because my wife was still working, the President of the Board of Trustees at Niagara Catholic Judge Bobby Restino reached out to me. I was down here vacationing in my condo in Naples, FL at the time during Easter when LaSalle was closing.

“You just hired a young guy who graduated from Niagara last year, and he did an okay job for the amount of talent that he had,” I said.

“Well if we can get a Pat Monti, we’d love to have you come in,” he replied.

“You know what, when I get back from Naples Judge, I’ll sit down and talk with you,” I said.

“Your gym is atrocious. You have to renovate it,” I told him – I had some demands.

“It’s in the budget for next year,” he said.

“Well if it can be done this year, I might consider it. Plus, I’d have to bring my assistant Frank Rotundo with me, and Modie Cox,” who was helping us at the time I continued.

“Let me bring it up to the board’s attention,” he said and did, and they agreed.

We were the little guy and I’ll never forget our first time playing St. Joe’s. We had some great run ins with St. Joe’s when I was at LaSalle, but I didn’t have that kind of talent when I was at Niagara Catholic. The year before I want to say that St. Joe’s beat Niagara-Catholic by 54 points. My first year at Niagara Catholic, we lost by two and it was like we had won the freaking NCAA championship and we lost the game.

I coached there three years while my wife was still working and had a lot of fun building up the Niagara Catholic program. Matty Clingersmith who is the really good Baseball Coach at Niagara Community College now. He’s taken them to the National Junior College Tournament just about every year – last year they lost in the National Championships. He was a junior the year before I arrived and sitting the bench at Niagara Catholic. We turned him into an All-Western New Yorker his senior year – he led us in points and rebounds and I want to say that we probably went 15-5 – the year before they might’ve gone 6-14.

The only schools we lost to were the big schools. That was the last head coaching I ever did. Even though in name I’m not the Head Coach, I’ve really called a lot of the shots most of the years I’ve been coaching down here. My system is in place – a lot of the ‘gimmick’ defenses I used to use to shut down big-time scorers, we still use down here. So, I did that at Niagara Catholic and I see this year they had a really good year.

Coach Monti on what should’ve been his first State Final Four team

I’ll be honest with you, what I thought should’ve been our first Final Four team in Glens Falls was our 1983-84 LaSalle team. I had an unbelievable team I thought – no tremendous size. Joe Etopio played at the University at Buffalo (UB) – a 6’4” kid with monster hands (pictured to the left in the middle). If you got him the ball inside, he either got a layup and got fouled, or he just got fouled. I had a really good point guard, “Rockin” Rodney Ingram (pictured above to Joe Etopio’s right). That should’ve been a Final Four team but unfortunately, we just had a bad break.

We played in “The Aud’” (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) and we were leading South Park who was heavily favored by 15 points in the third quarter. Joe Etopio goes down with a horrendous “charley horse” cramp where he couldn’t even bend his leg so obviously I couldn’t play him. So, they worked on him, and worked on him, and little by little, South Park whittled the down the lead and towards the end they started fouling us – we missed so any freaking front ends of one and ones. It ended up becoming a one-point game with 15 seconds to go. I called a time out, and I asked Joe, “Do you think you can go back in and just throw a pass?” He said, “Yeah Coach I can do that.”

So just inside half court, I drew up an unbelievable ‘big box’ play with some ‘misdirects’. One of our non-scorers was Darnell Bones – a tremendous rebounder on that team and the least likely scorer out of the five starters. I ran a middle misdirect where they thought my guard was going to get the ball, but my guard basically threw a screen while my two big guys cleared out underneath. I had Joe Etopio throw a baseball pass from half court right to the rim to Darnell Bones.

To this day I can see this because there was no three-point shot at the time and I knew that if we got the ball in the backcourt they would foul us, and I didn’t want that the way we were shooting one and ones. I decided to get the three-point lead and the game would be over. With about 15 seconds to go, Joe threw a beautiful pass, the lane was totally cleared out – Rodney threw a beautiful screen on Bones who curls around, catches the ball and goes up.

Back in the day the expansions came off the floor – they’re not bolted to the ceilings the way we do it high school – they’re a little ‘loosey-goosey’. Darnell goes up and who knows why to this day – he was a strong kid at 6’2” – but instead of just laying the ball up, he slaps the backboard and the ball rolls arooound the rim and comes out. One of South Park’s many big guys – they had a big team, threw a full court pass down the left side, and this kid from South Park, their best player catches the ball on the left corner, fires it up on the buzzer and it freaking banks in and we lost by one! That should’ve been the first team to go.

On when the program became successful and point guard Tim Winn

Little by little each year, the persona of the team changed – everything was built around all of our point guards, and it culminated in the last two with Timmy Winn – he’s one of the kids we brought up as a seventh grader, an eighth grader, and then halfway through his ninth-grade season he was on the Varsity team. We went to Glens Falls all four years he played Varsity ball – I don’t know if anybody has ever done that. He played in Glens Falls four years in a row, and he was the MVP of the state tournament his junior and senior years.

He was a tremendous ‘lock down’ defender, and a scorer. His scoring was overshadowed by his defense, and he had a phenomenal career at St. Bonaventure. People think that he went to a little school – St. Bonaventure was a big-time basketball school. He was recruited by a lot of big schools. Bobby Cremins from Georgia Tech at the time which I called ‘Point Guard U’, they wanted him badly and that’s where I wanted him to go because I thought it would give him a better opportunity to play at the next level. He opted to go to St. Bonaventure because of Rob Lanier who played back in the day in Buffalo – Bob Lanier’s cousin – he’s the top assistant for Rick Barnes at Tennessee now.

He used to be with him at Texas, and I think Rob might’ve had a little coaching stint at Siena, but Timmy fell in love with him after he recruited him for Jim Barron who ended up going to Rhode Island. Timmy just like the proximity and being close to home – people could come and see him play in the “Atlantic 10 Conference” which is a good league, and Tim is now in their St. Bonaventure Hall of Fame. He played overseas, and in the old Continental Basketball Association and now he’s in Charlotte with a nice job at Wells-Fargo he’s got a nice family and is doing well.

As a matter of fact, I got inducted in my sixth Hall of Fame last December. I never even knew that Section VI had started a Hall of Fame, but somebody contacted me and said, “You know you’ve been nominated for the Section VI Hall of Fame.” I said, “What the hell are you talking about?” The person replied, “Oh about two to three years ago, they started a sports Hall of Fame and you’re going to be inducted on December 8, 2017.”

I couldn’t believe it, but Timmy drove up that morning from Charlotte to be there. Several of my former players showed up. The last year before the school closed, Dewitt Doss who starred at Canisius – a former gym teacher and now the Athletic Director in the Baltimore Public School System now – he also drove up from Baltimore to be there.

If I had my choice, I’d say give me a great point guard over a big man any day of the week at the high school level and you’ll win. That’s your coach on the floor. Point guards just step up and do the job! I saw in your article with Jason Rowe that we played Buffalo Traditional, but Timmy came up with a severely sprained ankle, and we still gave Traditional a heck of a game because of Jody Crymes and Terry Rich. I think they ended up beating us by three. At that time, those two kids were by far the two premier point guards in the area – Tim and Jason.

On Coaching and Teaching

There’s so much talent down here in Florida and I watch it and there’s no shot clock, but you can put in a 10 second shot clock the way that some of these teams play. It’s like being at the YMCA, it’s crazy – there’s hardly any real coaching going on – they just let them do what they want to do. I never allowed that. We did drills every day in practice – drill, drill, drill and drill again.

Whatever offenses or defenses we ran, we did it again, again, again and again until it became second nature. It was homework and I’d tell the kids, ‘This is what you need for tomorrow. This is your homework.’ I always used to say, ‘This is my classroom – the classroom after the classroom!’

I teared up at one of the hall of fames I got into – it might’ve been the Niagara Falls Sports Hall of Fame – one of my buddies who has since passed away, he was my presenter and the last thing he said before he called me up for my award was, ‘People probably don’t know this, but Coach Monti is a better classroom teacher than he is a basketball coach.’ That really resonated with me – it gave me goosebumps honest to God.

That’s probably why I never went to coach at college where I had some other coaching opportunities – nothing to blow your socks off, but I enjoyed the class room as much as I did the court from a teaching standpoint and that’s why I’m still doing it 50 years later – because I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and what I’ve been taught with these young coaches and these young players – teaching them the right way to play the game.

A special thank you is extended to Coach Pat Monti for taking the time out to discuss his story and the LaSalle basketball program. I’d also like to thank Coach Monti’s Wife Kathleen for proofreading this three-part series and polishing it up for us. In case you’ve missed them, see parts one and two of my interview with Coach Monti. Also see my interviews with legendary LaSalle point guard Tim Winn, legendary Buffalo Traditional point guard Jason Rowe, some of my personal basketball stories surrounding my book project, and a piece I wrote up regarding former college and professional basketball player Chris Herren who now tours and speaks about substance abuse and wellness for teens:

Tim Winn discusses playing point guard in the LaSalle basketball dynasty and beyond part one
Tim Winn discusses playing point guard in the LaSalle basketball dynasty and beyond part two
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup, and State Tournaments
Buffalo Traditional’s Jason Rowe discusses his college and professional basketball careers and coaching
Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on basketball camp
Chris Herren discusses his journey, drug addiction, substance abuse and wellness

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Mean Streets: Protecting Yourself While Out & About

Two of the focuses of my blog are Athletics and Sports, and Health and Wellness. While the martial arts are competitive sports, they also help personal wellness, both physically and mentally. In some instances, it’s very valuable to know how to handle oneself in the streets should danger arise. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Mean Streets: Protecting Yourself While Out & About.

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(Image Source)

While it isn’t exactly fair, a lot of people don’t feel safe when they are walking around in their home cities and neighborhoods. With violent crime on the rise in a lot of places, along with populations getting much greater, it makes sense that you might want to figure out some ways to keep yourself protected. Of course, though, handling this sort of process correctly can be incredibly hard. To help you out, this post will be exploring some of the best ways to protect yourself on the mean streets, while also making sure that you don’t break the law in the process.

Self-Defense: A lot of people think that carrying a weapon is the best way to keep on top of their need for self-defense. In reality, though, most weapons which can be effective are illegal to carry around without cause, and they can easily be turned against you if you make a mistake while using them. To overcome this issue, learning how to protect yourself by using your body can be a great route to take. Martial arts are great for this, as they will give you the chance to learn how to fight properly, while also keeping your fit and avoiding any risk of hurting someone too much. Options like Judo are perfect when you’re first starting out.

Situational Awareness: Being aware of what is going on around you is another good idea when you’re trying to protect yourself. A lot of people ignore the things around them, choosing to remain oblivious to the risks around them. This goes much further than gangs of youths and other scary people, though, with things like cars posing a big threat, too. Thankfully, to help with this, there are loads of courses out there which can be taken to help you to become more aware of your surroundings. A big part of self-defense is avoiding a fight in the first place.

Legal Support: Finally, as the last area to consider, it’s time to think about what you need to do if you ever find your protection failing, and need to take action against someone who has hurt you. Criminal justice, personal injury, and pedestrian accident attorneys can be found all over the world. Professionals like this will be able to fight on your behalf if you ever find yourself in need of legal support. To find the best options in your area, it will be worth reading some reviews, as different lawyers will have different levels of success in the areas which they work.

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start working harder on the time you put into protecting yourself in the modern world. It’s a shame that people have to take this sort of action to feel safe, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth doing. In time, places slowly get more and more peaceful, especially when political discord settles down. This means that it may only be a matter of years until you are able to confidently go about your business without these precautions in place.

Niagara Falls basketball legend Tim Winn discusses playing in the LaSalle dynasty part two

“It doesn’t matter what sport it is.  It doesn’t matter what realm of life it is, if I approach it with same approach I used on the court at LaSalle, I’m going to win.  Period.”

This is part two of my interview with legendary LaSalle Senior High School point guard Tim Winn.  In part one, we discussed his background, how he started playing basketball and how he became a LaSalle Explorer.  In part two, we talk more about playing in the LaSalle basketball program, where Tim played college basketball, the closing of LaSalle Senior High School, and finally, how basketball has changed.

The pictures in this interview come from an archive of Western New York basketball assembled over the years from issues of the Buffalo News, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and Sections V and VI playoff programs by my first Coach at Hutch-Tech High School, Dr. Ken Jones.  Other pictures were generously shared by Tim himself, and his Head Coach at LaSalle Senior High School, Pat Monti. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Anwar Dunbar:  So, with your team having its eyes on Glens Falls the entire time, it sounds like even though you  were getting everyone’s best shot every night, you  weren’t very concerned with any of the other Section VI teams.

Tim Winn:  Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of tough teams in Western New York, but there wasn’t one game there that was going to take us up too high, or take us down too low no matter what the results were, because our goal every year was Glens Falls.  It’s like the Cleveland Cavaliers right now.  Yes, Boston is tough, but for the Cavs it’s championship or bust.  Once you get to Glens Falls a couple of times, you’re not accepting anything else.  No matter what the ups and downs are during the year, your eyes are still on that prize, and it’s all that really matters to you.

AD:  Were there any games in Section VI that you had circled?  Niagara Falls High School, for example.  That was a ‘rivalry’ game wasn’t it?

TW:  It was a rivalry game.  It was great for the community.  You can compare it to St. Joe’s, Canisius.  For us it was a great game.  It brought the community together.  You might be playing some of the most intense basketball against one of your cousins.  You had family at both schools and everyone came out.

It was probably one of the best traditions our city doesn’t have anymore.  We looked forward to playing against St. Joe’s.  Obviously Buffalo Traditional, the team played them my senior year, but I didn’t because I sprained my ankle working on my jump shot in an open gym.  Everyone in the world was waiting to see that game.

AD:  So, Tim, what was your game?  Were you a penetrator?  Could you eventually do everything offensively?

TW:  By my senior year, I could do everything.  My staple though was defense.  I would lock anybody up – that’s just how I felt.  I was 5’9” and 165 pounds, but my heart was as big as Isaiah Thomas’.  Coach Monti put me on anybody and it didn’t matter their size – I was locking them down.  That was my greatest skill set by far, and it was probably the most aggressive part of my game for my entire career.  I didn’t develop what I would call a ‘well-rounded’ offensive game until my senior year in high school, and that’s with me averaging 23 points a game as a junior.  At that point I could get to the basket and I could shoot; whatever the game presented to me.

AD:  What kind of student were you while you were playing for LaSalle?

TW:  At LaSalle you didn’t have any choice but to be a good student.  I talked about not being able to play if you didn’t defend, but also if you didn’t go to class you couldn’t play.  Coach Monti had a program that really set you up for life and for me that was a really big deal.  From the start I was wondering what I would have to do to get into college.  From the start it was like, ‘You’re going to take this level of classes, we’re going to have progress reports every five weeks for everybody, and if you don’t perform academically, you can forget about it.’

It didn’t matter who you were, you were held to these standards and there was no favoritism.  You were going to walk a certain way, and you were going to carry yourself a certain way in the classroom.  School was going to be more important than any state championship, and if not, then it may not have been the program for you.

AD:  So Coach Monti was actively monitoring your grades then?

TW: Everything.  He monitored how many steps you took down one hallway.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me – to have someone care about your development that much as a young man.  It wasn’t just about basketball – he treated all of his players like family – like his sons.

AD:  Was there a particular quote he used to tell the team regularly?

TW:  No, there wasn’t necessarily a quote as much as it was a philosophy.   You just knew when you were dealing with him, you had no choice but to walk the straight and narrow.  There is a lot of structure that young men need that a lot of them don’t get these days.  You knew that if you weren’t handling your business in the classroom, you had a problem on your hands and you did not want to make it to his classroom.  That type of program for me and my teammates was everything.  You still hear guys talking about it right now, ‘If Coach Monti was here, if Coach Monti was in the Falls,’ just because of what it did for us.

AD:  When did the colleges start recruiting you?

TW:  I think I started getting recruited in my sophomore year.  During my sophomore year all the local schools started recruiting me.  The summer after my sophomore year, after we made it back to Glens Falls, it picked up because I went to a couple of camps where I did pretty well.  I’d say beginning to mid-sophomore year and onward.

AD:  Which schools came calling?

TW:  I turned down Syracuse and Georgia Tech.  Amongst my circle, we still talk about it all the time.  I was ‘signed, sealed and delivered to Syracuse,’ but the young and naïve me not having anyone else in my family who went through the experience, I pulled out of it at the last minute.  I remember being at the State Fair in Syracuse and I was supposed to go verbally commit.  My friend, Romell Lloyd, went the next year and Malik Campbell (Turner/Carroll, pictured below in the All-Western New York photos) was at the Fair at the same time.  We were all supposed to go, but I pulled out at the last minute.

AD:  Why didn’t you go?

TW:  It was a last-minute change of heart.  Rob Lanier had watched some of my games at the ABCD Camp and I told him that I was still open, and then St. Bonaventure started recruiting me.

AD:  Did you talk to Coach Monti about it?

TW:  I didn’t and that was the young me.  I didn’t tell anybody about it.  He’s from Syracuse and I know for a fact he wouldn’t have let me pull out of going to Syracuse.  It’s one of those things.  I don’t have regrets now, but as an older man, sometimes I think about it.

AD:  So you went to St. Bonaventure.  I remember seeing you on TV.  What was it like playing at St. Bonaventure?

TW:  Anytime you go to college and away from home, there’s going to be an adjustment.  I sold my family on my not going to Syracuse and going to St. Bonaventure instead by telling them that, ‘I can go to Syracuse and be expected to win 20 games every year, right?  I can win 20 games there and go the NCAA Tournament and I’m just one of the guys.  St. Bonaventure hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 30 years, and if I can get them there, I’ll be a legend.’  It meant more to me to leave that type of legacy behind.

AD:  Did you play all four years?  And did you make it into the NCAA Tournament?

TW:  We made it my senior year.  We played Kentucky in the opening round.  It went into double overtime.

AD:  What Kentucky team was it?  Was it one of Rick Pitino’s teams or was it one of Tubby Smith’s teams?

TW:  It was one of Tubby Smith’s teams.  They had Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Jamaal Magloire – those guys.

AD:  By the time you were a senior were you leading the Bonnies in scoring or assists?

TW:   I think my junior and senior years I was leading my team in scoring, assists and steals.  In my junior year, I was second in the nation in steals behind a guy named Shante Rogers from George Washington University.

AD:  So you said you learned the most basketball at LaSalle.  Was it an easy transition to go play for Jim Baron at St. Bonaventure?

TW:  It was.  The only adjustment was getting ‘college-strong’, getting my body on the level.  There wasn’t anything that I wasn’t prepared for, so it was just a matter of getting up under one of those weight programs and getting my body to catch up with my mind.

AD:  What did you major in at St. Bonaventure?

TW:  Marketing.

AD:  Beyond the college level, did you play any professional basketball?

TW:  I pretty much played in the minor leagues over here.  I played in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA ), and then I played in Germany, France, Venezuela, Canada, England – so I’ve been around a little bit.

AD:  I know a highlight for Jason was playing against Allen Iverson.  Were there any particular matchups that stand out to you?

TW:  Tim Hardaway and I were teammates for an All-Star game in the ABA.  For me, Tim Hardaway is a pretty big deal.  I’ve played with Olden Polynice.  I’ve also played with Keith Claus.  I’ve played a bunch of guys who played in the NBA, who came down to the minor leagues.

AD:  How many years did you play Pro-ball?

TW:  I stopped playing in 2007, so about seven years.  I could’ve kept playing, but I chose a ‘regular’ life to put that degree to work.

AD:  Were you getting tired of all the travel?  The sleeping in hotels?

TW:  It’s very tiring.  The minor leagues are a year-round job and there’s really no offseason.  It gets tiring after a while.  You don’t have the NBA’s budget to take care of your body so it got taxing after a while.

AD:  What career did you settle into when you left basketball?

TW:  I was the Vice-Principal in a school in Buffalo called “Sankofa Charter School”.  That came through a basketball connection.  I did an appearance at the school.  The kids liked it, and I was asked to become the Dean of Students which was the equivalent of being the Vice-Principal in the charter school environment.  I did that for a couple of years and the school closed.  Then I moved my family to Charlotte, NC.

AD:  Are you still involved in the game in any way?  Are you coaching an AAU team?  Do you still compete in any way?

TW:  It’s crazy.  I’m cold turkey.  I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to help coach AAU.  Jeff Bishop is down here and he’s asked me on several different occasions to help him out with his AAU program.  My son plays baseball and is nine years old, so I really don’t have the time to dedicate to something on that level.  I wouldn’t want to cheat a group of kids by me not being there consistently.  I don’t play at all and all I have left are old stories (laughing).

AD:  Interesting.

TW:  And I’m cool with it.

AD:  Yes, it sounds like you’ve done just about everything with basketball.  Going back to the LaSalle days, do you remember what your best game was?  Was it one of the state tournament games?  Was it one of the Niagara Falls games?

TW:  It was a bunch of games.  Locally, I gave Turner/Carroll 39 points, and that’s a big deal because Antoine Sims was always a great competitor and to have a great game against Turner/Carroll and that caliber of player, it’s going to stay with you for a while.  I had 52 points in a game which broke Carlos Bradberry’s record; regarding records that was a big deal.  My senior year in Glens Falls in the semifinal game, I scored 35 points.  We were down big in the fourth quarter and then scored 39 points as a team to come back and win to advance.  It was a big stage and that was against Hempstead who beat us when Carlos was a senior, so it was a little bit of payback.

AD:  Of all four of your years, was there one that was your favorite?

TW:  Easily.  It was my junior year by far.  We had a three-guard lineup and as humble as I can be in saying this, there was not another guard combination in Western New York who could stop  us.  You don’t really feel it when you’re in it, but now that I’m older and I’m watching the tapes, it’s just unreal to watch that team and those three guards – me being one of them.

You couldn’t key on me because Jody Crymes would give you 20 points.  You couldn’t key on Jody because Terry Rich would give you 20 points.  We were a well-oiled machine, and I think all three of us had over 100 steals apiece that season.  It was a lot easier than my senior year.

AD:  And you guys were able to nullify any height advantage your opponents had?

TW:  That was our thing.  You might have height, but could you run?  And then, can your guards get you the ball?  We didn’t lose sleep playing guys who had players 6’8” because the chances of them getting the ball over half court were slim to none.

AD:  Was there anything that surprised you during your time at LaSalle?

TW:  I didn’t really know how to score until I played alongside Carlos Bradberry (pictured to the left).  Prior to that, all I did was steal a bunch of different skill sets from a bunch of different players who came before me.  I put my attitude and personality behind me, figured out where I still had weaknesses and worked on it.  Playing with Carlos my freshman year, taught me how to score; just watching how he would get buckets.

I may be the all-time leading scorer in LaSalle’s history, but I had 500 steals.  Carlos had at least 1,600 points, but they were straight buckets.  I keep mentioning Modie Cox – knowing that he’s in the program and living a couple of houses down from me as well – being able to watch that and watch him lead a team as a young kid meant a lot.  In my junior year, we were in the semifinals in Glens Falls.  Jody Crymes came down on four different possessions and scored.  I’ve never been in a game where someone else besides me said, ‘We’re not losing today.’  It was one of the ‘awe-moments’ for me.

AD:  I remember trying out for the Empire State Games in my sophomore year.  Jody (pictured to the left) showed up with Curtis Ralands.  I was on Jody’s team before the first cut.

He was lightening quick, and on one play he penetrated down the lane and I followed him down the lane looking to get a potential offensive rebound.  He threw a no-look pass behind his head to me, and I didn’t expect it so it sailed right passed me.  He turned around and looked me with an expression like, ‘What happened?’  I wasn’t used to playing with that caliber of player, and you guys played at that high level, and I can only imagine the three of you on the floor at once.

You went to Glens Falls all four years.  For kids who never went, what’s the experience like?

TW:  I guess when you win a lot, you don’t know what it’s like to not be in the environment that you’re in.  I never experienced a down-time or a losing situation.  To not know what it’s like to be in front of a packed house, to not be in the hotels, to not go to Glens Falls, I’ve never experienced that.  Not going would’ve been a failure for us.  So, for me it was what we were supposed to do, and it was how we were supposed to be treated.  The message was, when you win, this is how it’s supposed to go.

AD:  That’s fascinating because there were many kids who were happy just to qualify for the sectionals, but for you and your team it was getting to and winning in Glens Falls.  Otherwise, it wasn’t a successful season.  So, there’s something here about where you set your sights and what you shoot for.

TW:  If we had lost in the sectionals it would’ve been the biggest tragedy for our program ever.  Once we beat the Rochester team my freshman year (McQuaid Jesuit) in the Far West Regional, it moved to that, and I felt like we were never not going to play in this game.  We knew what it felt like to win that game, and we knew what defeat felt like because John Wallace’s team (Greece-Athena) beat us the year before.  Being an eighth-grader and being exposed to that game, I felt like one day I would be the guy to lead us.

AD:  There are whole generations of kids who know nothing of the LaSalle Explorers except in legends and old wive’s-tales.  Where were you when you heard that they were going to close and demolish LaSalle Senior High School?  How did you feel when you heard it?

TW:  I’m still in disbelief.  So much tradition came through there, and so many success stories; not just basketball, but in general.  Imagine that you buy a house and it’s in your family for 30-40 years and then you come home and the house is torn down.  It felt like they tore down the house that’s been passed down for generations in our family.

I’m also bothered by the fact that when they combined the schools, Pat Monti wasn’t named the Head Coach of the Varsity program.  That let me know that there is a gift and a curse to winning all the time.

AD:  Okay, we’re speculating here, but does that mean there was some sort of conspiracy to keep Coach Monti out?

TW:  It’s all politics.  How does the best basketball coach in Niagara Falls history not get that job?  He was the best coach to come through the city, one of the best coaches in Western New York.  He’s in four to five different halls of fame.  It’s one thing to close the school down, but to bring politics into the equation and not give him the next job?  It wouldn’t have hurt as much if he had gotten the next job because the tradition would have still been in the city.  Since LaSalle closed, there’s only been on state champion out of Niagara Falls, and that’s when my little cousin Paul Harris and those guys won it.

That’s the only state championship since we closed.  But if you look at the rosters at Niagara Falls High School since LaSalle closed, they should have at least six or seven state championships.

AD:  We can keep this off the record, but do you think there were parties that were looking at all of Coach Monti’s success and felt that you all had an unfair advantage, or were they just ready to see the brown and gold go away?

TW:  As great as Coach Monti was, the people he beat up on all the time didn’t like him.  Imagine being beat for years.  Just think about our rivalry with Niagara Falls High School.  I think we won 40 or more straight games from the late 1980s until the school closed.  All of the coaches and superintendents who are responsible for the new school opening were not going to let him be the coach after kicking their asses for all of those years.

AD:  Well I did ask Coach Monti that – were all the other coaches happy to see you go once word got out?  He laughed.  We have a few more questions, Tim.  How have players changed since the days you were at LaSalle.  I hear they have ‘trainers’ now, and Jason Rowe said everything is on social media.  How has basketball changed?

TW:  Winning has taken a backseat to stats.  It no longer dominates the emotion and I don’t know when it went out of style.  Your stat-line dictates everything nowadays.

In the past, winning dictated everything.  You see a ton of players who don’t know how to play the game.  Because winning doesn’t dominate the emotion anymore, it’s hard to call a kid on it.  When winning doesn’t come first, it’s hard to complain about anything a kid does in a game.  To me, that’s the biggest difference between now and back then.

Jason and I spent a lot of time together back then.  I knew what it meant to him to win.  Triple-doubles aside, to not win – we’re from that era where winning was everything.  Yes, I had 40 points, but we won.  That dominated everything for us.  You worked on your jump shot so you could win.  You worked on your handle so you could win.  Everything was set up so you could be better placed to win the following year.

When Jason and his team weren’t winning the Rochester game, I know that he and “Mush” (Damien Foster, pictured below) went to work in the summer so they could win that game.  They didn’t go to work so they could come back and average 25 and 30 points – it was time to win a state championship.  There’s enough talent back home where they should be winning on a high level, but you can’t make kids approach it like that.

AD:  You know they say kids today are softer, they don’t communicate the same way.

TW:  Everyone is friends and that’s one of my biggest pet peeves.  I love Jason and he’s my guy. We’ve been friends since he was little.  I swear to you that when it came to “checking the ball up”, he was my worst enemy.  There’s something missing in competition these days.

If you put Jason and me in this era, I don’t think we would be as good.  I’m talking about mentally, because we would’ve been too cool with each other.  Talent-wise we would’ve killed this day and age, but I think one of the best things we had in us was that we were fierce competitors, would go to war with each other and literally go get a burger later.

AD:  So, Tim, is this kind of a LeBron JamesKevin Durant type of thing where it’s okay to go make a team versus building your own?

TW:  Yep, it is.  It always starts at the top.  The players these kids look up to are  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 would 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.

Again, it’s different eras, and just like Jason (pictured with Tim to the left) said, with the impact of social media, it’s required for you to have personality.  Everyone wants to be cool now and it’s just completely different than when we were young.  At that time your game spoke for you.  You didn’t need social media.  You didn’t have to talk anywhere else.  When you were on the court, it was ‘Check it up.  Check ball!’  There was no greater voice than ‘Check ball!’

AD:  Alright, two more.  For youngsters aspiring to play basketball or to pursue any other life goal, what advice would you give them?

TW:  If you’re serious about it, treat it like a job.  Go to work every day.  There’s a ton of kids who have trainers, and to me that work ethic is missing in today’s kids.  You know which kids are working from a mile away.  If it’s something that you’re serious about dive in, dive all the way in.  Don’t dive halfway in and want all the results.  There are a lot of kids who will give you 15% effort, but want 120% back in terms of the results.  It doesn’t work that way and this is a game you really, really must go to work for.

AD:  So do you think it’s unusual that they would need trainers?

TW:  I think it all depends on whose hands you’re in.  To me that’s everything.  There are a million trainers now, a million guys like Jason Rowe and Mark Price.  I would send my kids to them because I know where they’re from.  I know them personally and I know their games and their resumes, so I don’t have to question what they’ll do for my kid.

One of my biggest pet peeves is kids can’t workout unless they have a trainer.  Whatever happened to dribbling the ball down the street to the park?  Kids won’t just go to the gym and play pickup ball anymore and that’s the era that we live in.

AD:  Wow.  That is strange.

TW:  I’ll ask kids, ‘Are you working out?’  They’ll say, ‘I’m trying to get a trainer.’  No!  Whatever happened to just getting your ball and dribbling down the middle of the street?  One, two, three between the legs.  One, two, three between the legs and crossover.  I’m all for trainers getting their money, but I must know that it’s on the level of a Jason or Mark training them.

AD:  Okay, the last question.  What did playing at LaSalle for St. Bonaventure and then playing professionally teach you about life and success?

TW:  For me it was one thing playing in that program.  It taught me how to be a young man, and the success of the program made me feel like I could do anything.  I don’t know losing, so I approach everything the same way I approached those games back then.  I expected to go to Glens Falls, so when I’m in a job interview now, I expect to win.

I’m currently at Wells Fargo on the technology side and I expect to win.  Playing for LaSalle, I’ve carried myself a certain way all my life because of that experience.  It’s confidence, it’s borderline cockiness sometimes.

I always believe that if I approach it with the right work ethic, then it’s game over.  It doesn’t matter what sport it is.  It doesn’t matter what realm of life it is.  If I approach it with same approach I used on the court at LaSalle, I’m going to win.  Period.

And you can ask any of the teammates that I’ve had.  It’s just something that’s in you.  It just did something to us as kids.  We just always believe that we’re going to be alright.

AD:  Well Tim, that’s all I’ve got, unless you have any other comments or stories, thank you for telling your story.

TW:  It’s been an honor to speak on this.

A special thank you is extended to Tim Winn for taking the time out to discuss his story and the LaSalle basketball program.  In case you missed it, see part one of our interview.  Also see parts one and two of my interview with legendary LaSalle Head Coach Pat Monti, my interview with legendary Buffalo Traditional point guard Jason Rowe, some of my personal basketball stories surrounding my book project, and a piece I wrote up regarding former college and professionals basketball player Chris Herren, who now tours and speaks about substance and wellness for teens:

• Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part one
• Niagara Falls coaching legend Pat Monti discusses building, and leading the LaSalle basketball dynasty part two
• Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup, and State Tournaments
• Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp
• Chris Herren discusses his journey, drug addiction, substance abuse and wellness

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