by Jim Mancari
The accolades continue to pile up for current Msgr. McClancy M.H.S., East Elmhurst, head basketball coach Don Kent.
Kent was inducted April 28 into his alma mater’s, St. Francis Prep, Hall of Fame at the school’s alumni spring reunion. He joins the other 71 members to receive the prestigious honor, including NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi, four-time World Series champion Joe Torre, former NFL coach Dan Henning, CHSAA president Ray Nash and long-time Prep basketball coach Tim Leary.
“It’s quite an honor for me to be put into this hall of fame amongst these great individuals,” Kent said. “I’m humbled by the whole experience.”
With the induction into the St. Francis Prep Hall of Fame, Kent has now been enshrined into four halls of fame: Msgr. McClancy H.S., CHSAA and N.Y.S. Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
The St. Francis Prep Hall of Fame is not strictly an athletic honor. Graduates who have demonstrated significant lifetime achievement and service to others are considered for enshrinement. Each inductee is honored with a plaque featuring a sculpture that hangs in the school’s lobby.
“You go through that wall, and there are some great people on that wall,” Kent said.
Kent attended the school from 1958 to 1962 at its old Greenpoint/Williamsburg location on North 6th St. St. Francis Prep was originally a small school on Butler St. in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and then moved to the Northside in 1951. In 1974, the school moved to Fresh Meadows into the former site of Bishop Reilly H.S.
“Here’s a little school started in downtown Brooklyn, and now in the year 2012, it’s the largest Catholic high school in the United States,” Kent said.
In addition to be inducted into the school’s hall of fame, Kent was honored as one of the alumni members celebrating their 50th anniversary since graduating high school. He’s the third member of the Class of ’62 to receive an induction.
Kent found out about St. Francis Prep as a 10-year-old boy. He had heard about the great Stith brothers who played at the Prep, but he really got a feel for what the school was all about when attending a football game between St. Francis and Brooklyn Prep, Crown Heights, at Brooklyn College Field, Midwood.
While the Brooklyn Prep fan section was rather quiet, the St. Francis Prep section was teeming with fans cheering loudly in support of their school. Kent, who was enrolled at Holy Name Elementary School, Park Slope, at the time, was impressed with school spirit of the Terriers.
Though he’s known today as a legendary basketball coach, the first three years of Kent’s high school career were spent on the track. He was one of the Prep’s top track runners during his high school days.
“Even during my years of running track, my heart was always in basketball,” Kent said.
During his senior year, he decided to try out for the basketball team. It’s rare for a student to be chosen to a team for just one season, but Kent had such a passion for the game that he had to give it a try.
Sure enough, when Prep head coach Frank “Chick” Keegan posted the team roster after final cuts, Kent’s name was on the list. Though his playing time as a guard was limited, he was just happy to be on the team.
Kent said that the 1961-62 St. Francis Prep basketball team was easily one of the best teams ever in school history. Seven players – all ahead of Kent on the team’s depth chart – went on to play basketball at Division I institutions. The team finished the year 21-2 but lost to LaSalle Academy, Manhattan, in the city semifinals.
Kent said he would never forget how the school of 1,000 boys showed school spirit. If the football team had a game on a Friday night, the students would be let out of class early to partake in the “Rally in the Alley,” where they would sing the school’s fight song in anticipation of the game.
“I would venture to say that you could go anywhere in the United States, and any graduate would be able to sing the school song,” Kent said.
At the now closed St. Mary of the Plains College, Dodge City, Kan., Kent wanted to become an FBI agent. At the time, he said he needed a law degree, but he scored poorly on the LSAT.
“When God closes one door, he opens another door,” Kent said.
He coached basketball for 10 years at Christ the King R.H.S., Middle Village, before moving on to McClancy, where he’s spent the last 30 years. His Franciscan education from the Prep has led him to serve as a positive example in the lives of young men.
“The teachers and brothers at St. Francis Prep helped me,” Kent said. “In my career, I tried to help people too.”
Despite battling kidney cancer in early 2010, Kent had a successful operation to remove his left kidney that June. Yet, he was back on the basketball court for the fall season. Clearly nothing can stop Coach Kent from living out his passion.
For the past 50-plus years, Kent has been living out the spirit of giving that St. Francis himself preached. And if he could do it all again, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“If I could live my life over, I would have gone to St. Francis.”
Contact Jim Mancari via e-mail at email@example.com.
Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge: 10-0
St. Francis Prep: 7-3
Archbishop Molloy, H.S.: 6-4
Holy Cross H.S., Flushing: 6-4
Bishop Ford H.S., Park Slope: 6-5
Msgr. McClancy H.S.: 5-6
St. Edmund Prep, Sheepshead Bay: 1-10
Christ the King R.H.S.: 1-10
Junior Varsity ‘AA’
St. Francis Prep: 10-0
Bishop Ford: 4-6
Holy Cross: 4-7
St. Edmund Prep: 0-10
Christ the King: 0-9
Forest Hills Mermaids Win 10th Straight Title
The Tri-M Girls CYO swim team won its tenth consecutive diocesan title. Known as the Mercy Martyrs Mermaids, the girls represent Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Queen of Martyrs parishes in Forest Hills. The mermaids are coached by Mary Leong, assisted by Alex Leong, Carolyn McNulty and Melissa Santos and the many volunteer parents.