For the 62nd time, the Basketball Old-Timers of America hosted a dinner ceremony that will be talked about for decades upon decades.
Five new members were inducted into the Old-Timers Hall of Fame on May 5 at Sirico’s Caterers in Dyker Heights. Of the 300 attendees, many familiar faces from the local diocesan basketball scene were on hand to honor the inductees while dusting off some of their best stories from their playing and coaching days.
Quite simply, this is one of the best nights basketball has to offer. CHSAA President Ray Nash and “Mr. St. Francis” himself Dennis McDermott have kept the tradition alive and well. Of the now 223 inductees, 27 of them are also members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jay Wright coached 21 seasons at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and led the Wildcats to two NCAA national championships (2016 and 2018) and four appearances in the Final Four. He presided over 30-win seasons six times in his career and has since transitioned into the role of special assistant to Villanova’s president.
Since 2016, the Wildcats have posted 20 wins in the NCAA Tournament, the most during that span. In 2020, The Associated Press named Wright as Men’s College Basketball Coach of the Decade.
Wright is a 1983 graduate of Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa., and is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame (2021). He was an assistant coach on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Tokyo.
Prior to becoming Villanova’s all-time coaching wins leader, he enjoyed a seven-year stint at Hofstra University, Hempstead, L.I.
Already a pioneer for women’s athletics on many fronts, Irma Garcia became the first former women’s player/coach to ever be inducted into the Basketball Old-Timers of America Hall of Fame. In 2007, she became athletic director at St. Francis College,
Brooklyn Heights, which made her the first Latina to lead an NCAA Division I athletics department. Under Garcia’s direction, the Terriers enjoyed a sports renaissance, including the men’s soccer team capturing five Northeast Conference championship titles as well as the men’s and women’s water polo teams consistently being nationally ranked.
In addition to striving for athletic success, Garcia always preached the importance of molding well-rounded student-athletes, the majority of whom pursue careers in fields other than sports. The athletic department won the 2015 Northeast Conference Building Communities Award, which recognizes the student-athlete population with the highest percentage of participation in community service activities as well as total hours donated.
A Brooklyn native, Garcia attended St. Angela Hall H.S. before playing four years of basketball at St. Francis College.
Barry “Slice” Rohrssen’s basketball journey began in Brooklyn, where he played at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge. It was then on to St. Francis College, where he played three seasons.
Rohrssen stayed on at his alma mater as an assistant hoops coach starting in 1993. After stops at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the University of Pittsburgh, he became the head coach at Manhattan College, the Bronx.
In 2015, Rohrssen was an assistant coach to John Calipari at the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four that season after posting a 38-1 regular season record. The 38 wins is the highest mark ever for a men’s college basketball team in a single season.
In addition to his work as a basketball color commentator, he also co-founded the Thomas C. Konchalski Foundation, named after the late longtime local high school basketball scout. He is also a supporter of the V Foundation, originally founded by soon-to- be Hall of Fame coach Jim Valvano.
From his days as the junior varsity baseball coach at Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, Gene Doris’ vision was to provide ample opportunities for student-athletes to pursue their passions. He also coached baseball and basketball at Archbishop Stepinac H.S., White Plains, N.Y.
After graduating from Fordham University, the Bronx, Doris eventually settled in as the athletic director at Fairfield University in Connecticut. In 23 years, the Stags captured 45 conference championships, 58 regular season championships, and 35 trips to the NCAA postseason.
He was presented with Fairfield’s Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award in 2013. He was also inducted into the CHSAA Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2016.
Other stops along the way included serving as athletic director at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and as an assistant basketball coach at Fordham under Digger Phelps.
Jeff Ruland was a McDonald’s All-American at Sachem H.S., L.I., before attending Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y. During his first season there, he led all freshmen in the country in scoring and rebounding.
He then led the Gaels to two NCAA Tournaments and twice received college All-American accolades. Ruland was named the 1981 recipient of the prestigious Haggerty Award, honoring the top college player in the New York metro area.
The Golden State Warriors selected Ruland in the second round of the 1980 NBA Draft, but he instead played professional basketball in Spain for one season. He returned to the states and played five seasons with the Washington Bullets, where he led the team in rebounding and field-goal percentage in each year.
The two-time All-Star was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. A knee injury curtailed his career for five years, but he made a comeback with the Sixers and then the Detroit Pistons. For his career, Ruland averaged a double-double per game with 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. After coaching for several seasons, he is now a scout for the Washington Wizards.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.