Coach’s Homecoming Supports Brooklyn Community Hoops

Brian Shea (center), the head varsity boys’ basketball coach at Adams Street Academy, recently hosted a series of youth basketball clinics at his home parish, St. Thomas Aquinas. (Photo: Courtesy Brian Shea)

If you were a New York basketball fan back in 2011, you probably still remember how often the song “I’m Coming Home” was played to welcome NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.

Anthony was born in Brooklyn, spent his first eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets, and would now be suiting up at his hometown Madison Square Garden. Still though, there was way more hype here given Anthony’s perennial status as an All-Star rather than his ties to the Big Apple. As it turns out, he moved with his family to Baltimore when he was 8 years old.

In what’s more of a “coming home” moment, Brian Shea is back where it all started. Shea just wrapped up a series of youth basketball clinics at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, where he went to grammar school from kindergarten through eighth grade and played Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports.

“I legitimately grew up in that gym,” said Shea of Msgr. King Hall, the gymnasium with the iconic green floor.

Shea went on to play basketball as a guard for four years at St. Edmund Prep H.S., Sheepshead Bay, and then four more years at Brooklyn College, Midwood. He currently works as a physical education teacher at the NYC Department of Education’s Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Bensonhurst.

He also coaches two basketball teams. He’s the head varsity boys’ hoops coach at Adams Street Academy, Downtown Brooklyn, as well as the head coach of the 16U New York Jay- hawks Amateur Athletic Union program.

Before taking over in 2016, his high school team had only won 14 games in the past 10 years. In Shea’s first year, the team won 15 games and began establishing itself as a top team in the Public Schools Athletic League’s ‘B’ Division.

Meanwhile, players from his Jayhawks team routinely earn scholarships to top college basketball powerhouses, including the University of Connecticut, the Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky, Seton Hall University, the University of Nebraska, and St. John’s University, Jamaica.

“We take a lot of pride in putting guys where they’re supposed to go in terms of what fits them academically and socially,” Shea said. “They all generally end up having good careers wherever they go.”

Over the summer, longtime St. Thomas Aquinas CYO Parish Athletic Director Guy DeFonzo approached Shea about taking on a larger role with the parish’s basketball program. Shea was a former towel boy at the renowned Msgr. King Tournament growing up; there was no way he could pass up the opportunity to get more involved with his home parish’s hoops program.

He proposed the idea of weekly basketball clinics for the youth of the community. The clinic’s coaches would be his high school players from Adams Street Academy.

On Saturday mornings from October through mid-November, the high school players served as big-brother figures to children during two clinic sessions: ages 4-9 for the first hour and ages 10 and up for the second. Each session had more than 25 kids participating.

“It was great to see my players interacting with the kids,” Shea said. “I knew they’d grow into it. They didn’t see it as a chore. It was something they wanted to do.”

Shea stood back and let the high schoolers run the clinic drills. Not only did this give them leadership experience, but it also allowed them to bestow their passion for basketball onto the next generation of student-athletes.

“That’s a huge responsibility because they’re going to follow your actions, not your advice,” Shea told his players. “If they see you taking things seriously, they’re going to take it seriously.”

Coaching basketball really is a cycle. Coaches pass along their knowledge and experience to their players, who then eventually become the coaches passing on their own knowledge and experience to their own players.

It’s a cycle that spins round and round – just like a basketball itself – and through the clinics at St. Thomas, which will pick up after the holidays, Shea is teaching high schoolers how to coach the next generation of kids.

Who knows? Maybe some of those kids will “come home” to start up youth basketball clinics in their home parishes. If that’s the case, Shea will surely be pleased.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at