Son of former Xaverian coach gets college job
In the local basketball scene, the last name “Alesi” is synonymous with a brand of high-quality, competitive hoops that molds student-athletes from boys to men.
Former Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, head boys’ coach Jack Alesi — a seven-time CHSAA Coach of the Year — manned the helm of the Clippers for 21 seasons before retiring in 2016. He can now say that both of his sons are NCAA Division III college basketball coaches.
John Alesi, a 1999 Xaverian graduate, is entering his eighth season as the head men’s coach at Baruch College in Manhattan, where he continues to employ a coaching philosophy shaped by his father.
In mid-August, Jack’s younger son, Chris Alesi, was named the new head men’s coach at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. The family tradition of great basketball has taken the next step, as Chris begins his first college coaching job.
Born in Grymes Hill, Staten Island, Chris played Catholic Youth Organization basketball and baseball at Blessed Sacrament Church. He excelled in both sports but chose basketball as he entered Xaverian as a freshman in 1997.
Playing for his dad as a point guard, Chris led his varsity teams to back-to-back appearances in the CHSAA city championship semifinals. Upon graduating in 2001, he spent two seasons playing at Queens College, Flushing, before finishing up his college basketball career at Baruch.
From a young age, Chris knew that he wanted break into coaching. Of course he had his father as a role model, and he also was lucky enough to learn about the game from some of the local greats.
“Coaching was always something I wanted to do,” he said. “The passion started really young since I had the right people around me. Just the ability to spend time as a young kid around some of the all-time greats in college basketball like Coach Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin, that’s really where the passion started.”
Chris’ coaching career began as an 18-year-old freshman at Queens College, as he coached the Xaverian teams in all of their summer leagues. Some of the players were his teammates just a year earlier.
After graduating from Baruch, Chris joined his dad as a varsity assistant at Xaverian, which was fresh off Jack’s first city championship victory. From 2006-2016, Chris assisted with the varsity team and also had a four-year stint as the head freshmen coach. During that time, he also taught religion at the school.
In 2016, Chris experienced an unforgettable run to a city championship title alongside his dad. The Clippers played .500 ball for most of the regular season but caught fire in the playoffs.
“In typical fashion of a Jack Alesi team, we just continued to get better and better as the season went on,” Chris said. “One of the things he would always preach to me as a young kid and as an assistant coach … his mantra was always, ‘Don’t judge us in November and December. Judge us in February and March.’ We really hit our peak that year and beat some great teams on that run.”
What made the moment even more special was that the title victory came in Jack’s final game as Xaverian’s head coach.
“Him (Jack) and I were really the only two people in the world that knew that it was going to be his last year,” Chris said. “So to be able to do that with him for me was probably one of the greatest moments in my life — certainly the greatest moment I’ve had in basketball. He is by far and away the greatest influence in my life and in my coaching career.”
Jack will continue to be a guiding influence as Chris takes over the program at Manhattanville. After spending the past seven years as a coach and program director for Amateur Athletic Union teams, including New Heights, the Brooklyn Clippers, the New York Rens and the New Jersey Shoreshots, Chris is poised to make the jump to the college game.
“If the right thing is meant for you, it’s usually going to find you,” the Xaverian Hall of Famer said. “For me, Manhattanville did.”
When he was hired, Chris received humbling praise from some college basketball icons.
“Chris is an outstanding young coach,” said Jay Wright, head men’s coach at Villanova. “He’s a leader, motivator and has a high basketball IQ. He will bring integrity and passion to the Manhattanville basketball program.”
“I’ve known Chris for a long time and have seen him grown up in and around the game,” said Mullin, a former head men’s coach at St. John’s University, Jamaica. “I am extremely confident that he is the right fit for Manhattanville. Chris is a smart, passionate individual whose knowledge of the game will reflect well upon the program and translate to success both on and off the court.”
The Manhattanville Valiants are back in the Skyline Conference after a hiatus of more than a decade. Chris said his team is excited about that move and is committed to working hard to compete for a conference championship.
As for expectations in his first season, Chris said that he would live by his dad’s mantra: “Judge us February and March, not November and December.” He will measure his team’s success based on its continued growth and improvement every day and will undoubtedly seek the sage advice of his two main supporters.
“I’m going to try to take as much as I can from my brother and my dad and implement that here at Manhattanville both on and off the court,” Chris said. “The biggest thing about my dad and my brother is that they’re both great basketball coaches, but more than that, they’re great role models and they’re really driving forces in kids’ lives in helping them become men.
“I want to run a first-class program here at Manhattanville, much like my brother has done at Baruch and like my dad did for a long time at Xaverian.”
As if the script couldn’t have been written any more perfectly, Chris’ first college coaching game will be a home scrimmage on Nov. 2 against his brother John and Baruch. It turns out the game was scheduled even before Chris got the job.
“We’re both really looking forward to it,” Chris said. “I think it will be kind of hard for my dad that day.”
In Jack’s eyes, though, he’ll be just as happy to see that his two sons are continuing the family tradition of basketball.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.