Hoops Old-Timers Delight in Memories of the Game

The 2016 Basketball Old-Timers Hall of Fame class includes, seated from left, Lee Jones, Herb Turetzky and Jim Raftery; standing middle row from left, organizer Ray Nash, Frank Alagia, John Carey and organizer Dennis McDermott; and standing back row from left, John Raftery, Joe Raftery, Kevin Raftery and Patrick Raftery. (Photo © Jim Mancari)

A great way to feel young at heart is to revel in the memories of the past.

For a group of local basketball players, coaches, administrators and officials, an annual event keeps the hoops narrative going – even if some of the stories tend to be slightly exaggerated.

The Basketball Old-Timers of America hosted its 57th annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner May 6 at Sirico’s Caterers in Dyker Heights. Nine new members were enshrined for their basketball accomplishments.

“This is our 57th year of honoring members of the hoops community,” said Ray Nash, former standout at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, and current CHSAA president who along with another Terriers’ standout Dennis McDermott have kept the tradition alive.

This year, four Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers joined in the festivities: longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta; legendary St. John’s University, Jamaica, head coach Lou Carnesecca; St. Anthony H.S., Jersey City, N.J., basketball coach Bob Hurley; and sports columnist Pete Vecsey.

From the first three inductees in 1959 – William “Pop” Gates, Pop Harris and Andrew “Fuzzy” Levane – to the new class of nine, the Old-Timers Hall of Fame continues to honor those who have established basketball as “the city game.”

Frank Alagia starred at St. Agnes H.S., Rockville Centre, L.I., before heading to St. John’s. He played as a guard on Carnesecca-coached teams that averaged more than 20 wins per season during his tenure.

When he left St. John’s, he held the school record with 478 career assists, which currently places him fourth on the school’s all-time list. He won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the best player in the nation under six feet tall.

“When you get an individual award as a player, there’s a lot of people that help do that. I had great teammates, I had great coaches and I had great role models,” Alagia said.

Herb Turetzky began scoring games for the ABA’s New Jersey Americans during his senior year at Long Island University, Downtown Brooklyn. He has remained the official scorer as the team became the New York Nets, moved to the NBA to become the New Jersey Nets and now plays here in the diocese as the Brooklyn Nets.

On Nov. 2, 2015, he scored his 2,000th Nets game as part of a consecutive games streak that has lasted for 32 of his 49-year career.

“We’ve see a lot of basketball,” he said. “It’s amazing to me that I can still understand while I’m scoring these games what they’re doing out there. The game has changed and it’s so hard to keep up with it, but I’m thrilled at this point in my life to be able to share a night like this.”

Lee Jones played basketball at Jamaica H.S. before serving three years in the Marine Corps. Upon his return, he began a career as a referee, where he officiated games in the Catholic Youth Organization, the Long Island Press League, the Public Schools Athletic League and the Nassau County high school league.

After a stint as a college official, he became the first African-American to be a lead official in an NBA game. He went on to officiate more than 2,000 games in his 25-year NBA career, which wrapped up after the 1995-1996 season.

“The road that I’ve traveled to get here, it’s not always been an even road, but I’m happy to be here,” Jones said. “It’s a road where as an official, you’re not always the most popular person there is.”

John Carey played his high school hoops under the late great Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, before taking his game to Iona College, New Rochelle.

He then began coaching at Xavier H.S., Manhattan, and later took over as head varsity coach at All Hallows H.S., the Bronx, where he coached future NBA players Olden Polynice and Shawnelle Scott.

“We know good basketball when we see it, and that is really good to watch,” Carey said of his time around the game.

Joe, Jim, Patrick, Kevin and John Raftery all began their basketball playing careers in CYO at Our Lady of the Cenacle, Richmond Hill. Four of the brothers went to Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, while Kevin went to Archbishop Molloy.

All five went on to play Division I college basketball: Joe, Jim and John at St. Francis College; Patrick at Fordham University, the Bronx, and Kevin at St. John’s.

“On behalf of my brothers Jim, John, Joe, Kevin, I want to thank Ray Nash and Dennis McDermott and this whole basketball community for the high honor of being inducted as a family into the Hall of Fame,” Patrick said. “The Basketball Old-Timers of America is a family, a family that shares the values and the dedication and the fun that we’ve all experienced playing the game of basketball.”

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