Over the past few years, the St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, athletic program has expanded greatly.
From joining the NCAA’s Division III to settling in last year to the local Skyline Conference, the Bears and Lady Bears have become a force to be reckoned with across 14 varsity sports on the field, court, track and in the pool.
As the program continues to grow, James Lally has taken over as the school’s new director of athletics and recreation at the Brooklyn Campus.
“James possesses the right skills and characteristics to provide strong and effective leadership for the student-athletes, coaches and staff within the SJC Brooklyn athletic department,” said Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation at St. Joseph’s, which includes both the Brooklyn and Patchogue, L.I., campuses.
Lally is no stranger to the local sports scene. Born in Bellerose and raised in Floral Park, L.I., he played many different sports as a child before heading to Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood.
During his four years before graduating in 2003, Lally nurtured his passion for sports in each of the three high school seasons – playing basketball as a freshman, sophomore and senior, running track as a sophomore and taking the ball as a pitcher on the baseball team his junior and senior years.
On the basketball court and baseball diamond, he had the privilege of learning from the legendary Jack Curran, whose impact is still being felt in the diocese more than three years after his passing in March 2013. Lally was a member of the Stanners’ 2002 CHSAA ‘AA’ city championship team.
“Working with Coach Curran really helped shape my philosophy on athletics and how it can shape someone’s life; it all started with Coach Curran,” he said. “To have a professional opportunity to work with student-athletes is a blessing, and there’s no doubt I would not have appreciated sports nearly as much if it wasn’t for him.
“I think it’s safe to say I would have not even looked into a career in athletics if it wasn’t for the impact that he had on me.”
After Molloy, Lally earned a spot as a walk-on pitcher at St. John’s University, Jamaica. In three seasons with the Red Storm, he was a three-time Big East Conference Academic All-Star, made 59 relief appearances and compiled a 3.50 ERA with six saves. He was also a member of two NCAA Tournament teams.
Lally graduated St. John’s in 2007 with a bachelor of science degree in administration and then received a master’s degree in secondary education with a social studies focus in 2009. Sports though always held a special place with him, so when he was offered a position as the pitching coach at Hofstra University, Hempstead, L.I., he signed right up.
He spent two seasons with the Pride and was very much drawn to the coaching aspects involved with his players’ development as student-athletes. He was constantly in search for ways to impact the students at a different level than just on the field.
Sports as a Catalyst
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college; I didn’t make all the right decisions,” Lally said. “So I saw this as an opportunity to get into a role where I could then influence students in more than just sports – how do we use sports as a catalyst into something else that they want to do.”
Sure enough, Hofstra’s athletic department was looking to expand a student-athlete development role, and Lally fit the bill. As director of student-athlete services, he was responsible for fundraising, budgeting, scholarship allocation and day-to-day operations for the Pride’s 17 intercollegiate sports teams.
He was soon promoted to assistant director of athletics for student-athlete services, tasked with developing programs designed to assist student-athletes in their athletic, personal and professional development in order to achieve success on the fields and courts, in the classroom and throughout their lives.
Lally knew his future would be as a college athletic director, but he also knew that he wanted to remain in the New York area. Thus, the St. Joseph’s opening seemed like a perfect fit.
“As I was looking, St. Joseph’s pops up, and it almost seemed too good to be true,” he said. “It could not be a better time for me to get involved over here. There’s just so much going on.
“There is so much amazing potential here that is being tapped already. It’s unbelievable what they’ve done over the last two years at St. Joseph’s.”
The Hill Center, which opened in December 2014, is a state-of-the-art athletic facility open to all St. Joseph’s students – not just the athletes. Over the rest of the summer, Lally will seek to get the facility ready to go for the return of the students to campus.
He’s also in the process of meeting as many people he can on campus as the buzz around the school’s athletic program keeps growing.
“The better I can develop relationships with the administrators across campus, the more uniform our message is going to be to students to take advantage of every opportunity while you’re here,” Lally said.
With the main goal of preparing student-athletes for whatever career path they choose, Lally’s vision in guiding the school’s athletic program is already taking shape.
There’s still plenty to do before school begins in just over a month, but the newest member of the St. Joseph’s athletic staff is eager for the challenge.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.