The network of former Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, boys’ basketball players stretches across the nation.
But for one night in Jamaica, two former Clippers’ prodigies squared off against one another as coaches on the college stage.
On Halloween night, St. John’s University hosted Baruch College, Manhattan, in the first exhibition game of the 2016-2017 season.
Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, a 1981 graduate of Xaverian, began his second season leading the Red Storm, while John Alesi, who graduated Xaverian in 1999, entered his fifth season for Baruch.
Both players suited up for the recently retired Jack Alesi, who coached the Clippers for 21 seasons and capped off his coaching career this past spring with a victory in the CHSAA city championship game.
Jack, who began his coaching career for Xaverian’s freshman and junior varsity teams in 1979, was the assistant varsity coach to Lou Piccola when Mullin spent his one season in Brooklyn following three years at Power Memorial H.S., Manhattan.
Before Xaverian, Jack coached Mullin on the Catholic Youth Organization team at St. Thomas Aquinas parish, Flatlands. They have been close friends for nearly 40 years.
Jack is also John’s father, so he played an integral role in his son’s development as a player and coach. John played two years as a guard on the freshman and junior varsity teams for his uncle Bob, currently Xaverian’s president, before moving up to varsity to play for his dad his final two seasons. John went on to play college basketball at Baruch before breaking into the coaching ranks.
As unique a night as it was on Halloween, it turns out it hasn’t been the first time that two of Jack’s former players faced one another. For three times each of the past three seasons including the CUNY Conference championship games, John has matched up with Xaverian graduate Rich Micallef, the head men’s basketball coach at Brooklyn College, Midwood.
In addition to both being Xaverian graduates, the relationship of the two coaches runs a bit deeper, to the point where Mullin has been like an older brother to John.
Following John’s freshman year at Baruch, he went to visit Mullin in Indiana while the latter was playing in the 2000 NBA Finals for the Indiana Pacers against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mullin was in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career by that point, but John still picked up on one of the keys of being successful in high-level basketball: preparation.
“When he (John) came back, I will always remember what he said about how impressed he was watching how Chris prepared,” Jack said. “He said, ‘Dad, every day from the time Chris got up to the time he went to the game, he was doing something to prepare for the game.’ I think that’s the way John is as a coach.”
After assistant jobs at the University of Pittsburgh, Hofstra University and Manhattan College, John latched on as the head men’s coach at Hunter College for one season before taking the helm at Baruch.
In each stop, he said he has noticed himself emulating what he learned as a player under his father.
Values and Work Ethic
“Obviously my father (Jack) had such a strong influence on my philosophy and what I do,” John said. “The biggest thing I took from my father is my values. Much more than anything on the basketball court, it’s the values and the work ethic.
“That kind of stuff is really where your father makes the biggest difference. The X’s and O’s, you can learn that anywhere. It’s the values and how to be a man that you get the most from your father.”
Mullin, the all-time leading scorer in St. John’s basketball history, is also familiar with the values of Xaverian and said it was a treat – no Halloween pun intended – to coach against his old friend John.
“John is a great coach and has more experience than I do as a coach,” Mullin said. “He’s been taught well by his dad (Jack). I’m happy for him, and he has a great group of kids. That program is in good hands.”
These coaches will always look fondly upon their time at Xaverian and how it developed them as men. Of course, Jack played a large role in that, but the same can be said for the entire Xaverian community.
“It’s easy to look at myself and Chris and think of us as the success stories, but they’ve (Xaverian) given so much to so many others,” John said. “That’s the real story about Xaverian. It really does turn young boys into young men.”
To go even a step beyond this coaching matchup, Baruch started Doyin Isaac, a 2015 Xaverian graduate, at point guard, further continuing the stretch of Xaverian’s ties to the college ranks.
Simply put, it was really quite the night to be a Clipper.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.