Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thoughts and Refections

Well today is a new day and time for aa new topic. Today I have chosen to recognize a great person from a town I lived in a few years ago.

One if the great things about having your own blog is you get to chose topics to write about. Today I have decided to talk about Teaneck, New Jersey. Teaneck is a wonderful town that has always (along with Montclare NJ) been a blue print for diversity. Teaneck was the first school district to voluntarily integrate the school system many years before it was considered the thing to do. As you drive through this beautiful town of tree lined streets and nice homes, you might notice that there is not really a "Bad Part." Now there are some parts more desirable than others, but nowhere is there a section that would be off limits. Just a nice place to raise kids with wonderful sports opportunities in every sport from baseball to soccer.

I write about Teaneck after attending my first Teaneck basketball game in over 4 years. I have been very down about this HS program I really love. The program talent had fallen off based on people in the town strongly encouraging kids to attend the area Catholic high schools as opposed to attending Teaneck HS. Years ago young 7th and 8th graders dreamed of playing at Teaneck for Coach Curtis March. Funny thing is many of the kids who choose to attend area Catholic schools were not wanted at those schools until the coaches saw the writing on the wall when Englewood, Teaneck, and Hackensack beat up on those schools on a regular basis. Now they are wanted with open arms. Well at least doors were open. But the kids at the Catholic schools and Public schools always respected each other. It was others keeping the doors closed.

Well on my way home from Connecticut I had to drive on route 287 which leads to route 80 and my home. I spoke with John Cano who really follows North Jersey hoops when he is not working at his full-time job as a Producer at NBA Entertainment. He informed me Teaneck was playing in the Indian Hills Holiday Tournament that day. I decided to take in the action and watch Teaneck. Walking into that Indian Hills gym really brought back memories.

I arrived after Englewood had lost to St. Joe's Regional. Boy times have changed. I still remember when St. Joe's was an automatic W for area teams. Than it was Teaneck taking the court against Passaic Tech. I was extremely impressed with what I saw. I saw two very good teams with strong guard play as Teaneck won a very exciting and close game. Both teams were uniformed with matching sneakers, warm-ups, etc. I Loved It! Plus both teams had talent.

But what I loved about Teaneck was the way they played. They were extremely un-selfish and moved the ball around to open players. Great shooters and passers with 2 or 3 who could be D1 players with exposure. One such player was Javae Gilcrest (I know I am spelling his name wrong and his Mom will kill me lol). This kid transferred back to his hometown HS, Teaneck, from Queen of Peace HS. I am telling you, this guy has game! Funny thing is you never know who knows who. I was just at a huge event in Pa. with his Mom 2 months ago. She came right up and asked what I was doing at the game. After explaining some history she asked me to spread the word about her son and the other players on the team. I told her I would and I am always keep my word.

Well this team is similar to a team years ago that featured Adie Edwards, Kasib Powell, and Marcel Williams. That team won the Group 4 Championship and could be one of the best teams with no one over 6 ft 4 in the states history. This team is very similar. I am sure they will lose a game or 2 or 3. But they still have a great chance of getting to the state finals in Group 3 based on terrific guard play from 4 to 6 guards. I just wonder what might have been the case if other Teaneck kids had stayed home as opposed to attending Patterson Catholic, St. Benedicts, St. Patrick's, Blair, etc. Just shows the talent coming out of that middle class town without a true hood lol.

The basketball is really good because of community involvement and the RODDA Rec Center with two great gyms and a youth league that is as good as any on the East Coast. This program has sent many kids to D1 and D2 basketball via Teaneck HS, and now some of the Catholic High Schools. The town and rec league even has NBA connections with ex player Tony Campbell, current NBA All Star David West (Who was on a Teaneck team so talented he was a bench player as a sophomore), NJ Nets Coach Lawrence Frank (Who played but I would bet also kept books in league), NBA Commissioner David Stern, and superstar agent Andy Miller. Teaneck has a rich history and now it seems they are back on track for a very productive season. I look forward to watching them play Bergen Catholic at Indian Hills on Sunday. Should be a very good game regardless of the final score.

With all this Teaneck reflecting I really need to acknowledge a person who meant so much to ALL the kids in Teaneck. He coached every sport with area youth. He was there for all the kids often driving at the speed of light to get home and work with his two sons. I am referring to Mr. Ralph Constantine. Ralph and his Wife Rita always were perfect role models for parents raising kids. They did wonderful things and the results speak for itself. One son graduated from Harvard University and the other son graduated from William Patterson. Both are outstanding human beings who are making a huge difference in society just as Ralph raised then to do. In fact Brandon, his youngest son is a area basketball coach who coaches on the college level if I remember correctly.

I was stunned to find out Ralph passed away to a better life. All I could do is reflect on what I remember about him. I remember a strong man who raised his kids right. He also took time to raise alot of other town kids in his own way. He never turned his back on anyone needing help. He coached little league baseball, helped in biddy basketball, was a strong advocate at the HS, and even at one time ran the township little league baseball program and made sure all kids were treated fairly.

As a hot headed parent, he was always a voice of reason for me. In fact I was a true idiot on many occasions and was almost legendary in Bergen County lol. I have learned from my mistakes and one of the people who made me see what I was doing wrong was Ralph Constantine. I think back to when our kids were 7th graders and learning the game. I think back about how Ralph said to me at my home as we discussed the options both my son and his son Brandon had for high school (and they were recruited), "Our Kids need To Be At Teaneck HS because that's the real world and a great school with wonderful diversity!" Because of this, they enrolled and had A GREAT ACADEMIC and Athletic experience.

Honestly I think I was a great dad to my son. But when it came to dads, Ralph was MVP of all dads and all the rest of us did not even qualify for 3rd team all league in comparison to him. Gosh I wished I could have told him what he meant to me and my son before he passed. Rest in peace Ralph. You did your thing and can feel proud of the great job you have done.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I too was shocked to learn that Ralph had passed away. I grew up with Ralph in Queens, NY. The last time I spoke with him was years ago, when he was still teaching at Dewey High School in Brooklyn. I knew very little about his adult life, but recall with fondness our life together growing up in Clearview Gardens---even now a smile comes over me when I think of those times, the crazy but harmless things we did, and how innocent we were. I'm just sorry that we weren't in contact for so long, and that he has passed on.

S. Landau