Oct 15 2018

From Hoops To Hops—An Easy Layup For Maggie

Maggie Timoney was a star basketball player at Iona College. A four-year standout for the Lady Gaels and a member of Iona’s Goal Club Hall of Fame, Maggie still ranks as the team’s all-time leading scorer with 1,894 career points.

As a freshman, Maggie was the 1986 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. She then led the team in scoring in each of her next three years, averaging a program-best 16.6 points per game throughout her career. As a sophomore, she was named to the All-MAAC First Team after averaging 19.9 points a game. She also earned a spot on the conference’s Second Team during her junior year and ranks among the top five all-time in the Iona record book in half a dozen offensive categories, including ranking first in three-point field goal percentage and successful free throws.

After earning her undergraduate degree and then a master’s in business administration at Iona, Maggie entered the business world. She held sales positions, then strategic planning jobs and also distribution assignments for Heineken Ireland. She continuously moved higher within the company and, eventually, she was named CEO. She also has served as the managing director of Heineken Canada.

Maggie returned home last month when she was named CEO of Heineken USA in White Plains. She is the first woman CEO of a major U.S. beer company. According to the company’s president for its Americas region, Maggie understands the challenges and opportunities and she has the right mix of strategic vision, people leadership and grit to ignite future growth in the U.S. market.

Bet you a beer that all her skills can be traced to her basketball (and classroom) days at Iona.

Mar 15 2018

It’s 500 For Mount Vernon Coach

Bob Cimmino is a high school basketball legend in Westchester County. Just a few weeks ago, his coaching legacy grew even larger when his Mount Vernon team defeated Scarsdale. That victory was his 500th win as Mount Vernon’s coach.

Bob has led the team for 24 seasons. He is just the fourth boys basketball coach in the county to reach the 500-win milestone, and he did it in the fewest games (593) than all the others. He is about 70 victories behind Section 1’s all-time coaching wins leader.

The total number of wins, however, is not important to Bob. The team win always is the achievement. Rather than add up his individual wins as a coach, Bob prefers, as a team, to win the section each season. Already, under his leadership, Mount Vernon has won 16 Section 1 titles and a record seven state championships. Team wins and coaching wins, though, kind of go hand-in-hand.

In anticipation of the milestone, Bob’s assistant coach organized a gathering of friends and former players. Though the game was played at Scarsdale High School, the rival made sure that the bleachers behind the Mount Vernon bench were pulled out fully so that everyone could sit and cheer for the team and Bob.

The game was a close one, with a harrowing fourth quarter. The final score was 72-68. The victory was considered a Bob Cimmino community win and that was exactly the way the coach wanted it.

Bob was in a bad mood for a while during the game but he finally smiled at the buzzer. He later joked that he and his coaches were heading to the best steakhouse in Manhattan to celebrate. Actually, though, he preferred to be surrounded by his players. No different than any other time during the last 24 years.

Feb 15 2018

He’s Got Game…And This Is What He Did With It

He doesn’t recall their names. But, he does remember the impact they had on his life.

David Simon attended Herricks High School in New Hyde Park during the 1980s. For 10th grade, though, he had to attend Robert Louis Stevenson High School in Manhattan. He was sent there after he became rebellious following the breakup of his family and when his father walked out of his life.

David had played several sports as a kid. But, after the family dissolved, he spent more time with other kids were who directionless. The consequences sometimes were catastrophic. One kid was stabbed to death. Another, who was drunk, was killed by a train. Another died from an overdose.

One day, as David explained it, two black kids invited him, a white dude, to play pickup basketball at the playground near Stevenson. Their praise made him think. After they saw him play, they told him “you’ve got game.” That’s when David realized that he had a choice – continue on the road he was traveling or apply the brakes.

Though just a kid, David thought about having his own family one day. He thought that he wanted to be a great father, but first he had to change a few things.

Back at Herricks for his junior year, David played JV basketball. He also worked on his game outside of school and refused to let the street control his life. He played varsity during his senior year, leading the division in rebounds.

Basketball became David’s sanctuary. He played a year in college before joining the family business. He enrolled in night classes to obtain a diploma. He continued to play basketball, earning a contract with a team in the International Basketball Association. He touched it and then moved on. He now has four children who have been successful in sports and have made many good friends along the way.

Looking back, David feels life is more than just sports. Life is all about community. It’s also about the will to succeed by creating a plan and developing a work ethic. He often wonders what would have been different in his life had those two guys not invited him to play basketball at the playground. David also wonders if their lives have turned out as well.

Feb 01 2018

Ossining Is Proud Of Its Three Stars

As she waited for the opposing team to arrive for the game, Ossining junior forward Aubrey Griffin passed the time by shooting three-pointers from various areas of the court. She hit each one until the 11th shot. The pregame activity foreshadowed her game performance.

Aubrey scored 30 points, including the 1,000th of her high school career. She drove to the rim on a breakaway layup for the milestone basket.

After missing last season with a torn ACL, Aubrey has returned and reached this goal in just 40 games. She is the second-fastest young lady to score 1,000 points in the program’s history. The only player who accomplished this quicker is Saniya Chong. She now plays for the WNBA Dallas Wings.

Ossining’s coach recalled that it took a while for Aubrey to play more aggressively and to take more shots. He had to convince her that it was okay to go to the basket, rather than pass, when the defense provided her with the opportunity to score.

Among Aubrey, Saniya and current UConn freshman Andra Espinoza-Hunter, the Ossining team has featured three of the best players seen in this section of girl’s high school basketball. All have played for Ossining within the last six years. According to the coach, Saniya is the best basketball player, Andra has the best work ethic and Aubrey has the best athletic ability.

Appropriately, the Ossining team name is Pride. The school certainly has a lot of it in these three stars.

Apr 01 2017

A Team Chaplain Who Stands Tall With Everyone

She has been the men’s basketball team chaplain at Loyola University for almost 25 years. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt now is the latest member of Loyola’s sports hall of fame.

Sister Jean is a campus celebrity. She keeps an office in the student center where her door always is open for students and faculty. She lives in a dorm with 400 under-graduate students. Sister Jean recently enjoyed her own bobblehead day, and she was honored for her contributions to the team and the school.

Sister Jean attends every home game for the men’s team. She dons the school gear and also wears the trademark Loyola colors on her feet—maroon Nike tennis shoes with gold laces. “Sister” is stitched onto the back of her left shoe and “Jean” is stitched on the back of the right shoe.

At the games, students and alumni always stop to say hello and chat. Referees come over and hug her. She cheers at the good moments during each game and winces noticeably at the bad plays.

From San Francisco, Sister Jean played six-on-six girls’ basketball in high school. She became a nun at age 18. She then taught elementary school and volunteered as a coach in Los Angeles public schools. She coached just about every girls team—basketball, volleyball, softball, ping-pong and the yo-yo. She also made sure that her teams played against the boys during practice to “toughen” her girls.

At Loyola, Sister Jean leads the men’s basketball team in a prayer before each home game. Actually, her contribution is a combination of prayer, scouting report and motivational speech. Sister Jean sums it up as simply talking about the game and then playing it. After games, she emails each player to point out the positives and the areas of the game that need more work.

The basketball nun also communicates regularly with the coach. When Coach Porter Moser (Sister Jean’s fifth Loyola coach) came on board during 2011, she provided him with a scouting report of all his players.

The Loyola basketball players—and everyone associated with the university—all look up to her, though she is just five feet tall. She also is 97 years young.

As Sister Jean has shown, you never are age or height challenged to run with the big dogs!

Mar 16 2017

It’s All In The Family – Well, Almost

Colleen, Rieley and Kelsey play high school basketball and share a last name – Walsh. Since they bond so well on and off the court, you would think that they were sisters, or, at least related in some way. Instead, they are just three girls who happen to share a team, passion for life and a surname.

Colleen and Rieley are seniors with similar features. They are brunettes and soft-spoken. They like bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches (one goes for the sesame seed and the other likes plain) with hash browns. Kelsey, meanwhile, is a sophomore with a bubbly personality that accents her blond hair.  She prefers a toasted sesame seed bagel with butter.

Despite their culinary and other differences, the girls have formed a tight-knit relationship outside of basketball. They just happened to click.

Colleen and Rieley were CYO basketball teammates during third grade. They have been classmates since middle school. They added Kelsey to the “family” when she joined the varsity team last season.

When Colleen and Rieley were younger, people often would mistake them for sisters, or cousins. Sometimes, they played along for a bit of fun. Now, with Kelsey added to the mix, all three can play a few head games with people. Their coach loves them but warns others that the girls can be “nuts and psycho,” yet, down deep, she knows they are best friends and, yes, in a way, they also are “sisters.”

They are fun, fun to be around and they really connect with each other, which proves that you don’t have to be “blood” to be good teammates, good friends, or even family.

Feb 02 2016

Rebuilding A College Program — Twice

Four years ago, Denise Bierly had her most trying season as the coach of the Eastern Connecticut State women’s basketball team. The university dismissed five players for team rules violations, including four players who contributed 80 percent of the offense.

That season, the team consisted of only eight players, with one pulled from the softball team. Some of the ladies played every second of every game as the team won just eight games. Two wins came against much stronger schools. Coach Bierly felt that those victories were the most satisfying wins for the devastated team and that it opened the doors to future success.

Last season, the players who were holding the team together just a few years earlier as freshmen advanced to the Division III Sweet 16. The coach even recorded her 400th career win.

Bierly had arrived at the school about 17 years earlier. She never had been a head coach. She took over a program that had been highly successful for 20 years until it stumbled badly under an interim coach. But, slowly, she pulled the team from its lows, eventually getting the squad to the Final Four before losing an emotional game by a basket.

Even more difficult than that loss was the subsequent decision to dismiss the five key players. Bierly was as transparent as possible about the matter with recruits and their families. She told them the program had recovered once and that it would do so again with everyone’s support.

Through all this, Coach Bierly feels she has grown immensely in her role as a coach, mentor and friend. She said her fuse was short earlier in her career. Now, she has learned to handle her players with kid gloves. One current player admits that Coach Bierly is tough, but that she is fair. The ultimate tribute – “She’s made me a better leader.”

Oct 03 2015

NBA Player Returns With Lessons For LI Youth

Tobias Harris plays for the NBA Orlando Magic. Last season he averaged 17 points per game. Tobias plays with the world’s elite professional basketball players, but he has not forgotten his Long Island roots.

Tobias played for Half Hollow Hills High School West, joining the team as an eighth grade student. He then transferred to Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville before returning to the Dix Hills school for his senior year. Tobias then played one season for the University of Tennessee before declaring for the 2011 NBA draft.

Back on the Island this past summer, he hosted the Tobias Harris Basketball and Life Skills Workshop. The clinic taught young athletes about basketball while also providing invaluable life skills.

Though only 23, Tobias already is looking ahead and he is concerned about the future for the next generation of boys and girls. He indicated that these kids are ready to be molded to take advantage of opportunities and to plan for their journey to success. Too many kids, according to Tobias, are not fulfilling their potential. His clinic helped point them in the right direction.

The boys and girls came from Westbury, New Cassel, Jericho and Freeport. The middle and high school athletes spent their time at the five-day clinic running basketball drills to improve their skills, experiencing the excitement of competition and learning more about game strategy.

But, the clinic offered much more than basketball. Tobias said that every kid has a gift just to be able to play and that he wants to show all kids that they can achieve anything they really want in school and in life. He gave the boys and girls some straight talk that success is more than becoming a professional athlete, since the percentage of that occurring is super low. He told the kids that they have a huge variety of life options in and out of sports.

The clinic required mandatory attendance at sessions about career assessment, good health and nutrition, and character development. In these sessions, Tobias stressed that the primary goals for the kids were to be good students and good people, to be respectful and to hang with the right crowd.

May 16 2015

It Was A Three-Peat Season For Ossining

At the completion of the current high school basketball season, the Ossining High School girls team in northern Westchester County stood tall by winning the state championship. Again!

This season was the culmination of a three-peat performance, with state championships for 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and now 2014-2015. Ossining is just the second Class AA team in New York to win three consecutive state titles.

Various players (and even the coach) set some fantastic personal records and won great individual awards during this last season. A junior scored her 1,000th high school point during the final state championship game. A teammate became one of the tournament’s all-time single game scorers and received the tournament MVP award. During the season, the coach recorded his 400th win.

While all these individual accomplishments were noted, the group actually prefers to talk about the success of the entire team.

Ossining maintained a deep bench. Contributions came from the highly skilled starting five and all the substitutes. Each bench player easily stepped in for a starting player in foul trouble or when a player had to leave a game with an injury. Last year’s state title, the second one, was won without any seniors on the squad.

Off the court, these girls also are winners. The team’s players maintained higher than a 90 grade point average for the entire season.

Will Ossining girls basketball break the state record and grab a fourth title next year? We will just have to keep a close eye on them when they start up again in the fall.

Jim

May 02 2015

Together At Hofstra’s HOF

On a wonderful Sunday last month, family, friends and business colleagues shared with me one of the most gratifying recognitions as an athlete, an executive and as a sports benefactor. I was honored to be inducted into the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame.

My inclusion was for my on-field contributions to the Hofstra lacrosse team during 1979 and 1980. The honor also recognized my reconnection with the sport and with the school that I love as an ardent supporter of Hofstra’s education and athletics programs.

But enough about me, as you know who I am and what I have accomplished as an athlete and in business. I want to share with you a few details about several men and women who entered the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with me. This is not so much about their sports accomplishments but about their life accomplishments.

Linda Brymer was a four-year and three-sport—basketball, volleyball, softball—athlete (1974-1978). Linda then joined the Nassau County Police Department and became a physical training and defensive tactic instructor at the academy for more than 3,000 officers. During all this time, athletics continued to be a huge part of her life’s challenges and successes. Now she is pursuing her latest passion of surfing.

Ian “Rocky” Butler played football (1997-2001). He enjoyed a professional career in the Canadian Football League. After leaving pro sports, he returned to Hofstra to earn his master’s degree in physical education. Today, he is a physical education teacher and multi-sport coach at Long Beach.

Robin Kammerer Conversano played field hockey and lacrosse (1989-1993). She attended Weill Cornell Medical College to pursue a physician’s assistant degree. For the last 15 years, Robin has been practicing at an orthopedic surgery office that specializes in sports medicine.

Eric Schmiesing wrestled for Hofstra (1996-2001). Since then, he has been dedicated to fostering, promoting and encouraging the sport. His other passion is the finance industry. After graduation, he became a local crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Now, he works in private equity.

These four colleagues of mine in the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame, along with the other new inductees and those who played on the two teams (1968 men’s soccer and 1995 women’s volleyball) now enshrined in the hall, invested hard work, commitment and passion into their sports. After graduation, each of them continued to harness these same attributes as they journeyed on various paths to find additional success in their careers and in life.

Linda, Rocky, Robin, Eric and the others all excelled at Hofstra in the classroom and in their chosen sports. They learned from their teachers, coaches and teammates, and they have become fabulous contributors to our society. We have sports and Hofstra in common, and I am proud to enter the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with them.

Jim