The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame Dinner October 7, 2004

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame Dinner

A Temporary Escape into the Glorious Path!




Richard J. Garfunkel

October 7, 2004



Yesterday I found myself driving not only on the Cross Westchester Expressway towards the Boston Post Road and N. Barry Avenue, on my way to the Mamaroneck Yacht and Swim Club, but on a long meandering path leading back in time to a simpler and somewhat more enjoyable time. My parents were members of this club back in the late 1960’s, and I last spent an afternoon there with my newly married sister Kaaren and her husband Charles sometime in the summer of 1967.


The rationale for this new trip was the occasion of the 37th annual induction ceremony and dinner of the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame. I was invited to attend by one of the honorees, Mr. David Rider, who was a former track coach and administrator at Mount Vernon High School (from 1964-1976), whom I met during my college days when I visited the high school to see my great friend the late Henry Littlefield, of sainted memory. Mr. Robert Douglas, the chairperson of New York State’s Section I Athletic District, nominated Dave, who is regarded as one of the greatest track coaches in the United States, during that period, and who is still thought of with great affection, as an unparalleled legendary coach, advisor, friend and mentor to many. I was asked by Dave to second his nomination, and I did that service with the greatest of pleasure. Earlier well known Mount Vernon inductees were John and Ralph Branca, Frank Carideo, Notre Dame All-American, Bill Collins, Fred and Ken Singleton, Earl Tatum, Lorenzo Thomas, Tony Veteri, and Ed Williams. So Dave joins some very elite company.


Dave and I really connected back in September of 1967, while I was teaching at Mount Vernon High School, while awaiting an opening in the United States Air Force’s Officers Candidate School class. Henry had left Mount Vernon, in June of 1967 for the hills of Northampton, Massachusetts and eventually the hallowed ivy covered walls of Amherst College. I spent some time following and helping the wrestling program under the inspired leadership of his protégé and successor Randy Forrest. At that time I also met  Dave’s assistant, a big man named Bob Brooke, who had joined the staff around 1965. He was a gruff giant of a man who always amazed me that he could squeeze himself into his Corvette. Brooke, who was from Pelham, had gone to college somewhere down south and had adopted an annoying southern-style of speaking. His verbal savoir faire sort of reminded me of Joe Namath, who was also a northerner from Beaver Falls, Pa., and while and after attending the University of Alabama, started to drawl like a “good old boy” coming out of Talladega Raceway. But in spite of his faux southern accent and charm, he wasn’t bewitching to me, and we did not get along too terribly well. I never had a clue regarding his animus, but years and years later, Madeline Littlefield told me the story of Bob Brooke. Brooke was Henry’s assistant coach, while Randy Forrest was going back to college in Virginia. Henry told Brooke, that when Randy returned he would again be his assistant. Of course, according to Madeline, Brooke, in spite of his large size, seemed to be quite insecure and immature. He seemed to think of Henry’s choice of Randy, to be his assistant, as a type of personal “rejection.” He, like many, looked at Henry as a father figure and seemed to be depressed over Henry’s unrequited “love,” and loyalty to Randy, who was a friend, a great wrestler, and had been his former assistant.  Along with that, Brooke got into some social problems at the high school, and Henry, who was a rising star in the system and the assistant principal went to “the mat” for Brooke and saved his “rear-end.” Of course Brooke reacted without much graciousness, and after Henry’s departure to Northampton, Randy Forrest, Henry’s protégé and heir, became an object of his ire. When I entered the picture as a great friend of both Henry and Randy, I experienced the same chill. But being young and naïve, I assumed that his coldness and sarcasm was a product of my personality and shortcomings. Frankly it didn’t really affect my life, but I still recall that uncomfortable relationship without any level of fondness. Over the next number of years, long after I had left teaching in 1969, I still followed track and field and the career of Coach Dave Rider. More or less Bob Brooke was still around, and I kept my distance from him, except for a perfunctory salutation of greeting.


Many years have passed since those days, and recently I learned that Brooke was a victim of Parkinson’s disease, and as I walked into the club, I wondered if he was well enough to be there. Later in the evening as I made my way over to Dave’s table I saw a man whom I did not recognize. He was thin, almost gaunt and sitting there, amidst the tumult, quietly with a blank looking stare. Finally I asked someone if the man sitting there was Bob Brooke? Of course it was, and at age 62 or so, he looked 15 years older. I was stunned, completely shocked and saddened. When I last saw him almost 30 years ago, he must have weighed 80 pounds more, was blond, muscular and the image of power personified. He was a giant, a behemoth! What can one say; good health is second to nothing. It is number one, and when it goes, often it goes forever! I sat down, introduced myself, and offered a few banal inanities. What was there to say? Could I say I was sorry that this had happened to him? Of course not! I just said hello and wished him the best. So many amongst the throng of athletes in attendance looked great. So many had aged well. But Bob was different, very different.


The evening was about Dave Rider, Gus Williams the fabulous Mount Vernon basketball star from the “Dream Team” of 1971, an NBA All-Star, and a member of the Journal News All-Century Basketball Team, BJ Surhoff, the major league baseball player, Tim O’Toole, the basketball coach at Fairfield and the New Rochelle Olympic Gold Medallist swimmer Cristina Teuscher. 


Of course my son’s track coaches at White Plains High School, Nick Panaro and Fred Singleton, a high school and college All-American, were there. They were products of Dave Rider’s great program at MVHS, and they had been wonderful for Jon. I always appreciated their excellent coaching, and we have been friends now for many years. It’s always nice seeing these guys and re-living those marvelous times when Jon was running track and making his name academically at the high school. My memories of those days glow with everlasting satisfaction.


But in honor of Dave, and with the added allure of Gus Williams, many of Dave’s great stars were there. All one had to do was to turn around and see Mike Young, an All-American, Bill Collins, who was a high school and college All-American, and now world record holder for 50+ year old records in many sprint distances, Walter Kirkland, Valjean Garret, Ken McBryde, an All-American, Clinton Young, a County Legislator, Tony Wells, Steve Groom and Milton Cobb. Of course, there were many others there from those days and it was a pleasure going back in time and seeing so many familiar faces from those bygone years. I sat with Ed Abbaticola, Braulia Oria and Joe Gherardi who were longtime members of the Mount Vernon coaching staffs from the 1970’s through the late 1990’s. I had brought my track and wrestling photo albums that had many pictures accumulated from the 1960’s to today and shared those images with them.


Ron Lyons, who was my gym teacher at Davis had left, in 1961, to teach and coach up at Somers High School. Over the years, I had seen his name in the newspapers many times chronicling his long successful coaching exploits. In fact, he is also a Hall of Fame inductee. I went over to his table, said hello, and after 43 years, I was shocked and amused when he said that he had remembered me quite well. That was a real a real “kick!” He had wondered what had happened to me, and I gave him a quick summation of the almost half century that had passed, and when that party broke up, we parted with a hardy handshake and a big smile!


For the first time in decades I saw, Ed Sands, whom I recruited for the White Plains Democratic City Committee in 1972 and scores of athletes, who will never be forgotten by those who saw them compete, on the friendly fields of competitive sport. I must also note that I had the added pleasure of seeing Mike “Beaver” Ansbro, my old basketball buddy from Traphagen’s basketball courts and Stepinac fame, who I see in White Plains every once in a while, the former longtime Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Bill Pratella, who I played softball with when I was in 8th grade, and the great Harry Jefferson, the legendary lifelong White Plains, star athlete, coach, school administrator and mentor to thousands, including my daughter Dana.


It’s always fun to peak, for a brief moment, into the workings of another parallel world that is really so different from what I experienced as an adult. A world so necessary, and under appreciated, that develops so many of our leaders and role models. For few hours I traveled back to a time long passed, never to be replicated and only alive in the memories of those who have survived long enough to come and celebrate: life, good times, and the bitter sweetness of competition.



<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” />

Williams, fourth others inducted into Westchester hall of fame


(Original publication: October 8, 2004)

MAMARONECK — The first days of Gus Williams' basketball career at Mount Vernon were humbling. He was cut from the junior varsity as a sophomore in 1969 and he didn't crack the varsity until he was a senior. As his career blossomed — taking him from starting point guard on the greatest team in Westchester basketball history, to earning a scholarship to play at USC, to winning an NBA championship only a few years later — one thing always stayed the same. Williams never lost sight of where he came from. “When he was playing in the NBA, he was a role model for all children in Mount Vernon,” said Caroline Walters, a retired math teacher at the high school. “And he came back and is still giving to the community. He still lives in Mount Vernon. It's where his heart is.” Williams, who turns 51 on Sunday, was recognized for his lifelong achievements last night at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club when he and four others became the 37th class inducted into the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame.

All five inductees were in attendance, including Rye's B.J. Surhoff, an 18-season major-league baseball veteran; New Rochelle's Cristina Teuscher, an Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer; Tim O'Toole, a Stepinac graduate and longtime college basketball coach; and Dave Rider, a decorated track coach and athletic director at Mount Vernon.

While Williams was being recognized for his 11-season career as a professional, that's not only how he will be remembered. He was the cornerstone of Mount Vernon's 1971 state championship team, which is widely considered the greatest high school team ever in Westchester, and was named to the all-century team by The Journal News in 2000. Williams went on to star at USC before being selected in the second round by Golden State in '75.

After two seasons with the Warriors, Williams signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, with whom he reached the '78 NBA Finals and then won a championship, the only title in franchise history, the following season. He was a two-time All-Star who averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 assists over 825 games. From a kid who struggled to make his school team to a player gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, Williams is truly an inspiration. When he retired after his final season with the Atlanta Hawks in 1987, he went to the only place he ever called home. “It was important to me to stay close to Mount Vernon because this is where it all started for me,” Williams said.

Williams was nominated for the Hall of Fame by Walters, who taught at Mount Vernon for 34 years before retiring last spring. Until Walters retired, she would use Williams' story of determination to motivate students. “I would tell kids about him and how he didn't make varsity until he was a senior,” Walters said. “But I really held him up because he was such a good person. He was very unassuming. Even as his career went on, he never changed.''

Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at or 914-696-8522.Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at or 914-696-8522.












\ i

Westchester Sports Hall of Fa11

 Class of 2004




A high school basketball standout at Archbishop Stepinac, he was named AII­

Archdiocese and AII-CHSAA before going on to Fairfield University, where he helped the team capture its second straight MAAC title. He has served in the position of assistant men's basketball coach at such distinguished schoolsa.sFordham UniversitY, Army, lona College, Syracuse University, Duke University and Seton Hall University. In 1998, he returned to Fairfield as head men's basketball coach, becoming the first alumnus to oversee the program.


Dave achieved renown as the track & field coach at Mt. Vernon High School, serving

also in the position of Athletic Director and Director of Health and Physical Education.

During his illustrious coaching career, his teams were ranked first in New York State in 1967,1968,1970,1974 and 1975. His 1970 team was cited as one of the top teams in the nation by “Track and Field News”. He is regarded as one of the major forces in this area's track & field tradition, serving as Section I Indoor Track Chairman and President of the Westchester Track and Field Coaches and Officials Association.


A graduate of Rye High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball,

B.J. went on to play baseball at the University of North Carolina. He earned AII­American honors twice and was a catcher on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team before becoming the No.1 overall pick in the 1985 major league baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He has gone on to play 18 years in the majors with the Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, and was named to the American League AII­Star team in 1999. As part of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th anniversary celebration in 2003, he was named one of the ACC's top 50 male athletes of all-time.


A native of New Rochelle, Christina is recognized as one of the top student-athletes in

Ivy League history. This two-time Olympic swimmer won a Gold Medal in the 800 FreestYle Relay in 1996 at the Atlanta Games & a Bronze Medal in the 200 meter individual medley in 2000 at the Sydney Games. Cristina was recipient of the prestigious Honda Broderick Cup recognizing her as the best collegiate female athlete in the United States following her senior year at Columbia University. She was the winner of 3 Gold Medals at the 1995 PAN AM Games, a six-time USA National Champion, and winner of multiple World Championship medals and Goodwill Games Gold Medals. Additionally, she is the holder of numerous Metropolitan Championships and records.


This Mt. Vernon native and basketball “Wizard” played on Mt. Vernon's 1971

Championship team and was named by The Journal News to the “All-Century Team”. He went on to play for the University of Southern California and upon graduation was

drafted by the Golden State Warriors. In 1977, he signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, becoming their leading scorer for the next three seasons. In 1979, he led the Sonics to their only championship averaging 26.6 points per game. He was a two-time NBA AII­Star, later playing for the Washington Bullets and Atlanta Hawks. In 2004, the Sonics retired Gus' #1 jersey. He currently resides in Mt. Vernon where he serves as a role model for youngsters through his affiliation with the Boys & Girls Club.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *