The College of Staten Island Men’s Basketball program, last Saturday, welcomed back its alumni for the first time since becoming a four-year college, dedicating the event to the memory of former assistant coach Matty White. A 17-year member of the Dolphins’ staff from 1987 to 2004, the game was renamed the Matty White Men’s Basketball Game in a pregame ceremony. White lost his battle with kidney cancer in May 2010. He was 74.
Principal organizer Craig Sleap ’01 crafted the idea with Head Coach Tony Petosa ‘86. The event raised funds for the Basketball program in White’s name, with plenty of support from the CSI Alumni Association.
After opening remarks by Petosa, the alumni were welcomed onto the court alongside several members of the White family, including his wife Delores, and his sons Matthew and Ken, who also served as honorary coaches. The family was presented with a plaque commemorating the renaming of the event, and Coach White’s grandson Patrick, who wore his grandfather’s coaching shirt, threw up the ceremonial jump ball.
“Through the years we’ve gotten a lot of support from our alumni, but seeing them all here collected for this cause was very special,” said Petosa, who played alongside and coached a grand majority of the alumni who participated in the game itself. “I think Coach White would have gotten a kick out of it, and it speaks to what these guys think of him.”
The rousing event was played on the main gymnasium floor of the Sports and Recreation Center prior to the CSI Men’s Basketball game against CUNYAC-rival Hunter College. Time Warner Cable-Staten Island 76 covered the event and aired portions of the Alumni Game as well as pregame ceremonies during the afternoon’s telecast. Alumni were treated to a game jersey, a gift bag courtesy of the Alumni Association, and a full luncheon, post-game. Several area businesses added to the cause as donations were made by A&C Superette, Beyar’s Market, and Bagels ‘n Buns. Alumni board member James McBratney ‘05, whose establishment, Jimmy Max, is a neighborhood staple, was a principal donor as well.
“It was a great event,” said Sleap, who organized the luncheon, solicited sponsors, and personally reached out to several alumni to boost attendance. “Seeing everyone again was really overdue and we’ve already gotten so much great feedback and people who want to help make this event bigger and better each year.”
Sleap was also quick to mention the overlying importance of the event.
“Coach White was special to all of us and it went beyond basketball,” he said. “He made us laugh and enjoy what we were doing, but he was serious about making us better basketball players and to conduct ourselves the right way off the court. He had high standards for us.”
Alumni participating in the event included former coaches Angelo Aponte (1977-1978) and Evan Pickman (1978-1984), who served as coaches for the winning Blue team, which scored a 93-77 win over the Black team. Teams were set up randomly and featured a host of great Dolphins. George Wonica ’73 scored one of the game’s first points for the Black team, while Gerard Nicholson ’88 buried a pair of three-pointers to give Blue a halftime lead that carried through the second half.
All-time leading scorer Michael Stewart ’05 was on hand, along with David Paul, who won a pair of CUNYAC titles between 1998-2002, and is now a member of the Harlem Wizards. Other notable returnees were Kirk Staine ’95 and John Cali ’99, among CSI’s all-time assist and steal leaders. Brian Gasper ’00, a former four-year player who coached the Dolphins during the 2002-2003 season, and is now a police officer in Coral Springs, FL, made the trip up to the College to participate, as did Eric Andres ’02 from Washington, DC.
A collection of non-participating alumni and former players were on hand as well, taking in the game from the sidelines and stands, including Jay Chazanoff ’65, Gunnar Oberg ’87, Steve Phillips ’83, Swithin McWilliams, Keith Hudson’74, Bill Felci, and John McCue (former staff). Alumni Board member, Michele Karpeles ‘10 was also on hand, cheering from the stands.
“Every time I see these guys it’s a great time,” said Gasper, who still keeps many close friends from his playing and coaching days. “To see it, along with honoring Coach White, makes it even better. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
To top off the day’s event, through registration and separate donations, the Alumni Game raised over $1,000 in fundraising dollars for the CSI Men’s Basketball program.
“The CSI Alumni Association is proud to have partnered with Athletics and our alumni athletes for this inaugural event,” said Jennifer Lynch, Associate Director of the Alumni Association. “The legacy of our athletes and Matty White was evident on the court as our alumni demonstrated great sportsmanship and camaraderie. The White family commented on how touched they were by the dedication, the great turnout, and reminiscences shared by our alumni.”
Although a 2011-2012 date has not been set, planning is already in the works for next year’s Matty White Alumni Game. Those who are interested in being included in a mailing list as the event unfolds can contact Tony Petosa at 718.982.3166 or Associate Athletic Director David Pizzuto at 718.982.3169.