Ralph Tedesco. Photo courtesy of Andy Furman
These late-night reports from Ukraine are chilling.
For Walter Szczerbiak, it’s deja vu.
“I was born Wolodymir Szczerbiak in a refugee camp in August 1949. My parents were Ukrainians and were moved to Germany after the Germans invaded Ukraine en route to Russia during World War II,” he said. -he noted in his biography, before being one of six new inductees to Basketball Old Timers of America on Friday, May 6and at Sirico (8023 13and Avenue, Brooklyn).
“My father,” he continued, “was forced to work for the German railways and my mother worked as a maid/cleaner for a nice German family.”
Szczerbiak said his parents moved to a refugee camp and stayed there for five years. “We lived in the camp two more years before the Ukrainian Catholic Parish of Saint John the Baptist sponsored us to come to Pittsburgh in December 1951,” he recalls.
The church helped her father find a job and helped the family find a two-room apartment on the second floor of a house on a hilly street near J&L Steel Mills in south Pittsburgh.
This site is now the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility.
“We had a kitchen and a bedroom with no bathroom, we had to go to an outbuilding to take care of our business,” he said.
“I decided I had a calling for the priesthood and decided to go to Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut to continue my high school education,” he said.
And that’s where he picked up a basketball for the first time.
He understood it so well – and so quickly – when he returned to the Pittsburgh playgrounds that summer, that he impressed the coaches at Saint Casmir High School.
“My brother Joe and two coaches – Spike Hennessy and Richard Ignaski – pressured me all over the place and convinced me to quit seminary and go to Saint Casmir,” he said.
Szczerbiak scored 1,238 points during his two-year high school career — he averaged 25 points as a senior leading the team to a 24-2 record.
Next stop – basketball at George Washington University where he averaged 15.4 points per game on a 17-2 freshman team. As a senior, that average exploded to 22.8 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Szczerbiak — who now goes by Walter — was drafted by both the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the now-defunct ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals.
The Suns’ contract was unsecured – it was cut – and landed with his hometown ABA Pittsburgh Condors. This too was short-lived as they folded in 1971-72.
The Eastern League was its next stop, with weekend games in places as far apart as Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Allentown, Hazelton, Scranton, Garden State and Hartford.
St. John’s Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca helped land Szczerbiak at Real Madrid, where he played seven seasons and won four Spanish League titles.
“Along the way, he says, I had a lot to be grateful for. I am also lucky to have had two of my children follow in my footsteps with their love and their basketball.
His son Wally was blessed with a 10-year NBA career and his daughter Wendy was one of Long Island’s top players and attended Lehigh University.
“My second son, Will, played basketball in high school but fell in love with rugby at Georgetown University.”
The other inductees:
Bob Leckie: Born in Greenpoint, attended St. Cecilia where he ran track and won a citywide speech contest in eighth grade. He was a member of the 1963 City runner-up basketball team at St. Francis Prep. As a senior, he was a Brooklyn Division A All-Star. He was basketball captain at then St. Peter’s College – played from 1964-69 and led the Peacocks to a 63-17 record. These peacocks appeared in three consecutive NITs, including a major upset of defending ACC champion Duke in the 1967 semi-finals. He coached Bishop Loughlin to seven CHSAA titles and three Brooklyn Diocese titles, three City runners-up and five Final Four appearances with a 241-92 record in 13 years. In 2001, he was inducted into the Lions Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the St. Peter’s Hall of Fame in 1995 and served as their head coach from 2000 to 2006.
Armond Hill: The Bishop Ford graduate spent eight seasons in the NBA (1976-84) playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Seattle SuperSonics, San Diego Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks. He attended Princeton and was named Ivy League Men’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1976. He succeeded Jack Rohan as basketball coach at Columbia University and the 9 June 2021 has been named Director of Basketball Administration for Men’s Basketball at Indiana University.
Ralph Tedesco: One of the founding fathers of men’s basketball at Manhattanville College, and remains the longest-serving coach in team history, having spent 15 years behind the Valiant bench (1979-94).
His 17 wins in the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons are a program record. His teams made six playoff appearances in the prestigious CEAC Metro Tournament between 1982 and 1992. He remains the basketball program’s all-time leader in wins (194) and games coached (385), while he still ranks fourth all-time in wins and third in games coached in all Manhattanville sports.
Pat Quigley: He attended St. John’s Prep and later St. John’s University. He taught history at Bishop Loughlin from 1967 to 2006 and was a librarian from 1994 to 2006. He coached basketball at St. Barbara’s Parish (1959-1966) and coached first grade basketball. year (1968-69); jayvee (1970-72) and academic (1972-87 and 1990-91). He was assistant coach at Iona College in 1987-88. He has four diocesan championships, a city title (1975), a New York State championship (1983).
Rich Kosik: He is the facilitator of the PSAL student-athlete/parent seminar. He has helped many CHSAA and PSAL athletes obtain college scholarships.
“It’s 62n/a dinner year,” said Raymond P. Nash, president of the organization. “I took over from the original team,” he said, “and I’ve been doing that for about 20 years. Dennis (McDermott) – St. Francis Basketball Hall of Fame College – joined me about five years ago.
Old Timers of America dinner and induction scheduled for Friday, May 6and at Sirico, 8023 13and Avenue, Brooklyn 11228. Cocktails at 6 p.m. Dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $150. Make checks payable to: Raymond Nash, Basketball Old Timers, 86-46 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Suite 4A, Brooklyn, New York 11209.
Andy Furman is a national talk show host on Fox Sports Radio. Previously, he was a school sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He can be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR