BY DAVID RUSSELL
There were three recipients of the Joe Lapchick Character Award on Friday at the Wyndham, New Yorker Hotel. Herb Magee has won over 1,000 games as head coach at Philadelphia University; Marianne Stanley won three titles at Immaculata College and then became a coach in the college and pro ranks; and the late John Bach, who was a longtime college and pro coach who gave Lapchick his nickname of “Big Indian.”
Lapchick won 334 games as head coach at St. John’s University and another 326 with the Knicks, but his legacy extends beyond basketball. “Obviously he had an incredible coaching record, playing record, but I think it was the things he did off the court that people usually didn’t know about that is what he’s known for now,” said Lapchick’s son Richard.
Part of Lapchick’s legacy is helping sign Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, the first African American signed in NBA history. “I think his legacy in terms of ethics, in terms of using sport as a vehicle to promote race relations, are probably the two things he’s best known for,” Richard said.
Before Lou Carnesecca won 526 games as head coach, he was an assistant under Lapchick. The 91-year-old, who was an original recipient of the award in 2008, can appreciate Lapchick like few others and was in attendance on Friday. “I think you have to go back to what type of man he is,” Carnesecca said. “He’s a man who had great feelings for other people. Never looked down and he was big. We’re talking 6’5”. He was a man of stature and I think he could’ve been Secretary of State. He had the facility to handle diverse personalities and have them work together.”
Stanley had a lot of success leading Old Dominion University in the ’80s and won WNBA Coach of the Year with the
Washington Mystics in 2002. “I’m just thrilled,” Stanley said of the honor. “It’s really an honor. This is one of those awards that obviously is prestigious, but also means a great deal because it combines expertise along with character and the intangibles that go into what makes coaching people great and what makes this such an important vocation.”
Magee took the day off from coaching his team although he was traveling back the same night to prepare for the next game. “I didn’t know him personally but just the name ‘Joe Lapchick,’ when you think of that name you think of college basketball,” Magee said.