This was just a few minutes after his Xaverian Clippers had upset Bishop Loughlin, securing just the second CHSAA City championship in school history. Jack Alesi, more than two decades at the helm of the Shore Road school's varsity basketball squad, stood in the middle of Fordham's Rose Hill gymnasium to pose for a picture as a wild celebration of players, students, parents, teachers and friends played out all around him. To the untrained eye, it was a simple, victory photo of a player with his father and coach. For Alesi, however, it was a snapshot of his career at Xaverian. On his left was Duke McCabe, Class of 1995 and a member of the first team that suited up for Coach Alesi while, on his right, was Duke's son, Jack, a junior forward for this year's championship squad, which, as things turned out, would be Alesi's last.
"It's always a special thing to coach the son of a former player, if for no other reason than it becomes a sort of reunion; a product of the family atmosphere we've always had here at Xaverian," said Alesi. "I've had that pleasure three times. Then there were all the sets of brothers that played for me. Too many to count, actually. I guess it also means I've been around a very long time."
This week, after the aforementioned City Championships, three Brooklyn Diocesan titles and seven CHSAA Coach of the Year awards, Alesi announced that he will be stepping down as the Clippers' head coach, a decision he actually reached before the season started, but kept to himself.
"No matter the team or the season, it's always about the kids. I never wanted them worried about anything but basketball and each other," he said. "Though, I may have taken a little more time than I had in the past to enjoy the small things with them; the after-practice locker room, the bus rides, team meetings. It was a wonderful season even before the playoff run. That we managed to go all the way was just icing on the cake."
Ask Alesi about his favorite memories as a coach and he's as likely to regale you with a CYO tale from the gym of St. Thomas Aquinas in Flatlands as he is a story about leading an All Star team in the Jordan Classic at Madison Square Garden. For the Clippers, he's rolled out the balls in gymnasiums from Louisiana to Hawaii and Alaska, all the while serving as a model to his young charges as to how a Xaverian student-athlete represents his school.
"That's what will always make me proud; the standards we set in our program," he said. "The kids have always respected their teachers, coaches and each other. They've been great ambassadors for Xaverian. I see them now and I'm overwhelmed with pride at the kind of husbands, fathers and friends they are. We may not have always had a winning record, but, every year, we had incredible young men in our program."
Coach Alesi, Xaverian's Director of Finance, does have one memory, though, that might be ranked just a bit higher than any other. For the last five seasons, he's shared the bench with his son, Chris, a former player and member of Xaverian's Class of 2001.
"Working with Chris has been really special," he confessed. "Not only did I get to spend every day of the season with him, it was an overwhelming joy to watch him grow into the coach he's become."
Anyone who's passed through 7100 Shore Road over the last 21 years would tell you that Chris had an incredible mentor. Thanks, Coach.