A member of Fordham’s “sports royalty” was feted on Nov. 5 for his contributions to basketball at the University’s annual Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Dinner.
With many of his siblings in attendance at Manhattan’s Intercontinental Hotel, P.J. Carlesimo, FCRH ‘71, accepted the Johnny Bach Award.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, dubbed the Carlesimo family “Fordham sports royalty” because P.J.’s father Peter graduated from Fordham in 1940 and served as the University’s athletic director from 1968 to 1978, and all nine of his younger siblings are also Fordham graduates.
After graduation, the younger Carlesimo served for four years as assistant coach for the men’s basketball team before going on to coach Seton Hall University for 12 years. Under his leadership, Seton Hall advanced to the school’s first ever NCAA tournament in 1988.
His teams qualified for the NCAA tournament in six of his final seven years, and he was named NCAA Coach of the Year in 1989 after registering a 31-7 mark, and advancing to the NCAA championship game.
Since 1994, Carlesimo has served as NBA head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Seattle Supersonics, Oklahoma City Thunder, and last year as the interim head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
Father McShane noted that, in Catholicism, the month of November begins with the Feast of All Saints; therefore it was proper to recognize Carlisimo as one of Fordham’s saints.
“PJ is a man of integrity, a man of great talent, a man who comes from great stock, and [who]has added to the legend of the family,” he said.
Michael Kay, FCRH ’82, play-by-play broadcaster of the New York Yankees and host of Centerstage on the YES Network, served as emcee for the evening.
Carlesimo waxed nostalgic about his time at Fordham, joking that in his four student years, he only played three-and-a-half minutes, which prepared him for a career as a coach.
To the current team members in the audience, who will kick off their season on Nov. 8 at the Rose Hill Gym, he reminded them that, for all his successes, he’d seen his share of failure too. He told them that they have it in them to turn failure around, too, with the right values. He also gave praise to the award’s namesake, who was the basketball coach when Carlisimo came to Fordham.
“Getting an award named after John Bach is really important to me; he was one of the reasons I came here. He was a great player, a Navy pilot, a fantastic college coach, an athletic director after coaching here, and a tremendous representative of Fordham.”