A longtime Canarsie High School basketball coach and radio disc jockey Tommie Allen succumbed to pre-existing heart and kidney conditions on Sunday. He was 57 years old.
Disciples of the beloved basketball guru remember him as a mentor, who drove young men to mastery on the hard court and excellence in life.
“He put pressure on me to be great every day,” said Daryl Frazier, a former Canarsie High School student and basketball player. “He is one of the reasons I graduated high school, graduated college, and now I am pursuing my masters. He is the main reason why I coach college basketball today.”
Allen signed on at Canarsie High School in 1989, working in the schools basketball program for 22 years until the school shut its doors in 2011.
The sportsman further involved himself youth programs throughout the city, including coaching basketball at the Eagle Academy, another public school located in St. Albans, Queens and volunteering for basketball programs in Harlem, according to his friend Anthony Herbert.
During his long tenure, Allen worked to shape young men both on and off the court, forging strong, personal relationships with his athletes, Frazier said.
“He actually took the time to understand the personalities of his students, and he helped people be better,” said Frazier. “He was a guy that never believed in taking shortcuts. He always believed there would be light at the end of the tunnel.”
In addition to coaching, Allen earned a reputation within the Tristate Area as a popular DJ, working private events and mixing on the New York City radio stations Hot 97 and WBLS.
“Tommie was one of those humble guys that was about the music,” said Herbert. “And you heard it in the music that he played.”
Mourners gathered at Borough Hall on Monday night to commemorate Allen’s life with a candlelight vigil hosted by Borough President Eric Adams, Herbert, the NY Multicultural Restaurant, and the Nightlife Chamber of Commerce.
“This brother just really personified that as he moved through the business,” said Adams. “He was not about sitting and letting the storms pass by he just learned to dance in the rain.”
At the celebration, Councilman Robert Cornegy spoke about his time playing basketball on the opposite team of Allen.
“I am here as somebody who played ball with and against him as a young man,” Cornegy said. “From that culture, I am hurting because a lot of people don’t know the true history of New York City basketball.”