Pete Gillen is well remembered for his coaching days at Brooklyn Prep and Nazareth high schools in the early 1970s. The native of Brooklyn went on to the college ranks where he continued on his success. He is now a basketball analyst on television and radio.
Gillen recently came back to his native city to receive the Coaches’ Award as he was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame along with seven other basketball notables in ceremonies at the New York Athletic Club to join such luminaries as Brooklyn’s Lennie Wilkins.
“It’s a great group to be with,” said Gillen. “I’m unbelievably honored to be in this company.”
“It’s a wonderful honor and an exciting experience for him to be inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame,” his wife Ginnie said. “It’s well deserved. He worked hard.”
When he resided here, Gillan lived in Bay Ridge. Most of his friends attended Xaverian High School, but instead Gillen went on to Brooklyn Prep in Flatbush, a great place to play and in a great Catholic High Schools Athletic Association league.
“I wasn’t a great player, sat on the bench, got the kinks out of my knees and got into the games once in a while,” he said.
As a walk-on for two years he went on to Fairfield University and got a full scholarship to play as a junior and senior.
After college, he taught English and other subjects for five years at Holy Name grade school in Park Slope. He went on to Nazareth and in his last year taught religion. He then coached at Brooklyn Prep and then at Nazareth. He handled such players as Jim McGuire, who went on to play at Yale University, Lloyd Desvigne (Brown), Dave Spivey (St. Francis of Brooklyn), and Ken Johnson (St. Michael’s).
At Brooklyn Prep, his team got to the CHSAA quarterfinal round where they lost to LaSalle, and in another year lost to Power Memorial Academy.
“New York City is a great place to coach and be. Basketball is king in New York City. I grew up in Brooklyn, played in Brooklyn, came back [after college] and was fortunate to coach at Brooklyn Prep and Nazareth and in college,” said Gillan.
Gillen coached for 30 years all over the country went to different countries. But there’s no place like New York..
“The athletes here in New York are unbelievable. The competitors are great and they respect each other. Basketball is a special game…in New York.”
Gillan went on to coach at such colleges as Xavier, Providence, Virginia Military, Notre Dame and Villanova.
“Good players make good coaches. And to be able to win 392 games and lose 221 as a Division I coach was because we had great players and great assistant [coaches],” he said.
Gillan was also the assistant coach on Dream Team Number II in 1994, the last time we won a World Championship. “I won the Gold Medal in Toronto,” he said. “That was a great experience.”
Comparing the game today with the time he played in high school and college, Gillen said, “The players today are so quicker, stronger and athletic, and are much better than when I played. Years ago everybody had to go to college and graduate. Now people are leaving after one and two years to go pro…This hurts the game. If the individuals can better themselves it’s good for them.”
In addition to Gillen entering the Hall of Fame, Ed Younger, who was the top scorer in 1942-43 again the following year for Long Island University, and then a resident of Fort Greene was inducted posthumously into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Joe Goldstein also received the Trustees Award as he was recognized for his absorption in the history of New York City basketball and his extensive scholarship on the subject.
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