He has been a civic treasure for close to 50 years, a basketball gift forever giving. It was Nov. 10, 1971, when the Knicks sent Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth and cash to their fiercest rival, the Baltimore Bullets, in return for Earl Monroe. They were already a championship team, with a style and flair all their own.
Pearl gave them another title, even more style, even more flair, and one more number, 15, to add to the rafters at Madison Square Garden. Mostly, though, what that deal accomplished was to bring Pearl — born in Philly, schooled in North Carolina, idolized in Maryland — to the city he would soon call home.
And which he has honored with his citizenship every day since.
Never more so than this Aug. 30, when the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School will open its doors to 110 freshmen in a temporary location at a former Catholic school in Pelham Bay in advance of the new 69,000-square-foot facility that will open two years from now in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx.
“I’ve been flirting with this for a long time,” Monroe says. “There are so many kids who would like to pursue a career in basketball — and not the playing of basketball, but all the opportunities around this amazing game. What we want to do with this school is afford them opportunities they simply might not otherwise have known existed. It’s a dream come true for me.”
As far back as the 1980s, Monroe oversaw a summertime academy that helped spread this message. Then, a perfect partnership arrived in the presence of both Dan Klores — noted New York filmmaker, longtime basketball aficionado and the founder, since 2013, of the New Renaissance Basketball Association, a non-profit designed to assist disadvantaged kids through education — and late former NBA commissioner David Stern, an immediate supporter of the idea and a founding trustee of the school.
“We want to give kids an understanding of what it would be like to be in the sporting world without being a sporting person,” Monroe says, and to that end the school’s motto is a perfect summation: “A ball and a book can change the world.”
As a charter school, admission was subject to a lottery, which, due to the pandemic, was held remotely. The students whose names were picked to form the first class — and their parents — all reacted “like when the Knicks got Patrick Ewing in the draft lottery,” Klores says with a laugh.
“The happiness on their faces,” Monroe says, “if you saw that, you know what is going to be possible at this school.”
It’s important to note that this isn’t a school for basketball players, not necessarily.
“We’ll have a team,” Monroe says with a laugh, “but we aren’t going to be winning the city title, I can promise you that.”
The mission is to introduce students to the many career paths attached to basketball — broadcasting, journalism, law, training, nutrition, coaching, teaching, interning in front offices, becoming exposed to the best basketball leaders. In addition to a core curriculum, that is what the 110 freshmen boys and girls — which, by 2024, will be 440 — will learn.
“We want to give kids the opportunity to be a part of the vast sporting network,” Monroe says. “You don’t have to play ball. You don’t have to be big and strong and an athletic wonder. It’s all a matter of learning what’s available to them. So many kids want to be a part of sport but don’t know how. This will let them know if this is really something you want to do.”
There will be summer jobs available, and internships for the juniors and seniors. The board of advisers is a who’s-who of basketball accomplishment, from Monroe to Marv Albert to Michelle Roberts of the NBA player’s association to Reggie Love (ex-Duke player and President Barack Obama’s body man for many years) to Tiny Archibald.
“So many voices and so many positive examples,” Monroe marvels.
For Monroe, this is a capper to a New York basketball life spent touching millions with his gifts, his spirit and his heart. And he can’t wait to open those doors.
“The smiles,” he says, “tell you everything. We use basketball as a platform to interest kids, and whet their appetite for success. What’s better than that?”
I think Umberto’s Clam House should sign Joey Gallo to an endorsement deal (or at lest name a table after him) at once. (If you know, you know. If not, Google it, kids).
The wife suggested the other night “How about ‘100 Foot Wave?’ ” on HBO, and I’m not sure the last time I’ve become quite as addicted to a show as I am to following Garrett McNamara and his larger-than-life adventures. What a rush.
Best read of the summer so far: L. Jon Wertheim’s “Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever.”
Since Costello of the Post clearly has more than enough juice to get the Jets to sign the kid quarterback, couldn’t he have done something about convincing Max Scherzer to agree to a trade to either the Yankees or the Mets?
Joseph Napoleone: There are lookalikes — but also soundalikes. Jim Nantz and Dan Hicks, watching golf, I can never tell if it’s NBC or CBS (if I hear Nick Faldo, then I know it’s CBS).
Vac: The one I’ve always loved is when YES pairs Ken Singleton and John Flaherty. They’re both terrific and sound close enough alike that you’re never quite sure who’s who.
John Cobert: The Yanks got Joey Gallo? That’s Crazy!
Vac: I see what you did there (now proceed directly to the Whacks to continue the theme).
@NYPost_Brazille: St. John’s committed to the Gotham Classic with Pittsburgh a few years ago. That is out of their control now obviously. Didn’t preclude them from playing a team like St. Bonaventure, a game UConn scheduled.
@MikeVacc: Maybe the Johnnies are just a bunch of fraidy cats. Just sayin’.
Kevin Bisaccio: Sunday’s Sox game was the nadir of my career as a pinstripe fan and I go back to 1965. Going from a no-hitter in the 8th to a 5-4 loss was excruciating to watch. More, it’s the way they lose. Bad baserunning, not running out pop flies, swinging for the fences with two strikes while the Sox score five with doubles and singles. Where have you gone Roy White? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you?
Vac: When the regulars start pining for Dooley Womack, that’s when we’ll know things are REALLY in dire straits.