This year’s NFL draft looks to be a promising one. With the spread of young, new talent entering the league, there is no telling where these young upstarts can take the National Football League. There was a lot of hype, so to speak, surrounding a few players in the draft this year due to the […]
The LaGuardia Red Hawks basketball team started their inaugural season on November 7, 2013 and the anticipation was buzzing on campus. “The closer we come to the season the more excited people are getting,” said Chijoke Ajoku, the small forward for the men’s basketball team, at the time. Rightfully so “the students and Student Government is the reason LaGuardia has a team,” said Brian Goldstein, director of the Department of Athletics and Recreation.
Mr. Goldstein went to the Student Government Association in 2004 and 2007 to ask if they would try to increase student activity fees to help LaGuardia have a budget to financially support a basketball team, and both times he was turned down. In 2012, however, the student government approached him, raising the question on how to bring a college basketball team to LaGuardia. Mr. Goldstein and Assistant Athletic Director Chris Singh revised their budget from 2007 and asked other community colleges with a basketball team what kind of budget they would need to fund a team.
They estimated that the activity fee would have to be increased for full time students to 12 dollars and part time students to six dollars. The fee increase would take care of travel expenses, the cost of buying uniforms, hiring coaches, athletic trainers, and referees. The student activity fee covers all activities outside of the class room, like school clubs. A certain amount of money goes to maintaining recreation facilities such as the student gym. It also supports the Health Services Center, the Early Childhood Learning Center, and all the activities the Office of Campus Life has to offer. Each student pays 65 dollars. It doesn’t come out of their tuition, but an additional fee every student pays.
The idea was presented to the SGA, and it was well received. Now the SGA had to get 10 percent of
students to sign a petition to see if the students wanted to support an increase of the activity fee. In eight days the SGA received 1,700 signatures, the required 10 percent of the school population. Then Mr. Goldstein had to verify with the Registrar’s Office that the signers were all current students. Almost all were the signatures of undergrads. Students voted 2 to1 in favor of increasing the student activity fees, so LaGuardia could have a basketball team.
From there Dr. Gail O. Mellow, the College’s president, signed off. After that the CUNY Board of Trustees’ budget committee had to vote, which they did in favor of the basketball team. Then it had to go to the full Board of Trustees, which also voted to bring a team to LaGuardia. The vote took place on June 23, 2012. Nine days later on July 1, 2012, LaGuardia had a budget for two basketball teams.
Mr. Goldstein created a three year plan for the teams. The first year, last year, was to renovate the gym: new lights, new bleaches, resurface the floor, purchasing a scoreboard, shot clock and scores table. For the past three and a half years, they have worked with Building Operations on planning and design, to put in a new roof in the gym because of its leaking problems when it rains.
“This first year has really been about the structure of the gym, hiring coaches, recruiting, connecting and understanding the rules of NJCAA (the National Junior College Basketball Association) and the CUNY conference,” said Mr. Goldstein. He, Anthony Alfaro, the women’s basketball coach, and Ben Chobhaphand, coach of the men’s team, have put together a staff consisting of admission, financial aid, academic advisors and tutors to work together to make sure the student athlete has the best chance of succeeding off the court. There is study hall each day, and these athletes meet once a week with academic advisory social work interns to work with them because of the rigorous schedule of class, practice and games.
Mr. Chobhaphand was the basketball coach at Forest Hills High School for seven years, starting in 2003. He had an outstanding record of 112-76, which includes a Queens’s borough championship in 2009. That same year, the Queens Courier named him Queens High School Coach of the Year.
After his career with Forest Hills High School, Mr. Chobhaphand took a position as assistant coach of men’s basketball at Nassau Community College, where he was successful in the NJCAA. That year the team finished fifth in the playoffs, making it to the quarterfinals.
Mr. Alfaro is a resident of Queens and a St. John’s University graduate. He began his coaching career in 1996 at American Martyrs Catholic School, a K- 8 school in Bayside, coaching boy’s and girl’s baseball, basketball and softball. All the teams had successful records: in 2003 and 2004 the bantam girls basketball team were the division champs; in 2004 the bantam girls softball team was the Diocesan champs; the following year, the PAL girls 12 and under basketball team took second place in the citywide championships. In 2009, he secured his first high school job as an assistant coach of girls JV softball at Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, and one year later went to Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood as head coach of girls JV basketball. His college women’s basketball career began in 2009, when he was named head coach at Globe Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Who hired the coaches? Mr. Goldstein put together a committee with four students, one of them was a student governor, another a male athlete. The two others were high school athletes, one a NY1 sports award winner, the other became a javelin thrower for Queens College. The head coach of the LaGuardia swim team, Mr. Goldstein, and Mr. Singh completed the group of seven. Fifteen applicants were interviewed out of 80 resumes.