Gus Alfieri, former St. Anthony’s basketball coach, signs his new memoir The Heart of A Champion at Book Revue on Tuesday, October 18, at 7 p.m.
The Heart of A Champion trumpets the Golden Age of Long Island Basketball, from the late-1950s through the mid-1980s, producing 25-30 division I players. Coach Gus Alfieri took his 1973-1974 St. Anthony’s High School Basketball Team and used it as a microcosm of the era. In this memoir, he describes how he got into basketball, what inspired him to become a high school coach, and how he turned an inexperienced and struggling program into the #1 high school in New York State, #1 Catholic School in the country and the fifth best overall team in the nation. The climax of the book centers around St. Anthony’s defeating Lutheran High School in the first unofficial state tournament, held at Hofstra University before 6,500 basketball enthusiasts. This climatic game was labeled by Larry Sherman of the Long Island Press as, “The Super Bowl of High School Basketball.” Besides giving St. Anthony’s national attention, the victory over Lutheran was the 39th straight win on its way to a 49-game winning streak.
“Heart of a Champion is an outstanding basketball read. It is a well-written life drama of a determined coach who instilled in his players the will and dedication to play as a team and to make good choices in life. Gus Alfieri was one of the best scholastic and college players in the heydays of New York City basketball who took his talents and teaching skills to Long Island and helped to make it a basketball mecca. In reliving the making of a championship team at a small Catholic boy’s school on its way to a 49-game winning streak, Alfieri and his players take you into the drama of each game. As they build their way to the top you feel as if you are on the court with them or in the stands cheering them on. You can feel the tension of each hard-earned victory and the shared joy that accompanies each win,” says Neal Gillen, Washington D.C. attorney/lobbyist/author.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Gus Alfieri has had an illustrious career in basketball, while being equally acclaimed as an educator and literary author. He was the point guard on Hall-of-Fame coach, Joe Lapchick’s 1959 St. John’s NIT Championship Team. Alfieri was named to the St. John’s All-Century team in 2008. In 2006, he accomplished his lifelong goal of writing a book when the biography of his coach, Joe Lapchick was published LAPCHICK. He received his BA and Masters in Education from St. John’s and taught high school social studies for over 35 years on Long Island. Gus began his head coaching career at St. Anthony’s High School in 1968, and in six years led an unheralded team from Long Island to the first New York State championship in 1974, earning St. Anthony’s national recognition. This championship team was the inspiration for his new book, The Heart of a Champion. Gus went on to lead St. Anthony’s to a second state championship in 1979. Gus returned to school for his Ph.D. in American Cultural History at Stony Brook University, and he taught for 14 years in its graduate school. Gus started the first sports book club in the United States; this concept has struck a nerve and has gained national attention. He is the director of the All-American Basketball Camp, which he has maintained for more than forty years; it is his legacy. Gus lives in Smithtown with his wife, Janet & his golden retriever, Jake. He has four children: Ronald, Suzanne, Jill and David. He loves to write and ride his bike.