Fort Hamilton names basketball court after late legendary coach

January 16, 2018 Jaime DeJesus
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On Wednesday, January 10, Fort Hamilton High School (FHHS) named its boys’ basketball court after the late Ken Kerns, who coached the school’s basketball team from 1956 to 1985 and won over 300 games for the Tigers.

The effort was spearheaded by Robert Adamski, a Fort Hamilton graduate who served as the basketball team’s manager from 1961 to 1964, and Kern’s wife Lillian, who felt the beloved figure who made a significant impact on all of his players should be honored by the school.

Ultimately, the school decided to raise a banner calling the space “The Coach Ken Kern Court” as well as a plaque made possible by donations from friends, family and former teammates.

Lillian, who flew to Brooklyn from her Florida home, was joined by family members, former teammates and colleagues at the event.

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“This basketball court was his life,” Lillian said as she shed a few tears.

Adamski was thrilled to see the effort finally come to fruition.

“I’m very glad that this is taking place. It’s been a little frustrating because it’s hard to keep track of alumni and people that have moved on to other places,” he said. “But the school has been very cooperative. The principal has been very helpful in terms of keeping this going and arranging for the event to happen.”

Adamski was inspired by the fact that other schools name their courts after coaches. “One of the recent renamings was for Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) at Duke. A lot of people know him so naming the court after him, more will know about him in the future. It’s the same here where our own Coach K, Coach Kern, will be remembered. We have a plaque that students can look at, see what he did and why the court’s named after him.”

Albert King, who was inducted into the FHHS Hall of Fame during the event, played for Kern and was happy to be a part of the ceremony. “It’s great. He didn’t only coach myself but he coached three other members of the King family so we all know what an important coach he was,” King said. “It would’ve been nice if he could’ve been here to see this, but his wife and family are here so that’s great.”

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Principal Kaye Houlihan explained it was a long road with a gratifying ending.

“All these former players that were part of his team felt he wasn’t acknowledged by the school,” she explained. “So we met and set the wheels in motion. The school board, the PTA and the chancellor needed to approve it. It took a while to get the approvals but now it’s all come together during a boy’s basketball game. The players here are excited they get to be here to connect to the former glory of boys’ basketball at Fort Hamilton.”

Former players in attendance also reminisced about their time with the late coach.

“He took me (on the team) as a freshman which was very nice,” said Denis Murphy who played for the team from 1957 to 1961. “I watch college basketball now and these teams don’t know how to break zones. He knew how to break zones. He was very knowledgeable and also very kind to us. He took care of a lot of the kids. I think it’s well deserved and I just wish he was here to see it.”

“I started here in 1965,” said former FHHS physical education coach Joe Pancila. “I worked with Ken and his heart was in helping kids. I saw firsthand he helped the entire King family. Not only them, but he helped so many players. I’m sure he would’ve loved this. His whole life was here.”

During halftime, Adamski and Lillian spoke when the banner was revealed. His late wife blew the same whistle her husband blew to start the second half.

“I know he’s listening and it’s great,” Lillian said. “So many people showed up for him. It’s beautiful.”

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