Greenwich Sentinel | October 20, 2023 | By Liz Leamy
Allan Houston, iconic NBA All-Star, along with 10 renowned local athletic coaches, were honored by the Greenwich Historical Society at the ‘History in the Making’ Award Dinner held at the Belle Haven Country Club last Thursday.
The affair drew a sold-out crowd with over 250 people in attendance, to celebrate the paramount impact that sports, athletes and coaches have had on our community.
Proceeds from the event support the Historical Society’s exhibitions and education programs which are at the heart of the Greenwich Historical Society’s mission.
Earlier this year, the Historical Society featured the role and impact of sports through local history with its highly acclaimed exhibit ‘Sports! More Than Just a Game’ that ran from March through early September at its campus on Strickland Road in Cos Cob.
The year-long sports theme culminated in last week’s event with a star-studded roster that included several Olympians, World Championship professional athletes, captains of industry, premier local sports coaches, local political figureheads and other champions of the community committed to the role, function and purpose of the Greenwich Historical Society.
The event commenced with the presentation of eight Career Achievement and two Lifetime Achievement awards to extraordinary scholastic and club coaches by Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist and Greenwich resident and Cynthia Chang, Greenwich Historical Society Trustee and Event Committee Co-Chair.
“The power of sport transcends so many barriers,” said Donna de Varona, a founding member of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Seneca Falls Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and Executive Board member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Ultimately, this event was all about individuals convening together to celebrate sports, the great unifier.
Local philanthropic power couple and 2021 History in the Making honorees Barbara and Ray Dalio presented this year’s award to Allan Houston.
“Sports is one of the greatest metaphors for life,” said Houston, who is a U.S. Olympic gold medalist and two-time NBA All-Star who played for the New York Knicks from 1996 to 2005, including 1999, when the team reached the NBA Championship Finals. “It’s all about life lessons and values.”
The presentation was followed by a fireside chat between Houston and fellow Greenwich resident Jon Ledecky, Co-Owner of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders.
During this chat, Houston reflected on his childhood inspirations growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, including his father, Wade Houston, the head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee from 1989 to 1994.
Houston, who lives in Greenwich with his wife, Tamara and their seven children, acknowledged the guidance and strength he had gotten from his parents and how he learned the most by getting out on the court playing in actual games.
Houston, who played for the Detroit Pistons from 1993 to 1996 prior to joining the New York Knicks, recalled the life-changing experience of being part of the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney, Australia where the American basketball contingent he played on won the gold medal.
“Walking into the Olympic stadium behind your flag with all the athletes wearing the same uniform and you’re all together is something I will never forget,” said Houston.
Houston recalled playing under the tutelage of Phil Jackson, the legendary pro basketball coach during his time with the Knicks.
“When Phil Jackson talked about basketball, it was never really about basketball,” said Houston. “It was about harmony, connectedness and values.”
Houston also spoke about the paramount role faith has played and continues to play in his life.
“Faith is the foundation for everything,” said Houston, whose Allan Houston Legacy Foundation created the FISLL Project that is centered around instilling the fundamental values of faith, integrity, sacrifice, leadership and legacy in young people so they reach their full potential.
Debra L. Mecky, Ph.D, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Greenwich Historical Society said, “Sports are a great unifying force in our community. We are fortunate to have such superstars as Allan Houston and Donna de Varona to set examples for our children and a large roster of talented coaches who are dedicated to helping them succeed in sports and life.”
Greenwich Historical Society Career Achievement Honorees:
-Nick Cavataro, YWCA Dolphins
-Pat Coleman, Greenwich Youth Lacrosse
-Sarah Hill, Sacred Heart Greenwich
-Katie Johnson, Greenwich Academy
-Steve Lapham, Greenwich High School
-Terry Lowe, Greenwich High School
-Bill Smith, Greenwich Water Polo
-Jim Stephens, Brunswick School
Greenwich Historical Society Lifetime Achievement Honorees:
-Angela Tammaro, Greenwich Academy
-Jack Jepson (posthumous), Greenwich Country Day School