A Game To Remember

They Play In His Memory
The “six degrees of separation” game associated with the actor Kevin Bacon is easy to play when it comes to Kevin Driscoll, Jr.
Whether at a ceremony to unveil his memorial bench back in 2022, or at basketball games held in his name, only one degree separates the Manhasset resident from the numerous friends and former teammates who gather to remember and reflect and keep his spirit alive.
And, as a bonus, have fun on the basketball court.
The Christmas break is the time for the Kevin Driscoll, Jr. Memorial Game (or Tournament), contested in Immaculata Hall at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset. Kevin Sr. graduated from the school in 1982 and turned his lifelong love of basketball into coaching the sport in the school’s popular CYO program.
Kevin Jr. played for his father for years and after his untimely passing from fentanyl poisoning in May 2020, just before his graduation from Manhasset High School, Kevin Sr. started the game partially at the urging of his son’s CYO teammates. It usually pits the members of teams he formerly coached versus his current players.
After years of guiding as many as two teams in each CYO campaign, Kevin Sr. opted not to coach this season. Nonetheless, there was no problem rounding up two squads’ worth of players.
Kevin Sr. coached the “home” team in blue, while his friend Jim Hilker of Garden City guided the white-clad “guests,” with all uniforms bearing the players’ names. They met on a late December afternoon and the “home” team won this contest, 57-52.
As if to emphasize the solemn nature of the occasion, a moment of silence was held before the tip-off. Honored, in addition to Kevin Jr., were former Manhasset resident, St. Mary’s alumnus and September 11 terror victim Timothy Coughlin, along with Manhasset and Duke basketball standout Thomas Emma. Manhasset resident Frank Coughlin, brother of Tim, sang the National Anthem.
Referees were Tommy Sheehan and Jerry Paolillo, while Tim Welsh was the scorekeeper.
Jack “Blackjack” Ryan of the Harlem Wizards showed off his ball control wizardry at halftime. A longtime friend of Kevin Sr., he will entertain fans next month at the NBA All-Star Game activities in Indianapolis.
“Blackjack” has another connection to Manhasset, having participated at the camps run by Manhasset varsity basketball coach George Bruns.
Ryan called on Noah Parlance, 9, of Greenlawn, to assist him with a couple of tricks. Noah’s father, Tim, is a friend and colleague of Kevin Sr. in NYC’s commercial real estate. Noah’s mom, Amy, and sisters Mina and Move were also on hand.
Ryan then challenged a player to a 3-point shooting contest, boasting that he had not lost such a challenge since 1977. If true, something historic happened this night. Teammates chose Connor Dunphy, a classmate of Kevin Jr.’s, and currently a senior at Clemson University, to go against the Wizard. He sank all five “treys” while Ryan missed a couple, to the crowd’s delight.
“I’m gonna have nightmares tonight,” Ryan said to laughter, and promised Kevin Sr. he would make a return appearance to get his crown back from Dunphy.
“I doubt it,” Dunphy smiled when asked if he thought Ryan really had not lost since 1977, adding, “I was feeling the pressure. [But] it was great fun and a cool experience.”
“[Kevin’s death] was a tragic event, so it’s good to keep it in our minds,” Dunphy reflected. “Everyone that plays is one of Kevin’s friends and teammates. It’s a great experience for everyone and it gets the [CYO] team that we played on back together.”
Dunphy, who played basketball and lacrosse at Manhasset, remembered a bus trip to a Nets game at the Barclays Arena organized by Kevin Sr. for his CYO squad. It was just before the pandemic shut everything down.
“I wasn’t really close to Kevin Jr., but we sat together and talking to him all that time was awesome,” Dunphy said, adding that as long as he remains in the area, he hopes to take part in the game.
“It’s a great event for a great cause and we love to do it every year,” Dunphy affirmed.
“I know the game means a lot to Mr. Driscoll,” added Carmine Falco, a Class of 2022 Manhasset grad and member of Driscoll’s CYO teams. “He meant a lot in my life and is very important to me. We had a great time playing the game that Kevin Jr. loved.”
Falco, a defender and two-year starter on the Columbia University soccer team, has an enduring memory of Kevin Jr.
“He would always walk around the [school] halls with a smile,” he said.
“Every year the Kevin Driscoll Memorial Game is played to bring friends and family from the Manhasset community together to honor Kevin through a fun and light-hearted game of basketball,” said Marc Psylos, who played 15 games last fall for the Cornell University lacrosse squad, specializing in face-offs. “There have been a lot of relationships built within the teams and this game gives us an opportunity to appreciate those connections while keeping Kevin in our hearts. Kevin was a truly kind and welcoming person who made a positive impact on everyone he interacted with.”
Tim Barrett, a senior at Boston University and member of its lacrosse squad, also played with Kevin Jr. on the CYO team.
“He was a great, fun guy to be around,” he said of his classmate. “He made people laugh. You could talk about anything with him.”
“Young Kevin was a wonderful young man,” said Bobby Anastasia, who served as game announcer. “Kevin Sr. has been a dear friend of mine since we were kids, and this is a wonderful way for him to honor the memory of his son.”
Anastasia lauded Kevin Sr. and wife Victoria for providing the uniforms and commemorative sweaters given to every participant, as well as sponsoring an annual scholarship in their son’s honor.
For information about the scholarship and to make a contribution contact Kevin Sr. at [email protected]

The Coaches Talk
Jim Hilker met Kevin Sr. at the New York Athletic Club, where both were members. A 1976 graduate of Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, he was impressed when Kevin Sr. remembered him and other players from his squad, though six years separated them.
“Kevin is a special person,” said Hilker, noting that his friend helped him through a personal crisis even while dealing with the grief of losing a child. “He tries to help all the youth in the community. He’s a very giving guy.”
Though he earned a basketball scholarship to St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Hilker had never coached before Kevin Sr. asked him to be his assistant in the CYO league. Hilker’s high school coach, Bob McKillop, went on to coach NBA superstar Steph Curry at Davidson.
“[Curry] could shoot, but Coach McKillop taught him the fundamentals,” Hilker observed.
Hilker got to experience another great basketball mind when he moved to NYC after college and a friend got him involved in pick-up games with retired Knick Phil Jackson. This was, of course, well before Jackson’s fabled coaching career that saw him win 11 championship rings.
“[Phil] had me playing on his travel team. We went upstate and played [retired] NBA guys he knew. He was a real classy guy,” Hilker, who has spent a career in the moving and storage business, said.
He noted that he learned from Kevin Sr. that coaching CYO was different than coaching scholastic teams.
“In high school sports, you have to listen to the coach because you want to be on the team,” he said. “As Kevin pointed out, in CYO you have to make the game enjoyable. It’s the last organized game they’ll ever play, and you have to be more tolerant.”
Kevin Sr. underlined his coaching philosophy, noting that coaches in his youth did not make the game enjoyable.
“I wanted to do the opposite of that,” he said. “I tell all my players that it’s supposed to be fun. Some coaches take it far too seriously.”
“I believe you coach to the level of your players,” Kevin Sr. summed up his approach.
He said a couple of his CYO players have made varsity basketball at Manhasset High School and were not available to play.
Ultimately, this memorial afternoon was a chance for his current and former players and friends of his son to gather, remember, laugh and cheer each other on.
And, as Jack Ryan noted in a text to Kevin Sr., part of his mandate as a coach and mentor to youth is to “to bring attention to the very serious problem of drugs” which are a “plague in rich and poor communities, black and white.”
He added, “I think you’re bringing an awareness to Manhasset like no one else has ever done in the past.”
Even players who could not make it to the game, Kevin Sr. related, kept his son’s memory in their thoughts.
One told him he had gotten a tattoo to memorialize Kevin Jr. Another, Richard Montague, loved basketball and to participate in the memorial game, but sickness kept him away. Nonetheless, he had visited the memorial bench at nearby Memorial Park that day and sent Kevin Sr. a photo of the occasion, wearing the commemorative sweatshirt.
“Always representing! Forever brother,” Montague texted, adding a prayer emoji.
It was all a part of the narrow degree of separation.


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