Larabee, Giorgi Honored With 'Frankie' Awards
Al Giorgi, left, and Mike Larabee are seated with their awards. Behind, from left, are presenter Frank Bird, Frank Zoltek's daughters (Heather Regan and Sherri Tracey) and presenter Bill Robinson.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Al Giorgi left no doubt about the source of his passion for basketball.
"My dad was my main coach from kindergarten through eighth grade — really most of my life if you want to count yelling at me from the stands," the younger Giorgi said on Sunday evening at Waubeeka Golf Links. "I hear people say sportsmanship and fair play is what it's all about. Not in my household. It was all about the 'W,' the almighty win.
"We wanted to win at everything we did — basketball, football, checkers, didn't matter."
Al Giorgi and Mike Larabee were awarded the 2014 Frank Zoltek Passion for Coaching Award on Sunday at the golf club's Parsley's Fine Dining.
While Giorgi's 14 years coaching with the North Adams Youth Basketball League is impressive, he has a ways to go to catch up with Larabee, who has 37 years of experience coaching at all levels of youth sports, from third-graders to his time as an assistant varsity coach in three sports at Hoosac Valley High School.
"Two years ago, I nominated [Larabee] for assistant coach of the year in the state of Massachusetts," Hoosac Valley boys basketball head coach Bill Robinson said in presenting Larabee at Sunday's ceremony.
"I found out he won the award, and this guy when he calls me says, 'This guy blows every nomination we've ever got out of the water.' Not only does he assistant coach football at the high school level, baseball at the high school level and basketball at the high school level, he's involved with Little League baseball, he's involved with youth football, he's involved with youth basketball — all at the same time.
"He's helping me coach the varsity at Hoosac Valley, and he's coaching third & fourth and fifth & sixth grade basketball teams."
All that dedication requires a strong supporting cast. And the most emotional moment of the evening came when Larabee's remarks turned to recognizing his family.
"I've got five beautiful kids, five beautiful grandchildren — one more on the way," Larabee said. "It's pretty special to have my kids here and my family here. I don't know where I'd be. ... My wife, she's the strong one. She keeps us together here. Thirty-four years now, and, wow, I don't know what I'd do without you, honey."
Giorgi, who played competitive men's league basketball to age 50, is perhaps best known in town as the commissioner of the John Giorgi Summer Basketball League, which honors his father's memory and provides opportunities for 250 men and women each summer.
Joining Al every night at the outdoor court or inside the North Adams Armory is his wife, Nancy, who serves as the summer league's official photographer.
The couple's children were the inspiration for Al to get into coaching.
"First practice I brought my son Conner to as a third- grader, he was coached by two nice guys, but neither one had a clue what they were doing," he said. "They were showing them how to press on their very first day of practice. I said to myself, 'This is so wrong in so many ways.'
"One day I saw my good friend and teammate Jack Racette at the Armory, and I complained to him about coaching in youth basketball. He said to me, 'If you don't like it, do something about it.' Well, here I am 13 years later."
While Sunday's festivities recognized Giorgi and Larabee, the golf tournament and banquet are all about honoring Zoltek, a coaching legend who helped mold generations of young athletes in North Adams high schools, the former North Adams State College (now MCLA) and Williams College.
"[Giorgi and Larabee] are great coaches, and before them there were many other great coaches," Waubeeka owner Mike Deep said. "No disrespect, but you weren't as good as Frankie Zoltek.
"Frankie was special, and all of us were just so lucky to know him. I'm so glad Ed [Noel] keeps Frankie's name alive."
Ed Noel, another giant of the North Adams coaching community, is the founder and chairman of the award committee.
The award is part of a daylong event at Waubeeka to raise money for the Frank Zoltek Memorial Scholarship Fund. Noel said on Sunday that this year saw more teams than ever — 24 — enter the tournament.
The teams were broken up into four six-team divisions with team Gelhieser taking overall top honors with an 18-hole score of 56.
Other first- and second-place teams were:
Rory Mcilroy Division: Team Gelhieser 56, Team Pietras 62.
Gary Player Division: Team Nichols 62, Team Vanoni 63.
Jack Nicklaus Division: Team Marsh 60, Team Judge 60.
Arnold Palmer Division: Team Rose 66, Team Larabee 69.
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