Hoop Greats Unite For Cause

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For over a decade, Hoops 4 Hope, a not-for-profit founded in part by East Hampton resident Mark Crandall, has drawn the widespread support of the basketball community for its work towards social change and youth development in South Africa and Zimbabwe. And this Saturday’s 10th annual summer benefit at the Bridgehampton home of sports columnist Mike Lupica, is no different.

The benefit for Hoops 4 Hope boasts an all-star roster of basketball coaches this year, ranging from the best in college basketball to the champions of the NBA. Doc Rivers, coach of the 2008 NBA Championship Boston Celtics team, will be on hand, as will 2008 NCAA Division I National Champion Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self, of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Basketball coaching legend Larry Brown, coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, as well as Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson and Memphis coach John Calipari are also on the roster for the benefit party.

This year’s event also features a special one-on-one question and answer with the venerable coaches, conducted by Lupica himself, but will encompass a night devoted to sports and social change with a highlight on Africa — the continent where Hoops 4 Hope has had a profound impact since its founding in 1995. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and live and silent auctions featuring African art, one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia, and even a round of golf with Brown and Rivers will also accompany the evening.

One aspect of the event that is being put off this summer is the annual basketball clinic, which has drawn massive crowds of local children seeking some one-on-one basketball tips from coaches like Rivers and Brown. 

“It is unfortunate,” noted Crandall. “But it is very difficult for us to have two big events like that on the same day. We are going to have another big, kid event in the fall, but we needed to focus on the fundraiser, which is our opportunity to raise the money we need for 150 schools and children’s shelters that rely on our programs. This is our big night for fundraising, and we are so lucky to have such an amazing group of dynamic coaches who have been willing to help us.”

But it seems the program has had a profound effect on the very coaches who support it, including Rivers, who will be honored with the Hoops 4 Hope Ubuntu Award at Saturday’s fundraiser.

Four years ago, Rivers struck up a friendship with South African Coach Thierry Kita, explained Crandall. Kita joined Rivers and the Celtics in Boston regularly and joined the team, with Crandall in tow, during last year’s pre-season in London. Rivers, inspired by a Desmond Tutu book he had just finished, was intrigued at the concept of “ubuntu,” a humanist philosophy that focuses on allegiance and relationships between people, in essence a belief that humanity is tied together, said Crandall.

Rivers, with Kita’s help, employed ubuntu as a coaching technique, and during their championship season the Boston Celtics could be heard invoking ubuntu in huddle.

Reaching over 100,000 children in Africa is by far the more important impact for Crandall. While Hoops 4 Hope employs basketball as a method to teach basic tools that help children learn to work as a team, its influence stretches off the court and into the classroom where they teach HIV/AIDS prevention, and have developed curriculum focused on issues like drug abuse and crime, conflict resolution and gender studies.

The Hoops 4 Hope benefit will be held Saturday, July 26 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Taylor and Mike Lupica’s Bridgehampton home. For tickets, which start at $250, or more information call 267-8682 or e-mail hoops4hope@mac.com.

Photos courtesy of Hoops 4 Hope. 

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Kathryn G. Menu is the editor and co-publisher of The Sag Harbor Express and The Express Magazine.

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