Lisa Smith is certain she could still hold her own on the basketball court. She’s not all that interested, however, in the running part of the game.
Luckily, the former Hempstead star didn’t have to run anywhere on Wednesday night. Instead, she moved from table to table, shaking hands with a smile on her face, as one of 29 people inducted into the fourth class of the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
“It’s greatness,” Smith said of the night. “I’m going in the Hall of Fame with some top honorees. That, in and of itself, is wonderful.”
Smith, who graduated from Hempstead in 1983, had one of the most legendary basketball careers in Long Island history. She scored 2,418 points in four years on varsity, leading the Tigers to a 92-3 record, including four Nassau titles, two state championships and one Federation title in 1982. At one point in her career, Hempstead won 52 straight games.
“From the Long Island championships to the state championships, it was a great run,” Smith said. “With my teammates and my coaches, I really came from a good, grounded foundation at Hempstead.”
Smith played other sports, dabbling in volleyball and lacrosse, but basketball was always her passion. She competed on the Salvation Army boys travel team when she was young, thriving on competition and fine-tuning her jump shot.
Smith has had a few months to process the Hall of Fame induction. She and her fellow honorees were first announced during an event at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in May, but the shine hasn’t worn off. Smith doubts it ever will.
“To be recognized after so many years of being out of high school and winning so much on Long Island, it’s incredible,” she said.
Smith wasn’t the only one reminiscing.
Former Port Washington coach and current athletic director Stephanie Joannon talked animatedly about her early teams, including the first soccer and softball teams at the school. Those days were, sometimes, challenging, but they were also fun and she can still remember each victory.
“I felt like I was a kid doing it,” said Joannon, who started coaching out of college and became the first female coach in Nassau County to win 300 games. “I remember the athletes and those teams like it was yesterday.”
The stories continued throughout the night, championships recounted and moments shared. This year’s honorees spanned generations and sports, but one thing remained the same, no matter their background. They were grateful to be recognized.
“I didn’t think I’d make it, I’m 80 years old,” said Paul Rochester, a Sewanhaka graduate who spent time in the NFL and won a Super Bowl championship with the Jets in 1969. “It means the world.”
Rochester wasn’t the only professional athlete inducted. He was joined by fellow Sewanhaka alum and former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, as well as current Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach and Hempstead graduate Rob Moore. Former Southern Methodist University coach Larry Brown, who played his high school ball at Long Beach, was also honored.
No matter what level their careers took, however, this year’s Hall of Fame class was thrilled with the brand-new asterisk by their name and their collective impact on athletics in Nassau County.
“It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” longtime Jericho basketball coach Wally Bachman said. “I feel like I’m at the top of the mountain and I just want to stay there and smile at everybody.”
2018 NASSAU HIGH SCHOOL
ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Lou Andre (football coach, Massapequa and Lawrence); Wally Bachman (basketball coach, Valley Stream North and Jericho); Al Bevilacqua (wrestling coach, Massapequ); Colbert Britt Jr. (football and track, Malverne); Larry Brown (basketball, Long Beach); Tom Casey Sr. (football, basketball and basketball, Great Neck); Christine Curtin (cross-country and track, Mepham); Doc Dougherty (football and lacrosse coach, Garden City); Audrey Erickson (athlete, coach and official, Garden City); Herb Fitgibbon (tennis, Garden City); Paul Gillespie (wrestling coach, Long Beach); Jerry Jewell (basketball and football coach, Levittown and Division); Stephanie Joannon (soccer, basketball and softball coach, Port Washington); Dennis Kornfield (track coach, Uniondale); Rob Moore (football, basketball, track and lacrosse, Hempstead); Bob Moran (baseball and basketball coach, New Hyde Park): Bob Reifsnyder (football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, Baldwin); Paul Rochester (football, lacrosse, Sewanhaka); Jack Salerno (football, lacrosse, lacrosse coach, Sewanhaka); Charles Schlegel (swim coach, Uniondale); Barba Sellers (field hockey coach, administrator, Cold Spring Harbor); Lisa Smith (basketball, Hempstead); Beaver Smith (basketball, South Side); Ann Sullivan (swimming and diving coach, Garden City); Marie Terc (softball umpire, volleyball and basketball official); Vinny Testaverde (football, Sewanhaka); Bob Wolff (broadcaster); Frank Zachmann (football, basketball, baseball and track, Baldwin)