Honoring the Legacy of Black Basketball Coaches on the East End - 27 East

Honoring the Legacy of Black Basketball Coaches on the East End

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Carl Johnson coaching the Killer Bees during the New York State Class D semifinal.    MICHAEL HELLER

Carl Johnson coaching the Killer Bees during the New York State Class D semifinal. MICHAEL HELLER

Carl Johnson coaching during the 2015 state playoffs.    CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johnson coaching during the 2015 state playoffs. CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johnson hoists the 2015 state championship plaque.    CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johnson hoists the 2015 state championship plaque. CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johson and the Killer Bees being presented with the 2015 state championship.   CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johson and the Killer Bees being presented with the 2015 state championship. CAILIN RILEY

Ron Gholson, center, a Bridgehampton alum, has been a longtime coach within the Westhampton Beach school district.    MICHAEL O'CONNOR

Ron Gholson, center, a Bridgehampton alum, has been a longtime coach within the Westhampton Beach school district. MICHAEL O'CONNOR

Ron White coaching the Killer Bees during their latest Suffolk County Championship this past winter.    RON ESPOSITO

Ron White coaching the Killer Bees during their latest Suffolk County Championship this past winter. RON ESPOSITO

Southampton boys basketball head coach Herm Lamison.    RON ESPOSITO

Southampton boys basketball head coach Herm Lamison. RON ESPOSITO

Southampton head coach Herm Lamison.   RON ESPOSITO

Southampton head coach Herm Lamison. RON ESPOSITO

Nick Thomas coaching the Center Moriches Red Devils in 2019.   CAILIN RILEY

Nick Thomas coaching the Center Moriches Red Devils in 2019. CAILIN RILEY

Ron White     MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White     MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White     MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White MARIANNE BARNETT

Longtime Southampton girls basketball head coach Richard

Longtime Southampton girls basketball head coach Richard "Juni" Wingfield. RON ESPOSITO

Richard

Richard "Juni" Wingfield

authorCailin Riley on May 31, 2023

They have hoisted state championship plaques over their heads, gone undefeated in league play, and won, between them, multiple league, county, Small Schools and Long Island titles, not to mention various Coach of the Year accolades.

And that’s just what they’ve done on the court.

For more than 30 years, Richard “Juni” Wingfield, Carl Johnson, Herm Lamison, Nick Thomas, Ron Gholson and Ronnie White have combined to create a legacy of excellence when it comes to high school basketball on the East End, and on Saturday, June 3, the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center will recognize their achievements and their impact on the community in a special event at the Center that will kick off at 1 p.m., honoring Black coaches on the East End.

There is no better place than the Center to bring together the group of coaches, because it is, for many of the great basketball coaches and players that have thrived here over the years, where it all began.

“A lot of them played against each other at the Center years ago, so for them, this is like coming home,” said Center Executive Director Bonnie M. Cannon.

Finding a way to honor the coaches was long overdue, she added.

“The Center is a historically Black institution, and anybody that knows anything about the Center and the Bridgehampton community knows that it’s always been about basketball,” she said. “So it seemed like it was very appropriate, since we now have adequate facilities to do special things like this that we’ve always wanted to do.”

The six men who will be honored on Saturday truly constitute an All-Star lineup.

Johnson coached the Bridgehampton Killer Bees basketball team for nearly 25 years before retiring in 2017, leading them to nine Class D state championships. Johnson also attended Bridgehampton High School and led the team to three state championships in 1978, 1979 and 1980 as the star point guard.

Lamison was a star guard/forward for Southampton High School coach Joe Romanosky Sr., serving as captain and the second-leading scorer for the Mariners when they won both the league and Long Island Class C Championship in 1980. Johnson and Lamison had a bond that was forged before they faced each other on opposing sidelines, due in large part to Lamison’s family roots, on his mother’s side, in the Bridgehampton community.

Much like Lamison and Johnson, Thomas, Gholson and White also grew up playing pickup games and spending many hours of their youth on the courts at the Center. All three played at Bridgehampton and were part of state championship teams.

Gholson served as an assistant coach for the undefeated Westhampton Beach boys basketball team, which went 28-0 and won the state and federation championship in the 1997-98 season.

Thomas turned the Center Moriches boys basketball team into a powerhouse during the time he coached there and making it to the state Final Four in both 2017 and 2019, and was on the verge of doing so in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

White is the current coach at Bridgehampton, where he took over the reins from Johnson after his retirement, and he led the Killer Bees to multiple Suffolk County Championships in his short tenure, falling a win shy of a trip to states the past two years, losing in the Regional Finals to Chapel Field.

Wingfield is the elder statesman of the group, and has been a mentor to many, including Lamison. Wingfield has coached the Southampton varsity girls basketball program for decades, leading the Mariners to multiple league, county and Long Island titles, as well as state Final Four appearances.

Lamison said being part of the group of coaches and being honored publicly together by the Center is something he’s looking forward to.

“I spent a lot of time growing up in Bridgehampton, playing a lot of basketball at the Center, and coming back to the Center where they’re honoring local people who have had a strong impact on the community is really honorable and humbling,” he said. “Starting out on this journey, I had mentors before me like Juni and the late great Reverend Marvin Dozier, and seeing the work they were doing within the communities, particularly for Black kids in the community, but really for all kids, growing up around those types of people and the impact they had on me growing up, it felt at some point like they molded me and mentored me to do the same type of work they’re trying to do.”

Thomas said it’s an “honor” to be recognized, and expressed what coaching has meant to him over the years.

“Coaching has afforded me an opportunity to pay my love of the game forward,” he said. “But even more importantly, it has provided a platform to make a difference and lifelong impact.”

Gholson, who has coached for 34 years, expressed gratitude for everything the sport has given him and enabled him to do.

“I’ve been blessed that the game of basketball has given me the opportunity to touch the lives of so many student athletes,” he said.

Johnson summed up his thoughts about coaching and community that embody the spirit of everything the Center is about.

“I always believed that a supportive family, your faith and a supportive community is vital to an individual’s success,” he said. “With all three working, anyone can achieve their goals.”

Lamison, who has worked as a police officer in Southampton Village for more than 30 years and has also coached the Southampton boys varsity basketball team for 32 years, expressed the same sentiments as his peers, saying that coaching has been about much more than just teaching the game of basketball to youth.

“It’s about trying to be a good role model,” he said. “It makes me even more proud when I see kids graduating and going into police work or coaching. It really warms my heart to see that I had some type of impact on kids and their careers and futures.”

Lamison said that bringing the group of coaches together to honor their legacy is also gratifying because, over the years, East End high school basketball teams haven’t gotten the credit they deserve for being consistently excellent.

“The East End, overall, has been shortchanged in representation,” he said. “When you think about it, basketball really started out here in the ’60s with [Clarence “Foots” Walker], Juni Wingfield, Terry McNamara and those teams that really put basketball on the map out here.”

He pointed out that the programs from East Hampton, Pierson, Bridgehampton and Southampton all have strong and impressive winning traditions, which has to do, in large part, with the excellent coaches who have led those programs over the years.

“We do more than hold our own on the East End,” he added. “And it’s high time the rest of Long Island recognizes that.”

Saturday’s event will surely help in that effort, but also aims to recognize Wingfield, Johnson, Lamison, Thomas, Gholson and White for the lasting impacts they’ve had on their players, teams and communities.

“It’s time we bring these great coaches together that have instilled so much into all the youth in this community not just from an athletic standpoint, but from a character building and moral standpoint, too,” Cannon said. “This is something we wanted to do for them, to recognize them and give them all they deserve while they’re still alive.”

Wingfield, who has always been known for his way with words and for sharing bits of wisdom with his players, perhaps summed it up best.

“A good coach can change a game,” he said. “Great coaches can change a life.”

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