By Joseph Staszewski
Queens’ rich sports history goes well beyond the professional ranks. The borough is home to two of the nation’s most storied high school gyms and provides fans with numerous sports escapes at the high school and college level.
Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood is home to the Jack Curran gymnasium, where the school’s legendary boys’ basketball coach guided young men for 55 years before dying last March. Curran may no longer be patroling the sidelines, but his presence can still be felt. His name is on the court and a banner with pictures of him hangs in the gym.
If you take a walk through the nearby hallway, there are trophy cases filled with city championship plaques, Coach of the Year awards and photos of Curran with former players Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson, among others. There is not a better place to watch a CHSAA boys’ basketball game on a Friday night. Stanners fans are some of the most passionate and the cozy confines make for a great atmosphere.
Watching a game at Christ the King is a bit different because it is one of the borough’s largest gyms. Its history is just as rich. The Royals have two of the country’s most recognizable boys’ and girls’ basketball programs. The concession stand is also home to the best pizza bagels around.
The school has produced some of the best and most famous women’s basketball players, including Sue Bird, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tina Charles among others. All three have won NCAA national championships and played in the WNBA. The Royals’ girls’ basketball team has won the most New York State Federation titles at 15, including 11 straight from 1990-2000.
Christ the King’s boys’ program has produced NBA players like Lamar Odom, Eric Barkley, Craig ‘Speedy” Claxton and Derrick Phelps, among others. The Royals have won three of the last four CHSAA Class AA intersectional titles and three state Federation crowns.
If basketball isn’t your thing, then maybe check out St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium for some soccer action in the fall.
Both Red Storm teams reached the NCAA tournament last season and the men’s team is one of the nation’s most successful. The fan-friendly Belson Stadium, located in the shadow of Carnesecca Arena, puts you up close to the action where you may get a chance to watch future Major League Soccer players take the pitch. St. John’s alums Chris Wingert and Bill Gaudette are both playing in the league right now. A pre- or post-game meal at Aquista’s Tratoria or the Sly Fox Inn, both of which are located in Flushing, is also advised.
There are plenty of other spots to check out, but you won’t find many that provide the history and atmosphere like these. Be sure not to miss out on taking them in.