By Joseph Staszewski
Jonathan Cooper learned a lot from being Charles Granby’s junior varsity coach the last four seasons. One thing the legendary Campus Magnet boys’ basketball headman always stressed to him was that good things come in time and with hard work.
It is the approach Cooper is taking as he grabs the helm of the Bulldogs from Granby, who retired last season after 45 years on the bench. Cooper and this season’s roster want to begin the revival of the once proud program that has fallen on hard times in recent years. They understand it is not going to happen overnight.
“He always spoke about being patient and letting things come. Sometimes we try to rush things,” Cooper said of Granby.
Cooper, who played his high school ball at Springfield Gardens and Oak Hill Academy, knows he can’t replace Granby, who won 721 games in his career. He has, however, intensified Granby’s emphasis on academics, but in the players’ mind Cooper has also raised the team’s intensity level with his energy and up-tempo style.
“We are way more intense than last year,” senior forward Clifford Jones said. “If we had played like this, we would have had a better run last year. This year it will be even better.”
Campus Magnet, which was 4-12 last season, showed the heart and determination they talked about in a loss to defending PSAL Queens champion Construction last week. The Bulldogs kept fighting despite being down 20 points in the second half. They won their second league game, besting Bayside 62-59 two days later.
Versatile junior forward Jamel Kearney is an early bright spot and guards Linton Brown, Koron Williams and Lovelle Ince will make up a strong backcourt. The players want to change the perception of the program around New York City. “We are trying to make it better for Campus,” Jones said. “I am tired of people clowning on us, saying, ‘Oh, it’s the same old Campus. They aren’t anything.’ Now we have to show them our best.”
Cooper is going to give them his. He got into teaching after herniated disks in his back ended his potential college career. He was an assistant coach under Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace for a year and half before stepping away to get his masters degree. Cooper relishes the chance to influence young people’s lives and help lead Campus Magnet back to prominence.
“My expectations are high,” he said. “I know the city and the state, the in crowd as far as the teams doesn’t expect us to do real well, but I expect us to do well.”
The difference in the Bulldogs’ demeanor was noticeable to Construction coach Cory Semper, who has elevated both the Bayside and Construction programs in his career. The team playing harder sets the foundation to turning the program back into a winner. Building on that, as Granby preached will take time.
“Taking over for him is hard because the expectations in the city and in the school are rough,” Cooper said. “We are taking it slow.”