A pair of Queens youth basketball coaches were announced as two of five finalists for the Jr. Knicks Coach of the Year Award, presented by Hospital for Special Surgery.
Joann Pinnock, of Springfield Gardens, and Jason Curry, who grew up in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, share the love of basketball and supporting athletes of all levels both on and off the court.
Pinnock, a varsity coach for The Mary Louis Academy located in the Jamaica Estates, has been serving her local community for almost 30 years, where she runs her program, Positive Direction.
“I started Positive Direction in 1991, a non-profit organization for both boys and girls, where we start at age 4 and go all the way up to 17 years old,” said Pinnock. “We have a fundamental program teaching children how to play, and we have travel teams where they can participate and compete on a higher level.”
According to Pinnock, the children travel on tournaments within and outside of New York City, as well as New Orleans and North Carolina, where they have the opportunity to compete and play in front of college coaches for scholarships. The program also provides tutoring and mentoring for kids with their academics.
Pinnock learned the game of basketball from her father at a young age, and she is motivated everyday to teach the game to others.
“I love what I do. I love teaching making sure the kids not only love the game of basketball, but learning the game of life,” said Pinnock. “My goal isn’t to see how many championships we win, but to see how many successful young men and young ladies we can have to produce from our program…it’s something to watch because basketball started it, but it teaches other life skills that’s very important.”
Additionally, her biggest influence in the community is supporting fundraising efforts for The Lupus Foundation of America and developing Ladies Only mentoring sessions, where women empower each other and talk about their experience playing high school and college level basketball.
Meanwhile, Jason Curry, founder and president of Big Apple Basketball, which serves 350 kids between the ages of 7 to 18 years old, has been helping to build strong communities by reaching out to other community groups.
Curry founded Big Apple Basketball in 1999, which assists young people in their athletic, educational, professional, and life skill development, while providing family and community focused programs and events. Additionally, Curry launched the youth program in 2003, which includes free clinic services to underprivileged children who may not normally be able to afford them.
“There are various things we do under the umbrella of our youth programs. Currently we have a high school challenge, an high school invitational, and a basketball training and mentoring program, running under the umbrella of Big Apple Basketball,” said Curry.
According to Curry, a lot of the programs have been operating at schools with gyms such as Hunter College High School, Xavier High School, and Baruch College in Manhattan, as of recent.
“Because we haven’t had a lot of funding to pay for facilities, a lot of times we’re reliant on relationships that we can utilize and leverage at times to get a donated facility,” said Curry. “There have been times recently where we have been able to serve programs in the Forest Hills area, specifically collaborating with other local youth programs. It’s something that I’m hoping to be able to expand on to be able to get a donated facility here in queens to offer more of our services.”
Curry believes this opportunity will help the organization with much needed funding and financial resources to continue helping kids in the community.
For Curry, it’s a tremendous honor to be one of the finalist for the Coach of the Year Award.
“Whenever I think about the work I do in the community with Big Apple Basketball, it’s not contingent upon receiving honors but it’s always about what I can do to be able to help others achieve their goals through basketball,” said Curry. “When there are opportunities for myself and the organization to be recognized in the capacity like this, it’s a great honor… It gives us a platform to continue to be able to spread the word about what we do at Big Apple Basketball and our work in the community, and hopefully use this to propel other opportunities that will help us to be able to help others.”