Kaiser Honored With Lapchick Leadership Appreciation Award

Nov. 19, 2009

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    NEW YORK - St. John's Athletics Director Emeritus and Hall of Fame coach Jack Kaiser will be honored with the inaugural Lapchick Leadership Appreciation Award on Thursday at a luncheon at Madison Square Garden, in gratitude for his efforts in fostering the Joe Lapchick Character Awards Program, now in its second year.

    The Lapchick Character Awards program, named for the Hall of Famer, Original Celtic and St. John's and New York Knicks coach Joe Lapchick, was conceived last basketball season to recognize basketball coaches who have shown the character traits and coaching skills of the Hall of Famer and playing and coaching legend.

    The inaugural class of award winners was comprised of another St. John's legend, Lou Carnesecca, in addition to fellow Hall of Famers Pat Summitt of the University of Tennessee and North Carolina's Dean Smith. This year's honorees include John Thompson, who led Georgetown to a national cham¬pionship, Kay Yow, whose courageous fight against cancer never overshadowed her celebrated coach¬ing career, and national high school coaching legend and St. John's grad Jack Curran of Archbishop Molloy. The three will be honored at a luncheon at The Garden on Thursday, and again during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic games that night.

    Kaiser arrived on the St. John's campus as a student-athlete in the fall of 1944. After two years of military service in 1945 and 1946, he returned to Queens and went on to earn varsity letters in baseball, basketball and soccer. He was a captain of the school's first ever College World Series team in 1949 and was honored by Varsity Magazine as the publication's College Player of the Year.

    Upon graduation in 1949, Kaiser simultaneously began careers as a basketball coach at Brooklyn Preparatory School and as a professional baseball player in the Boston Red Sox organization. A leg injury ended his playing career prematurely, but Kaiser remained in the Red Sox organization for two seasons as a manager.

    Kaiser returned to St. John's as an assistant coach for the baseball and basketball teams, under Lapchick, in 1952. He was an assistant coach in the baseball program and coached St. John's freshman and junior varsity basketball teams to a winning percentage over .800.

    Four years later, he began an 18-year Hall of Fame coaching career, leading the St. John's baseball program from 1956 to 1973. He had a remarkable 366-115 career coaching record and led the program to 11 postseason appearances and three College World Series. Joe Russo eventually succeeded Kaiser as head coach at St. John's in 1974 after playing under his direction in the mid-1960's.

    Toward the end of his coaching career, Kaiser became more and more involved in baseball, both in the Northeast Region and nationally. In 1967, he was a co-founder of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL), a league sanctioned by the NCAA and partially funded by Major League Baseball. Two years later, he became the President of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Board of Directors.

    A member of the ABCA and ACBL Halls of Fame, Kaiser also served as president of what was then called the Association of American College Baseball Coaches from 1969 to 1970. The organization was later renamed the ABCA when membership was no longer exclusive to collegiate coaches.

    In the early 1970's, Kaiser became Athletic Director at St. John's, a position he held from 1973 to 1995. In his first year in the position, Kaiser became President of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) Committee in basketball and held that position until 1988. He was still a member through 1995, and has since worked as a consultant for the preseason and postseason events.

    Six years into his tenure as Athletic Director at St. John's, Kaiser was a major influence in the formation of the BIG EAST Conference, a league that has been among the nation's best for over 25 years. Years later, he was instrumental in the formation of the BIG EAST Baseball Conference. For his work, Kaiser has been honored by the BIG EAST at every conference baseball championship since 1985, with the tournament's Most Outstanding Player receiving the Jack Kaiser Award.

    Kaiser is currently part of the ABCA's Veteran Hall of Fame Committee, which is responsible for nominating past players and coaches for Hall of Fame voting, and is the Chairman of the ACBL's Advisory Board.

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