By Jerry Del Priore
When Bill Lynch, a longtime recreational director with the New York City Parks Department, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 61 in January, Ed Auguste felt compelled to do something to honor his memory.
On his death bed, Lynch told Auguste, another a parks rec director, that he needed to carry the torch as the new commish. It was a nickname Lynch garnered through his deep community ties that he formed, and the tireless work of organizing countless basketball leagues for players of all ages throughout the five boroughs.
On Saturday, the same day as Lynch’s birthday, Auguste, with the help of community members, held the first annual Bill Lynch Memorial Classic Girls 17U Basketball Tournament at Hamilton Fish Park—where the two worked for five years—on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside.
It was Auguste’s way, he said, of celebrating the memory of a man who mentored him in basketball refereeing and taught him the rec league ropes. Plus, more importantly, was a positive guiding force in his life.
“He gave me the blueprint and the tools to learn how to run these leagues,” Auguste, 36, said. “So, I’m paying homage to him and keeping his legacy and memory going.
“He was more than just a co-worker. He was a father and a role model to me.”
Lynch’s daughter, Allison flew in from Florida for the special event, which, she said, was bittersweet for her. However, once the action tipped off, she began to channel her dad and his everlasting love for the game and the children he served.
“Well, it was very overwhelming,” Allison said of the feeling she experienced at the beginning of the tournament. “But once they started playing, I started embracing him, I started becoming him. I started feeling that passion he had for the kids. It didn’t mean anything for him about a paycheck. This is what he was here for—for the kids.”
The hope is to turn the tournament into a full-fledged girls’ basketball summer league next year, according to both Auguste and Allison.
The ML Gators dribbled away with the tournament’s first-place trophy, beating Alfred E. Rec Center, 33-15, in its first game and Millennium Phoenix, 31-15, in its second tilt of the day.
Millennium’s Shakina Riddick, who plays for the PSAL’s Seward Park Campus, captured the tournament’s merit award for her outstanding performance and stellar sportsmanship.
Tournament officials awarded the Gators’ Kayla Bridgeman, due to her excellent play, with two tickets to see the New York Liberty take on the Los Angeles Sparks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.