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Gym session holds sports history and summer fun at Concord’s Bishop Brady

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, splits athletes into two teams for a morning scrimmage at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, posts up to help Riley Bennett, 19, with her shooting during an open shooting session at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Bennett learned to play basketball from Hardiman as a child and will play for Norwich University this fall. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Girls' basketball coach Annie Alosa (center) talks with one of her players, Sam Will, while Lauren Roy shoots during an open gym session at Bishop Brady High School on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, receives a goodbye hug from Sam Will on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in the gymnasium named in his honor at Bishop Brady High School. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Girls' basketball coach Annie Alosa during an open gym session at Bishop Brady High School on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Alosa opens the gym in the mornings during the summer for her athletes. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, keeps score and encourages players during a morning scrimmage at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, splits athletes into two teams for a morning scrimmage at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, works with basketball athletes during an open shooting and scrimmage session at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Tom Hardiman, 87, posts up to help Riley Bennett, 19, with her shooting during an open shooting session at Bishop Brady High School in the gymnasium named in his honor on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Bennett learned to play basketball from Hardiman as a child and will play for Norwich University this fall. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Friday, August 04, 2017

The young woman with the dark eyes and big smile unlocked the back door at Bishop Brady High School, as she does each morning at 6:45, then flicked on the lights in the gym.

Soon, Brady girls filed in, wiping sleep from their eyes, ready to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Annie Alosa, Brady’s girls’ basketball coach and athletic director, didn’t say much. She simply let the girls shoot and tracked their progress, trying to give them an edge before the season opener in a few months.

By 8:30 a.m., an older gentleman entered the gym and waited by the stage for his turn. He was working a piece of gum and wearing a smooth blue shirt and dark slacks, with a whistle around his neck and loyalty to his alma mater in his heart.

By 9, Tommy Hardiman’s players, male and female, were on the court, flipping the ball during layup drills, before becoming a blur in a full-court scrimmage that is equal parts chaos and control.

Hardiman got the ball rolling nine years ago, continuing a tradition that’s been part of the Brady culture forever, the one about opening the gym during off hours and letting the kids play.

“We don’t publicize it,” Hardiman said, “and that’s good in a way, because the kids who show up get more action.”

The best form of advertising in this case is immersed in these two last names. Alosa and Hardiman.

They are giants, Green Giants in this case, as in the school’s mascot, but also as in sports history, and stature as well.

What’s in a name, you ask? Annie Alosa’s name stands tall by itself, as a college player at Plymouth State College, and now as a coach, in her second year at Brady.

Her uncle is Frank Alosa, the fiery Granite State Raider AAU coach who, legend says, once pulled out his tooth after it had been knocked loose while playing for the Green Giants, then kept right on playing. He averaged 37 points a game at Brady in the mid-1960s, and his son, Matt Alosa, Annie’s cousin, was a scoring machine at the University of New Hampshire in the ’90s.

Annie’s grandfather, meanwhile, was the late Bud Luckern, one of the city’s great hockey figures as Brady’s coach 30 years ago. Luckern used to open Everett Arena on Christmas Eve, and the family would skate and play hockey. One of the players was Annie’s late uncle, Cecil Luckern, who played hockey at the University of New Hampshire.

There are more names here, more history, but you get the idea. As Annie told me while her girls shot, “My whole family are Brady alums. I’m honored to be part of the Brady legacy, building Giant pride.”

It’s perfect, really, that Alosa starts her days with the sound of sneakers squeaking on a polished gym floor. She was a gym rat herself as a kid, waking at 6 each summer morning to shoot at city parks while her father, Sal Alosa, rebounded for her.

Now, after serving as an assistant coach at UMass Lowell and head coach at Salem High, she was preparing the Brady girls and getting an early start, months before the season starts.

“With girls, it’s important to build confidence with just getting the ball in their hands,” Alosa said. “Confidence and repetition.”

Alosa added, “Shooting is in my blood,” and that went for uncle Frank and cousin Matt as well. Now, her girls shoot hundreds of jumpers each morning.

One is 5-foot-11 senior Sam Will, who plans on playing college ball, perhaps in the Ivy League. She’s the definition of a gym rat, according to Alosa.

Asked when she got serious about the sport, she pointed her finger at her coach and said, “When I met you. I knew I wanted to play, but you showed me how to love basketball. I had the talent to be confident, but I never showed it.”

Alosa knows all about Hardiman, the former basketball coach at Brady who coached Frank Alosa and won back-to-back state championships in 1964 and ’65. Annie played ball with and against Hardiman’s granddaughters.

“I remember Tom Hardiman was a legendary coach,” Alosa told me. “He was in every gym you went to, and he still is. I have been so impressed hearing about his days as a player.”

He was great in basketball, football and baseball at Brady (then called St. John’s) in the 1940s, then starred in football and baseball at Georgetown University. In fact, some longtime sports fans here say Hardiman was the best athlete this city has ever produced.

Perhaps that’s why the words, “Thomas M. Hardiman Gymnasium” are above the Brady bleachers. Hardiman said he doesn’t like the publicity, noting that he thought the gym should have been named after J. William Troy, his old friend who was killed during the Korean War.

“He gave his life for all of us,” Hardiman said. “But I’m honored.”

He said he didn’t want this column to focus too much on him, telling me, “I’ve been in the spotlight too long.”

And while that may be true, his volunteer work, done clandestinely, remains a good story. Hardiman greets each player with a hug and calls himself “The DH,” or designated hugger.

He got a hug from Riselly Deoteo, who graduated from Brady in 2014 and now plays at NHTI.

She’s an artist on the court, dribbling with her head up, shooting with perfect form, showing an explosive first step to the basket.

“You feel like you’re working hard,” Deoteo said, “and you get Mr. Hardiman’s voice in your head and it works in the end.”

Riley Bennett is off to play at Norwich University this year, and she’s been part of Hardiman’s informal pick-up games for years.

“He gave me a hug that first time,” Bennett said, “and it’s been that way ever since.”

At Thursday’s later session, a mixture of males and females, teens and 20-somethings, Hardiman blew his whistle and said, “Two lines, two lines,” the start of a short layup drill.

Then he split the players into two teams, calling out names one by one. He hid his hands behind his back and asked a player from each team to guess how many fingers he had pointing out. Closest to the number got the ball first.

Then, a track meet on a basketball court, a supercharged full-court explosion that never slowed. Hardiman sprinkled in some advice, telling Brady sophomore Kayley Smith to add more arc to her jumpers, and Johnny Skehan, a former varsity player who graduated this year, to look for the open player on a fast break.

After about 45 minutes of action, with three breaks thrown in, another two-session morning, led by Alosa and Hardiman, had come to an end.

Skehan’s brother, sophomore Joseph Skehan, has never played organized basketball, yet he was there, blending in with great, experienced talent. He’s trying out for the team at Brady this year.

Asked about Hardiman, Joseph said, “He’s a great man, and he’s helped me learn to shoot foul shots. I have to get the fundamentals, but I’m a much better player than I was at the start of this.”