Smith Houses Basketball Court Renamed for Coach and Mentor Michael Williams

Posted on: August 28th, 2017 at 5:09 am by

The Smith Houses basketball court was reborn Saturday afternoon as Coach Michael C. Williams Court.

Parks Department, elected officials and their representatives, community leaders, and residents alike celebrated the renaming in honor of a local hero and inspiration to many.

Williams was a resident of the Smith Houses who rose above the poverty and rough-and-tumble street culture of gang life to graduate college. He recognized the shortage of activities available to inner city kids, and in response, helped organize basketball games for neighborhood youth. Teaching them, through sport, valuable life lessons.

Professionally, he served as Assistant Head Coach at both Fordham and Columbia between 1977 to 1980. During this time, he and Kenny Graham co-founded the West 4th pro-classic basketball tournament, which remains a legendary jumpoff point for amateur players. (It just celebrated forty years.) He relocated to the University of Colorado in 1980 for the Head Coach position. Ten years later, Williams returned to the city and became the Athletic Director at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. Through it all, Smith Houses residents fondly remember him making time to return to his roots and mentor the local youth.

When Williams passed away three years ago, his friend Tony Harris conceived the idea of renaming the Smith Houses basketball court after him. Convincing the Parks Department to fall in line wasn’t easy, though. Harris linked up with area activist Karlin Chan who petitioned and obtained more than 900 signature of support. In the end, it took lots of hounding over a three-year period.

Recent Stories

Samesa is the First Vendor Casualty in the New Essex Market

Open only six months, the first vendor of the new Essex Market has gone belly up. Not one of the long-timers, though. Samesa ended its brief run earlier this month. Established by brothers Max and Eli Sussman in 2016, Samesa first announced its Lower East Side grab-and-go stall one year ago. The Middle Eastern restaurant […]

‘GoNightclubbing’ with Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong at The 72 Gallery [INTERVIEW]

Thirty-nine years ago, a new nightclub called Danceteria featured a video installation which recreating a suburban living room. The twist was that the giant old-school TV, housed in a mid-century wood cabinet, wasn’t playing reruns of I Love Lucy. Instead, there was a live feed of bands such as Iggy Pop, The Dead Boys, and […]

Market Line Debuts Beneath Essex Market this Friday

Come Friday, Essex Crossing hits another goal. Debut of the Market Line. There have been no official communications about the launch, but this date is two days later than participating vendors had previously communicated. (And a full season later than publicized at the Market itself.) Once fully operational, the Market Line is to occupy 150,000 […]

LES Synagogue Pursues Removal of Deed Restriction to Redevelop for Residential

As reported last month, the Lutowisker Synagogue on the eastern fringe of Delancey Street is headed toward redevelopment. The congregation, which owns the building and has been present on the Lower East Side since 1877, hopes to construct housing atop its house of worship. The proposal as it stands is to expand the building at […]

Famous Hakki Opens ‘Cluck’s’ Fried Chicken Spot on Essex Street

Famous pizza maker Hakki Akdeniz just unveiled his latest fast food concept. It’s chicken-focused fast food and seems poised to collect plenty of cash from weekend revelers in Hell Square. Cluck’s debuted last week at 115 Essex Street, mere steps from Hakki’s Champion Pizza. The signature menu offering here is the “chicken cone,” which is […]