Boys basketball: Coach Fred Ahart Foundation carries on mission of helping others

·5 min read
The Monticello boys basketball team poses together during the first annual Fred Ahart Foundation Games in Roscoe on Jan. 15. (Photo provided by: Christine Russo).
The Monticello boys basketball team poses together during the first annual Fred Ahart Foundation Games in Roscoe on Jan. 15. (Photo provided by: Christine Russo).

He would take the shirt off his back and he probably has, Katie Ahart said.

This is how the late Fred Ahart, a coach for 51 years and former Section 9 chairperson, is known. He had long been a staple of the Section 9 boys basketball and sports community.

His daughter Katie and the Ahart family have helped to continue his legacy through the Coach Fred Ahart Foundation.

Last weekend, the first annual Coach Fred Ahart Foundation Games were held at the “Coach” Fred Ahart Gymnasium at Roscoe High School. Nearly $2,000 was raised during the two-day event. The family is hopeful the event could be an annual occurrence.

S.S. Seward boys basketball coach and current Section 9 chairman Rob Gravelle approached his counterpart at Monticello, Christopher Russo, about the idea for the games. Their names came up in the Ahart household multiple times a year, and the Aharts think of them as family, as Fred Ahart was their mentor. They coordinated with Roscoe athletic director Adam Larson and boys basketball coach Mike Hill to make the event happen.

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Before the start of each game, the foundation’s mission statement was read and several speakers read a dedication to Ahart. Russo and Gravelle wanted to continue Fred’s legacy by doing something he loved, bringing people together and having fun.

“Fred had a tremendous impact on Section 9 and will forever,” Gravelle said. “When we were lucky enough to go to the Final Four two years in a row — Fred did everything. He wasn’t just about his school, he was about all of Section 9 and really about the kids in New York state. He was about kids. All the work he has done at the section level and state level, the rest of us are just trying to uphold it going forward. He’s just a tremendous role model and a great guy. Honestly, he’ll have an impact on Section 9 sports and basketball, in particular, for decades.”

The Monticello boys basketball team faces the banner in the "Coach" Fred Ahart Gymnasium during the first annual Fred Ahart Foundation Games in Roscoe on Jan. 15. (Photo provided by: Cheynne Smith).
The Monticello boys basketball team faces the banner in the "Coach" Fred Ahart Gymnasium during the first annual Fred Ahart Foundation Games in Roscoe on Jan. 15. (Photo provided by: Cheynne Smith).

Roscoe coach Michael Hill, Ahart’s assistant coach on the junior varsity team and current boys varsity basketball head coach, said that he was struck by the desire of the other teams to want to participate in the foundation games.

“It felt good to have the camaraderie of so many of my friends and colleagues as we continue on with Coach's mission, which is to provide athletic opportunities for student-athletes,” he said.

Katie Ahart said her father was concerned with the students and kids and always wanted people to participate. If they weren't able to purchase any type of apparel at all, he would always just go out and buy it for them.

“He had told us one day that he would like to see that continue,” she said. “So that’s part of the reason why this foundation was started. He also would give to any charity that was near or far. It didn’t matter if he knew the child or the student, he was always willing to help a family out in need for absolutely anything.”

Every summer, Fred would send kids to basketball or football camp. Anything that would better a child, he would do, Katie Ahart said. She will continue that outreach and has already contacted SUNY Sullivan, where her father would send athletes for basketball camps, in hopes the foundation could do the same this summer.

The foundation also gives to other foundations, other families in need, and other sports teams, including, most recently, the Minisink Valley lacrosse program.

Becky Ahart, Fred’s wife, said the first annual games will allow the family to carry on with the foundation and his legacy of generosity.

“He gave and gave and gave so freely of his time, his knowledge, and words of wisdom and never asked for anything in return,” she said. “He often provided cleats, basketball sneakers, jackets, jerseys, duffle bags, to anyone in need. He was just that kind of person. The outpouring of comments and support from everyone, including grandson Daniel Clancy, Amy Hill, Chris Russo, Rob Gravelle, Adam Larson, Mike Hill, Jason Semo, Charlie Hicks, and Burt Reed. (He) spoke to everyone, especially the athletes about what coach meant to everyone.”

In November, a benefit was held at Rockland House, raising money and awareness for the foundation, which jump-started the organization and made up time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ahart family wants to expand the foundation even more.

Over a year since his passing, Ahart continues to inspire.

“I think each of us miss Fred in our own way,” Russo said. “He impacted all of us differently, because our relationships were so unique. Each relationship that Fred built with the people around Section 9, coaches, players and officials was unique to that individual. It’s a difficult question to answer, but I think each of us miss him in our own way, but we also carry with us that level of relationship, we carry with us the mentorship and the lessons that he was able to impart to us from casual conversations about everything from basketball to life, to meaningful conversations, where you were looking for advice or help that he was always so willing to give.”

Washingtonville athletic director Jason Semo knew Fred Ahart as an athlete and as a coach. He helped Semo land his first job at Roscoe.

“Another thing about Fred was the way that he cared for everybody,” Semo said. “If it was an opposing team, he wanted to make sure that win or lose, he would go out of his way to make sure that he let the opposing team, athletes, coaches, parents in the stands know that he appreciated that time that they spent together. Whether it was competing with each other or against each other, he valued that time. It was because it meant so much to him. And that was unique about him. He didn’t take time for granted, he didn’t take sports for granted. With Fred, he was at such a higher level for what games were about and what sports were about because of his ability to really value all of the little things that come with sports."

MKramer1@th-record.com

Twitter: @MKramerTHR

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Section 9 basketball: Fred Ahart's impact lives on through foundation

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