Linton High School product Barry Kramer is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player in Capital Region history.
Dave Bleau, coach of rival Mont Pleasant, turned out to be one of Kramer’s best friends and teammates on the old semipro Schaefer Brewers team that beat the likes of eventual NBA stars Elvin Hayes, Dave Bing, Calvin Murphy, Cazzie Russell, Austin Carr, Artis Gilmore and Jimmy King.
Kramer and Bleau reunited Sunday night, with Kramer helping to induct Bleau and fellow former Schaefer Brewers teammate Bill Telasky into the Upstate New York Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame at the Troy Hilton Garden Inn.
“Dave Bleau was probably the greatest player I ever played with outside of the NBA,” said Kramer, an All-American at NYU who played in the NBA with the San Francisco Warriors and New York Knicks.
“Dave was an uncanny player for us. I think that Schaefer Brewers team was an act of God, because the convergence of all that talent right here in the Capital District was simply amazing. We had all that talent right here in our back yard with guys like Dave, Armand Reo, Joe Geiger, Phil Schoff, Bill Kirvin, Jim Zullo and the rest.
“Dave was a tremendous shooter and an outstanding athlete. He was one of the reasons why we were able to beat the likes of Dave Bing, Cazzie Rusell and Julius Erving. Dave was simply incredible. He wasn’t just a great shooter. He was one of several players on that team that I thought could have played in the NBA. I hadn’t known he was the kind of player when I first recruited him to play for us, but I soon found out how great he was.”
A graduate of Mohawk High School near Utica, Bleau became a star at SUNY-Cortland, where he once scored 61 points in a single game and finished fourth on that school’s all-time scoring list with 1,365 career points.
While teaching physical education at Clinton High School, he began to play part-time for the Schaefer Brewers.
“My participation on the Schafer Brewers was a major factor in securing the Mont Pleasant basketball coaching and teaching position,” Bleau said. “For 20 years, I was afforded the privilege of coaching some wonderful young men.”
Bleau finished with a lifetime coaching record of 127-127 and won two Section II championships. His Red Raiders also played in three other sectional championship games. Some of the players he coached included Al Johnson, Jim Mitchell, Larry Harris and Brendan Mitchell. His best seasons were 19-3 in 1975-76 and 19-4 in 1979-80.
“The Linton-Mont Pleasant games created quite a rivalry,” Bleau said. “It was difficult, in a way, because Linton was considered a great basketball school, and Mont Pleasant was known more for its football. When we beat Linton, though, it was always something special. We had some great teams that won sectional championships, and back then, that was as far as you could go, because there was no state tournament.”
Bleau said his most memorable athletic achievement was the 61 points he scored for SUNY-Cortland, but he also has fond memories of his days with the Brewers, when he played against and beat some of the greatest players in the country.
“We played against the greatest players of that generation. Five or six of them were Hall of Famers,” he said. “Guys like Elvin Hayes, Dave Bing and Calvin Murphy were as good as it gets. But in our first two years, we beat them all, and we always played to a packed gym.
“Having Barry Kramer on our team was the key. He was as good a player as there was. I know I’m prejudiced, but I think he was the greatest of them all. We were a smart team, and we could all shoot. The Brewers kept going for about seven years, and then they ran their course. We had a great time, though. They were phenomenal years.”
Bleau became athletic director at Mohonasen High School in 1986 and retired 10 years later. He’s been living in Arizona.
Telasky, who compiled a 334-161 coaching record at Christian Brothers Academy after playing for Philip Schuyler and George Washington University, also was inducted, along with former Mont Pleasant standout Ed Catino, who also starred at George Washington University and then coached both golf and basketball at Linton. He died last year.
Former Union College head coach Bill Scanlon, who posted a 315-255 record in 23 seasons with the Dutchmen and also was 81-47 in six years at Shenendehowa, also joined the Hall of Fame, along with fellow area collegiate coach Brian Beaury, who has a 561-261 record at his alma mater, The College of Saint Rose.
Catholic Central graduate Tim Wendt was inducted as a referee, while Lori Perretta Birmingham, who excelled at both Linton and Colgate, and Nicole Conway (Bethlehem, Boston College) are the newest female members.
Also inducted were Marty Canavan (Mechanicville, Siena), Dan Clemente (CBA, Harvard), Erik Cooper (Middleburgh, Rice), John Dieckelman (CBA, UAlbany), Todd Duval (Shenendehowa, Saint Rose), E.J. Gallup (Gloversville, Coastal Carolina), Lou Jordan (Mont Pleasant, Cornell), Bob Miller (Gloversville, Toledo), Derrick Rowland (Albany Patroons career scoring leader with 4,681 points), John Rucker (Van Rensselaer, Idaho), Chris Rutnik (Vincentian, Siena), Mark Shufelt (Catholic Central, Georgia), Adam Ursprung (Catskill, UAlbany) and Mike Van Schaick (Glens Falls, Fairfield).
Howard Garfinkel, creator of the 5-Star Basketball Camp, received the Barry Kramer Lifetime Achievement Award, former JCA and Saint Rose coach Mike Long received the Sam Perkins Sportsmanship Award, Albany City Rocks AAU coach Jim Hart received the John Cahill Community Service Award and former Gazette sportswriter Steve Amedio received the Media Award.
The Hall of Fame also honored the late Shenendehowa student Nicole Lee with the Love of the Game Award, which was accepted on her behalf by her mother, Lisa.
Keynote speakers included NBA analyst Mike Fratello, who won 667 games as a coach, and veteran collegiate coach George Raveling, who after coaching for 50 years is now the director of international basketball operations for Nike.