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Local coaching legends to be honored in effort to assist Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland Lincoln holiday hoops tourney

September 26, 2013

Longtime Cumberland High wrestling head coach Steve Gordon is one of four area coaching legends who will be honored as part of “Night of Legends II.” The ceremony will take place Oct. 25 at The Dugout. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

CUMBERLAND – Ed McVeigh served 18 years as a business teacher and coach at Central Falls High School, and – in that latter category – mentored his Warriors’ boys’ basketball teams to six divisional titles and one state title, that during the 1986-87 campaign, his first.

As a result, and because of his ability to teach the game and train not just athletes but young men, he unanimously became the only coach enshrined in the CFHS’ Athletic Hall of Fame last Oct. 11.

Still, he never forgot his roots, playing as a youngster with dozens of other wanna-be collegiate and NBA stars at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

He adored competing in youth games against other boys his age, or a bit younger and older. Evidently, those peers felt the same way.

“We all became like brothers back in all the old days, those nights at the club,” he reminisced recently at his Circuit Drive home. “We spent more time there together than we did at home. We learned a lot of important lessons there.”

As McVeigh and his peers grew older and reached high school, the bunch competed with and against each other as student-athletes at Cumberland and Lincoln highs, though they never forgot their mutual bonds. That’s why the formed an “unofficial” group back in the early- and mid-1970s entitled “The Roadshow.”

On his closed-in porch, McVeigh smiled at the memories obviously flooding his mind.

“The original founders of ‘The Roadshow’ were myself, Jim Carney, Greg Madoian, Steve Rossi, Dave Walsh and David Cruz – oh, and you can’t forget Steve Sulinger,” the 57-year-old McVeigh, a 1973 CHS graduate, noted. “The reason we came up with the term ‘Roadshow’ was because we all got our start at the boys’ club. A lot of us were in high school together, and we were all separated by only two or three years.

“Because of those practices and games at the club, we became like a brotherhood,” he added. “Once we went off to college (as freshmen), we all wanted to stay together because of our friendships that dated back to when we were eight, nine years old, even earlier. I went to Bryant, ‘Carno’ (Carney’s nickname from the time he was 11-12) to CCRI, ‘Beav’ (Walsh) to Assumption and Madoian and Rossi to PC.

“When we were older teenagers, some of us used to meet at the club to play some ball, and then we’d make plans to go out. We had a lot of options back then as to where to go to have a good time, so we’d make road trips to see our old teammates. Everyone was kind of spread out, so we’d get in touch with one of us, say we were heading their way and go there for a visit. We had such a good time, just like we did as kids.”

Incredibly, that “Roadshow” contingent – all of whom began their hoop careers at what is now the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln – are still in constant contact via the Internet, most notably on Facebook.

Now named “Roadshow Publications,” that group has remained steadfast in its attempt to help out its good-ol’ stomping grounds by financing the club’s long-time Christmas tournament. On Friday, Oct. 25, at The Dugout restaurant, located on Clay Street in Cumberland, a full-court heave from the club they adore, McVeigh and Co. will conduct their “Night of Legends II.”

There they will honor four coaching icons of their era, including Cumberland High varsity wrestling coach (of 40 years-plus) Steve Gordon; former CHS hoop mentors Joe Hughes and John McVeigh; and ex-Lincoln High chief George Aragao.

This fete is designed to help finance that holiday tourney, with the remaining funds going to other club leagues, activities and functions.

An “executive committee” including Ed McVeigh, Carney, Craig Bloomer (the club’s current Executive Director), Jon Walsh (Dave’s kid brother) and Charlie Burke decided last week as to who would receive the Night of Legends laurels.

“We were at the club about a week ago and just started throwing out names, but those guys kept coming to the fore” Ed McVeigh stated. “Steve Gordon was a given; he did so much with his wrestlers, and nobody’s ever going to top to what he meant to that program. With John (McVeigh, his older brother), all – or most of us – have played with him or for him, and he taught us a lot of what we know and used when we played.

“And Joe Hughes was my coach at Cumberland (High), while George won at least two three state titles with Lincoln.”

The younger McVeigh joked he was “iffy” in inducting his brother.

“The worst thing ever was having him as my JV coach,” Ed laughed. “Before he’d put me in, I had to be – in his mind – twice as good as everyone else. He always told me, ‘Eddie, no one is ever going to think I’m playing favorites because you’re my brother. If you do get out there, you’re going to have to bust your butt and play harder.’

“In the long run, it did make me a better player,” he continued. “At the time, though, I didn’t see it that way.”
In was around Memorial Day 2012 when former club member Pat Canning, now a chief executive officer for a business in Chicago, e-mailed other “Roadshow brothers” about organizing a reunion of the near-60 fellow participants.

To spark interest of those living across the country, he developed a “Top 100” ranking of the premier hoopsters who came out of the club and played at either CHS or LHS between the late 1960s and early 1980s.

“Roots of ‘The Roadshow’ go back to the 1960s at the club, and the positive atmosphere of friendship and competition that was prevalent in the ‘60s and ‘70s were the foundation (of the organization),” Dave Walsh explined. “Most original members were … involved in basketball, (though) others excelled at baseball, football, wrestling, soccer, tennis and golf.”

In 1975, the group officially was established, and – in 1980 – the men held an annual golf tourney in Connecticut named the “Sleepy Giant Open,” with all proceeds earmarked for The Jimmy Fund.

Three years later, they began an annual “Roadshow Convention,” one that just happened to coincide with the Big East Conference Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

“We were trying to think of a way to use that Top 100 list to accomplish two things,” Walsh said by phone from Greensboro, N.C. “First, to raise money for the (BGCCL’s) Christmas tournament, and, second, it would be a great reason to get together with guys we hadn’t seen in 10-20-30 years. Charlie Burke went to Craig Bloomer with the idea (last summer), and he loved it.”

According to Walsh, he e-mailed a spread sheet of approximately 120 names, and – every Tuesday and Friday night during June and July – he would send to voters a list of 20 names. The guys then had to decide who should be rated between 100-81, 80-61, etc.

“When those names went out, everybody went ballistic,” Walsh chuckled. “They were so excited about reminiscing, and talking about who belonged where.”

Once the ballots were finalized through the “bottom 95,” the guys in “Roadshow Publications” had to rank their “Starting Five,” and Ed McVeigh earned the fifth spot, while Carney took the fourth.

Walsh finished third and John McVeigh second behind the boy (man) who everyone deemed the top player from their era – and area.

That prestigious (and not-so-official) accolade went to Richie Lengieza, a superb Clippers’ player who was named All-Division and served as the MVP of the first-ever then-Cumberland/Lincoln Boys Club Christmas event.

That was held in December 1973.

“I remember we (Cumberland) defeated Pawtucket West in the final, and it’s because I was on that team, too,” Walsh said. “I was a junior, and Joe Hughes was the head coach and John McVeigh his assistant. Richie played great!”

Offered Ed McVeigh: “Being fifth, that was a great honor to me. In fact, just to be listed was fantastic. We had some really good basketball players come out of the club and Cumberland and Lincoln (high schools). The last five were a special release, but – by then – most of the guys would figure out who the starting five would be just by process of elimination.

“Still,” he added with a grin, “some guys got upset because they didn’t like where they were ranked; they thought they should be in the top 10 or 20. I told a few guys, ‘Hey, it’s a vote, and we did the best we could.’ I also told them that just being listed in the top 100 should be more than enough.”

Last October, those residing in the Valley and coming from cities across the nation, the club’s “Old Guard” gathered at The Dugout to honor three individuals who meant the most to it. Among those names: Jim Cadden, former then-Cumberland/Lincoln Boys’ Club Executive Director; his assistant Mike Keenan; and Jim Marsland, who spent years as the club’s athletic director.

“Originally at our Christmas tournaments, we had eight teams, and the competition was fierce,” Ed McVeigh claimed. “We had Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Central Falls, Tolman, Pawtucket West and St. Raphael, and I forget who else, but it was excellent.

“Last year, we raised about $3,000, but this time, we want to reach the $5,000 mark – or surpass it,” he added. “As for the banquet, we had a great time. Just catching up with guys you hadn’t seen for so long, it was tremendous. It was a lot of fun, bringing back old memories.”

Tickets for this fall’s “Roadshow Publications’ Night of Legends” ceremony – it will include an informal buffet – are on sale now at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland/Lincoln for $25 per person. Ducats also will be available at the door.

Each NOL inductee will receive a plaque, and also have their names emblazoned on a bigger one at the club.

“Actually, the selection process was pretty easy,” McVeigh stated. “No one could question what those four guys have meant to the club and our local high schools. Their records speak for themselves.

“We’re just trying to give a little big back to the boys’ club for what it meant to all of us,” he added. “It really helped us become who we are today, both as athletes and individuals. I’ll never forget those days, and neither will the other members.”

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