Beloved Fort Hamilton basketball coach Kenneth Kern to be honored

A legendary Bay Ridge coach will be honored.

Fort Hamilton High School will pay tribute to former, beloved basketball coach Kenneth Kern, who died on May 12 at the age of 89, thanks to efforts by alumni.

On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, Kern will be honored during halftime during a game against Erasmus High School with the dedication of a plaque in his memory. In addition, a banner will be unveiled and hung in the gym, according to Robert Adamski, a Fort Hamilton graduate who served as the basketball team’s manager from 1961 to 1964.

Kern recruited some notable players like Bernard King and brother Albert King, who both went onto college basketball and the NBA.

The honor will be a big moment for Kern’s wife Lillian, who currently lives in Florida.

“It means the world to me,” she said. “He was a great teacher, but that’s not all that he was. Kids never called him teacher. They either called him coach or Mr. Kern. I see them now and the respect they have for him is unbelievable. He wasn’t like any other teacher.”

Lillian, who also worked at the school, saw firsthand the interaction her late husband had with his students and players.


“I can’t calculate how many kids he fought not only to get into college but receive scholarships,” she added. “That was his main goal – to get kids on scholarships. They were all grateful and were always thanking him for getting them into schools. A few became coaches. I get emails about what he taught them and meant to them.”

She recalled some of his rituals from when he coached the team from 1965 to 1985, racking up over 300 wins.

“He had a whistle and when he blew it, everyone had to go to their spot,” Lillian said. “I still have that whistle and I want to blow it during the ceremony.”

Adamski’s original goal was to have the court named after the coach and started a CrowdRise to that end. Although he didn’t raise enough money for the naming, he was still able to secure a memorial.

“Boy, am I ever happy,” the coach’s widow said. “The kids knew he lived in Florida. When they came here, they made sure they came to visit him. He was adored by everyone.”

Back in February, Adamski discussed the impact the late coach had on players.

“His effect on people goes way beyond the basketball court,” he said. “He found players in junior high and convinced them to come to Fort Hamilton, telling them that they’d have a better education and chance to get ahead by playing at the school. There were many students  that wouldn’t have had that opportunity had they not met Coach Kern and followed his advice.”

The plaque will include some of his many achievements including being named Coach of the Year by the New York Daily News in 1977 and 1985 as well coaching the team to an undefeated season in 1977.

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