Being a history buff, perhaps I am more sensitive to this than most, but there is something really sad about lost history. I think it’s important to know about the past, the past of your people, the past of your country — your past. That includes the past of schools and teams.
What got me to thinking about this last month was the first of what evolved into over a dozen email exchanges between myself and a gentleman named Matt Regan. I was on vacation in Florida, taking in some much appreciated sunshine and enjoying the wildlife at Busch Gardens in Tampa, when Regan’s query came across my cellphone. He questioned a report that appeared on The Suffolk Times’ website, stating that Liam Walker had become the second Southold High School boys basketball player to score 1,000 career points, joining Sean O’Hara, who finished his high school playing days with 1,118 points in 2006.
Doesn’t Southold have more 1,000-point scorers than that?
We both agreed to look into it further and compare our findings after I returned to New York.
Truth be told, Regan, a former Southold player himself (Class of 1997) who lives in Staunton, Va., did the bulk of the work. Although he said he isn’t an historian, he did a good job. He said he put up a post on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of any 1,000-point scorers from Southold, and received replies from about 10 people. All of them were former Southold High School students and some were former Southold players.
Regan didn’t need to dig too deeply, however, to find one 1,000-point scorer, his brother Damien, who graduated in 1994 and is said to have the ball commemorating his 1,000th point.
“It’s in the basement somewhere; I have to find it,” Damien, who lives in Newtown, Conn., said in a phone interview.
A fairly new banner that hangs high behind the basket on the east side of the Southold High School gym lists the school’s 1,000-point club as including two brothers, Carl (Class of 1987) and Tim Stepnowsky (Class of 1990), in addition to O’Hara and Walker. (Two girls who scored their 1,000th point in the first decade of this century are also included, Betsy Van Bourgondien and Amanda Capone.)
But it appears there should be more boys names on that banner. Through his contacts, Matt Regan came up with what he called a “verifiable” list of 1,000-point Southold scorers that includes Glenn Stepnowski (Class of 1987). The Regans believe Stepnowski to be the school’s all-time leading scorer with about 1,400 points. They also recall Tim Stepnowsky’s No. 23 shirt being retired and hung on the gym wall, although other First Settlers went on to wear that number. (“We were a small school and we didn’t always have a big uniform budget so I get it,” said Matt.)
Matt’s digging has brought results. The Southold School District’s website has added the names of the Stepnowsky brothers and Damien Regan to those of O’Hara and Walker as the school’s 1,000-point scorers. Stepnowski, however, is not on that list. Southold’s second-year athletic director, Mike Brostowski, said he would need verification to officially add other names. He said he has been in communication with Matt Regan on the matter.
Brostowski said he is trying to get more information about Southold’s 1,000-point past and has to look for old banners that are in storage to see what he can find.
“It’s difficult because if you don’t collect the [score]books at the end of the year or get an end-of-the-year report, records can get lost easily,” he said. “If you’re not careful, it would be easy to lose one aspect of [your] history because things are easily overlooked.”
Did Southold drop the ball on this?
Perhaps, but without singling Southold out, many high schools can do a better job of keeping their sports records updated and intact. One of the problems is that at the high school level, coaches often have to do just about everything, including managing statistics and records, which some do better than others. Then there is turnover. Coaches come and go. Athletic directors come and go. Administrative personnel come and go. Records can get lost in the shuffle.
One man who has some answers is Gene Maiorana. He coached the First Settlers for 21 years from 1977 to 1998 before moving to upstate New York.
“He kept pretty detailed records of free-throw percentage, shooting percent, steals and assists,” said Damien, who played for Maiorana. “He drove the bus, too.”
Maiorana, 75, coaches Johnsburg Central School, a Class D team in North Creek, N.Y. Although he doesn’t have written records, he was Southold’s coach when Stepnowski and Damien Regan reached their 1,000-point milestones, he said.
Reached at his home on Sunday evening, Maiorana recalls there once being a trophy in the school trophy case, commemorating Stepnowski’s achievement. He also remembers the basketball that was presented to Damien Regan to mark his 1,000th point. “I remember we gave him a ball and the kids all signed it,” said the coach.
Stepnowski, who could not be located for comment, was described as a virtual points machine.
“He’d get a few of his points on cherry picking,” Maiorana said, “but I tell you what, if that kid was going in for a layup and there were three kids in front of him, he would he either make it or he was going to the foul line.”
Maiorana remembered Damien Regan as being “really, really fast. Damien was a natural point guard, but the problem with Damien is I think at that point he was our only good shooter so we didn’t know where to put him.”
Matt Regan said he made the investigative efforts he did, not solely because of his brother’s achievement, but because he wants all of those who scored 1,000 points to be recognized.
Damien, who played two years of college ball at the NCAA Division III level for King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., remembers the game in which he scored his 1,000th point. He said it was a home game against Port Jefferson, and his parents were on hand to witness the event.
Years later, he returned to the Southold gym and saw a banner on a wall listing the names of 1,000-point scorers. His name wasn’t among them. In an interview, Damien sounded amused more than bothered by the omission.
“No, obviously, it really doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Actually my brother Matt and myself were surprised. We were joking about it.”
Still, 1,000 points is a nice milestone that should be remembered. As Matt said, “We shouldn’t forget our history.”
Bob Liepa is the sports editor of the Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].