I have just returned from an incredible trip where my club, Olimpia Milano, retired my number 18. Thought I am still reeling from the wonderful and countless events, I wanted to begin to chronicle a document about the near-overwhelming experiences, the old friendships that were rekindled and the new friendships that were started. The emotions, even after all these years, like a fine Italian wine, were stronger and richer than I could have imagined, and I will be forever in debt to my club, Olimpia Milano, and to Signors Giorgio Armani, Livio Proli, and Giampiero Hruby, and former all-star and great player Flavio Portaluppi. I want also to thank Claudio Limardi for the time spent with me to execute the cornucopia of events in flawless fashion, all done with taste, class, and heart-felt emotion. I would be remiss if I did not also recognize my new best-friends Tullio Marino, and Carmen Dipalma and all the lunch-buddies at Olimpia. I would be also remiss not to thank at the outset my Italian “family” Basilio and Antonietta Andolfo and granddaughter Valeria (“Tata”), and Laura & Giorgio, my Fly Club President and “personal secretary and photographer”, Roby Pecorelli and dear friend Padre Mario Zaninelli. It goes without saying that I owe a debt of gratitude to all my Milanesi fans who have supported me with their friendship and respect and may I say that I have always felt honored to have their friendship, and that I will always try to be worthy of that support.
While working with Padre Mario Zaninelli on the book, Indimenticable: Cesare Rubini, to honor Italy’s most famous and successful coach, I had set-up an interview with Senator Bradley who played for Coach Rubini on the European Cup of Champions winning team in 1966. In the style of “Il Principe” Rubini, I thought it would be a nice gesture and exposure for our beloved Club to give Senator Bradley an Olimpia Milano EA7 jersey with his name and number 15 on it. When I contacted Olimpia Milano’s Marketing & Media Director, Claudio Limardi, he conferred with General Manager Flavio Portaluppi who said that they would be happy to send me a personalized jersey to present to Senator Bradley, but since they had decided to retire my Number 18, Claudio invited me to come to Milan during the playoffs for a series of ceremonial events.
In reviewing my 3-year career with Olimpia Milano, I had the good fortune to play for Hall-Of-Fame Coaches Cesare Rubini and Sandro Gamba, and with 6 National-team players (Iellini, Brumatti, Masini, Bariviera, Cerioni, and Giomo) and a National Junior-team player (Paolo Bianchi). Our accomplishments were impressive to say the least, and we had the youngest team in Olimpia Milano’s history, averaging 22.6 years of age. (Coach Dan Peterson’s youngest team, despite his claim of being teenagers, averaged about 2-years older than our team. I was a Math-major…and I did the math)!
During those three seasons our winning percentage was 84.3% (97 W – 18 L). We won the European Cup of Cups in 1971. We won the Italian Championship Title in 1972, the Italian Cup in 1972 and the European Cup of Cups again in 1972, which completed a “Little Slam” that season. Our team set the Olimpia Milano record for Most Points Scored in One Game (138 points vs. Snidero Udine), Largest Margin of Victory in the Italian regular season (+77 points vs. Gamma Varese) and Largest Margin of Victory in International Cup competition (+86 vs. M.E.C. Casablanca).
Although individual awards were not a focus of mine, I was named Best Forward in 1971 and Best Foreign Player in 1972. My career shooting percentage was 53.1% and I led the team in both offensive and defensive rebounds in each of my 3-seasons. I averaged a double-double for my career (14.3 points per game, and 11.8 rebounds per game). My true worth however, like my friend, the incomparable Dino Meneghin, was in non-measurable, intangible skills: setting blocks to free my outstanding-shooting teammates, playing strong defense against my opponent, and strong switching defense on any defensive break-downs. Dino and I share the same basketball DNA: make any sacrifice, physical or personal-statistical for the sake of the team and to secure the victory.
From a perspective of dedication and focus, I wanted to play in practice the way I wanted to play in Scrimmages, which was the way I wanted to play in Exhibition games, which was the way I wanted to play in League games, which was the way I wanted Cup-of-Cup games. Each moment on the court was an opportunity to show everyone associated with the club, including our wonderful Milanese fans, that Coach Rubini had made the right decision in selecting me as their American player, for the “Most Successful Club in Italian Basketball History”, and that I was committed to continuing that tradition.”
18 Days for Number 18
With the six-hour time differential between New York and Milano, it seemed that I had the benefit of 30 hour days, and believe me, with the wonderful help of Claudio, Tulio and Carmen from Olimpia, “brother” Basilio and my side-kick “President-secretary” Roby, it was an event-rich trip “to-the-max!”
“UNPLUGGED TO LINKED-UP”
When I arrived at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, May 7th; I was met at Malpensa airport by my Fly Angling Club of Milano friends, Roby Pecorelli and Paolo Lorini who were so kind to escort me to via Negroli 34. I was the guest of Paolo, and the venue was logistically perfect since my Milanese “brother” Basilio lives at via Negroli 26. That afternoon I visited Basilio and later did some errands, the most important being to buy a three-point European adapter for my thicker two-point European plug adapter. This was critical to allow me to charge my camera battery to record all the planned and non-planned celebratory events. Dinner with Antonietta and Basilio’s and a visit from Padre Mario Zaninelli who provided me with a local cell-phone and computer with blue-tooth connection helped me to connect to my Milanese-amici network.
Wednesday, 8 Maggio:
Welcome Back Lunch – Caffe’ Armani (via Manzoni, 31) at 1:00 PM, hosted by Claudio Limardi, Giampiero Hruby and Club President Livio Proli. What a wonderful way to start the events, with the quintessential Welcome-Back All-Star Team. Though the food is outstanding, the best part of the menu was the “food-for-thought”: an update on the team, on the very professional organization that Olimpia Milano had assembled, and on my beloved PalaLido (arena) reconstruction plans. President Proli also gave me insights into the Armani Group plans to expand and beautify my “home town” New York City, and the area around Ground Zero, the zone in which I had worked. For desert, we enjoyed a selection of anecdotes about Olimpia Milano and the stories of our youth, while “living the dream” as players of the most successful club in Italian basketball history.
I then met-up with Roby Pecorelli, Fly Club President, and we went to visit a long-time friend Dario Colombo at his firm New Col, which is just a few steps from the Buonarroti station on the M1 Metro line. Dario, who came and played with our Wednesday-night basketball group during a visit to NYC (too) many years ago , was the editor of “Il Giganti Del Basket”, is a sports-memorabilia collector. In his conference room, he had laid-out all the magazines which had my picture on the cover. His long conference-room table was completely-covered with the magazines…talk about “rolling-out the red carpet!” We shared many stories and took several pictures and drafted assistants Sandro and Francesca to complete our Milanesi “Fab-Five.”
After the visit, Roby and I set out to meet-up with the Fly Club members for a pre-meeting pizza, and we took time to take pictures of me next to my friends while they endorsed my original Simmenthal #18 jersey. Later we adjourned to the meeting and Roby showed our 2013 Martha’s Vineyard video which he and daughter Federica co-produced, as well as the 2012 video that Massimo Strumia produced. We talked about the 3 trips we had done there, and the style and techniques of fishing for stripers at night on Lobsterville Beach and on Dogfish Bar. We then answered questions from the overflow crowd. It was lots of fun recalling all those memories…we will be back to enjoy new fly-fishing adventures in Martha’s Vineyard in June!
Thursday, 9 Maggio
After taking the “Tram Numero Dodes” (Milanese for 12) to the center of town, I took the M1 Red Metro line in the direction of Rho to Piazza Lotto and walked to the Olimpia Milano offices which are about 50 yards inside the Lido di Milano entrance. I arrived there at about 10:15 AM, about ½ hour early, looking forward to meeting new friends.
My first order of business was to autograph three framed wall-posters and an EA7 jersey that had been made with my name and number 18 on it. A taping crew from RAI Sport arrived soon after and so we made our way to the “Palestrina” for the taping of an interview conducted by Edi Dembinski who broadcasts their basketball games. Edi could not have been nicer and being a quintessential gentleman, such that in spite of the hot gym and no ventilation, I still could not have been more comfortable- He made me feel that I was having a great conversation with a “long-time friend (but whom I had just met). I talked about the great Milanesi fans we had and how they were our “Sixth-Man.” They were key “players” in our being undefeated at home during my 3-seasons. I also showed Edi my original number 18 jersey which I wore for all my games and which I had brought from my home. When Eddie asked about the small blood-stain on it, I assured him that it was not my blood and that we were going to surreptitiously get a DNA sample from Dino Meneghin in order to perform a DNA test to see if it was his, as I had suspected. The next evening, at the game, Edi told me the material we taped was so good that he was able to do two segments with it. What a consummate professional he is! Edi’s manner, winning smile, charming personality and professionalism is such that he is able to create an instant rapport with the interviewee and the material flows very easily and smoothly!
Claudio Limardi and GM Flavio Portaluppi and I then set out for the Forum where the team was having its shoot-around before the first playoff game against Siena the next night (Friday). On the way, we had a wonderful three-way conversation. When we arrived, after meeting the assistant coaches, strength coach and medical team, I met the head-coach. He asked if I would address the team, and when I said that I would be happy to do so he said that I would have to speak to them in English. That was the only disappointment of the trip, but more-so from the idea that by the non-Italian members (EU, naturalized EU and American payers…all but 3 were non-Italian) were being precluded from total-immersion, and they would be missing the fuller experience of all that Italy has to offer (culture, history, regional variations in dialect and gastronomic specialties) Most of all, they would be missing the ability to develop friendships with the Milanesi, a special group of people whose friendships can continue to grow, even in absence, and last well-over 40 years. By not speaking Italian, they are missing a richer experience because of not being able to share their experiences with Milanesi friends…I know this all-too-well from my wonderful experiences with my Milanesi friends!
In my brief address to the team, I spoke about my experience with Olimpia Milano: the sponsorship by the Sada Family (Simmenthal); the private ownership of Doctor Adolfo Bogoncelli; the protective eye that “Principe” Cesare Rubini had for his players. I spoke about the respect we all had for him, and the great teammates that I was so fortunate to have, with 6 National team players and 1 National junior team player. I talked about the 84.3% winning percentage (97 wins/18 losses), and that I averaged a double-double for my career (14.3 points & 11.8 rebounds per game) but that I still remember those 18 missed opportunities and would trade all of those individual statistics if I could reverse some of those 18 losses to be able to have shared even more victories with my teammates and coaches. How coincidental that all my fans so kindly remember my number 18 after over 40 years and my personal standard standards of “grinta”, “enthusiasm, passion for the game and my 100% focus and dedication toward the success of the team. I told the players to “Seize The Day”/“Carpe Diem” and the opportunity before them, subordinating individual statistics for the only statistic that matters, the team victory. That formula, 100% dedication to the team, will serve them in retrospective when they look at their career in 40 years! I said that I know they were well prepared and that they should believe in themselves and their teammates, and that if they played as a team they could not be beaten.
I had the opportunity to meet Nicolò Melli, converse with him and take a photo while I was holding his jersey and he was holding mine. I am very happy that he will continue to wear “our number 18” for as long as he continues develop his career at our Olimpia Milano. I have to admit that after meeting Nicolo’, his Mom and his Dad, I am an even bigger fan of his!
Lunch was just “across the via” from the Forum, and the grilled octopus salad was excellent! Since they did not have ananase pastilles on the desert menu (a pineapple extract pill which I used to reduce swelling for sprained ankles and which I consumed by the minute while basting my ankle with ice), Flavio and I settled on sliced pineapple. We were lunching “al fresco”, and when I snatched a mosquito out of the air with one hand, Claudio and Flavio thought they were lunching with Mr. Miyagi!
The day concluded with my doing an interview with Sky TV journalist Pietro Colnago. Pietro is an excellent journalist, and a player whom I had first met on my post-playing-days visits to Milano when I would go to the Monday night work-outs at the PalaLido organized by my teammate Renzo Bariviera. Though I was not satisfied with my performance, Pietro said the interview went well. I think that was due to Pietro’s amazing talent. Though I was on my second home court (the Pallestrina), I was lucky to be playing on Pietro’s home court…and he was a gracious host…in front of the camera!
On the way back to the apartment, I did the reverse-commute (la metro-al-tram) and the tram ride was so relaxing that the tram-driver had to wake me up at the last stop so that I could take the tram back the three stops to my final destination (I had missed my stop)! Basilio insisted on my having dinner with the family…that’s the way big-brothers are!
FRIDAY, 10 MAGGIO – “ARTHUR KENNEY CELEBRATION NIGHT”
When it was time to leave for the game and festivities, I walked the 50 meters down the street to the entrance to Basilio’s apartment complex, and from a distance I saw my dear friend and my roommate for three years (Dr.) Giorgio “Geggio” Gaggiotti. Even from a distance, I could see the emotion of our reunion welling-up in him, which set me off too. We were standing at the extension of via Marcona which was the intersection with via Hajech (#37) where we lived. Geggio only played 1 year with me, and we spoke French at the beginning until, with his help and the help of Basilio and my teammates and an Italian course at the British School (via Montenapoleone, 5), my Italian became more fluid. At the end of my first season he left the team to dedicate his life to studding to become a doctor. I asked if he could stay as my roommate and they acquiesced. Geggio studied all day from 7 AM until midnight, 7 days a week, only taking breaks for lunch and dinner. There were constant strikes at his university so he taught himself and saved all the commuting time, which allowed him to study even longer! He got his degree with honors (“col lode”), and his dedication was an inspiration and an example for me! When we left, we picked-up Giorgio Rubini (nephew of my coach, Cesare Rubini) and my friend, Padre Mario Zaninelli. Once at the Forum, we stopped briefly in the VIP suite, and I continued to meet former teammates and friends who had established Olimpia Milano’s winning traditions before I arrived “on the scene.”
When we walked onto the floor to get to our seats, I saw many friends and fans who wanted to take a picture. I was delighted to accommodate them so it was a while before we got to sit-down. In Milano, everyone carries a camera-phone!
The game went well and EA7 (Olimpia Milano) was ahead of Siena, and with 2 minutes before the half ended, my teammates, and the players before my era and I made our way to the tunnel. There they gave us the order of introductions, and we came out as we were announced: I led-off, then Asst.-Coach Sandro Gamba, Renzo Bariviera, Paolo Bianchi, Dino Meneghin (my main rival who joined my team several years after my departure), Dr. Giorgio Gaggiotti, Dr. Giorgio Papetti, my life-long friend Basilio Andolfo, and Gianfranco Pieri and Giandomenico Ongaro who both played with Senator Bill Bradley on the Club’s European Cup Championship team in 1966.
They showed a personal video of me during my playing days which included a post Simmenthal vs Ignis game interview by the famous Aldo Giordani. Mr. Giordani said “We have Art Kenney, the usual ‘lion’ of Simmenthal in this game played at a very high level…was there a moment in which, were you worried when you were down 9 points to this great Ignis team?” My response is that we are never afraid of losing, that we just have to play our game, not change anything, just play together…which we did and things would and did work out for us!” At the ceremony, when they handed me the microphone, as I began to speak, there was feedback. (After, I told my teammates that I learned that the host was from Varese, our rival town, which was true, and that he had planned a “scherzo” on me which was not true. I also added that instead of a microphone, our friend from Varese had handed me an electronic Roman candle!). Once they adjusted the volume, I read my brief speech, the essence of which was that since my basketball philosophy was to give 100% for the success of the team, that I was accepting the incredible honor of being the first player to have his number retired on behalf of my teammates, those Olimpia Milano players before me, after me and on behalf of those in the future. I was also accepting on behalf of all my friends and fans, our “Sixth Man” who supported and sustained me during my basketball career and after, and I pledged to continue to be their Ambassador of Olimpia Milano in my “little city of New York!”
As I concluded my comments, I waved to the fans, and then before leaving the court, also turned, gave a salute and waves to my Fly Angling Club of Milano buddies, who by the generosity of Olimpia Milano were sitting together and who were easy to spot: some were wearing red shirts and several were wearing the yellow hats with the club logo that I had gifted them 2 years ago on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard so I could more easily herd them on their shopping trips to Edgartown. They were thrilled by the acknowledgement!
As we made our way back to our seats, I was congratulated by Mr. Giorgio Armani and then by the “AD” of the Milan soccer team, Mr. Adriano Galliani who was a fan when I played and who gave a quote to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, “Arthur… I remember him well: red-blooded, of character, who gave everything on the court for the colors and pride to become a part of this club. I remember the banner: Art, you are the best! He was the most beloved player.” The article continued: “Even Dino Meneghin celebrated the red-head from Olimpia: ‘My one cross to bear is that I never had the opportunity to play with him, I only played against him as an adversary. .We were made of the same pasta (i.e., cut from the same cloth), never a step backwards, neither of us wanted to lose. A pivot just about 2 meters, those were different times: he was an extraordinary adversary. It is a special night…”
I was stopped by several fans who wanted to take a picture- everyone in Milano has a camera phone and everyone under a certain age seems to be on social media. I claimed the senior citizen exemption to that rule-of-thumb!
For my game-guest list, I had asked if Dino Meneghin would accept my invitation to be my guest, and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation. In the interview I did for the Olimpia Milano website (13 questions to which I had 9 pages of answers, and a ton of laughs and smiles writing my responses), I addressed the confrontation that Dino and I had after the game at the PalaLido in my second season. I told Dino about my version of the incident: With our team leading by 4-points and with just a few seconds remaining I drove to the basket and put up a shot a nano-second before the game ended. Several seconds after, Dino fouled me. My version is that “…our fans were cheering so loud that I could understand why he never heard the final buzzer, and that when I went toward him to give him a “man-hug” to compliment him on a great game. The Varese fan who jumped on my back did not understand my intentions, and the jolt of his jumping on my back made it seem that I was lunging at Dino, at the same time he was attempting to “high-five me.” The picture taken could be mis-interpreted as a rissa, or confrontation, when instead it was a scioccezza or malintesa! I told Dino, “That’s my story and I am sticking to it!” Dino chimed-in saying, “Bravo, Arturo!” and then, in an expressly, heavily Italian-accentuated mode, complete with gesture (and may I add, with tongue-in-cheek), Dino said, “Si’, e’ stata una mis-under-r-r-r-standing!” Sitting with Dino is worth any price of admission, or rather I should say it is a priceless experience.
I asked Dino if I could help him in any way during my stay and he introduced me to a new friend, the President of the Italian Federation of Lombardy, Enrico Ragnolini. They informed me that there might be the opportunity for me to assist at regional award ceremonies. More on those fun-events later.
My EA7 team played even better in the second half and I was so happy to see them “win-going-away!”
The Celebratory Dinner was scheduled for Saturday and because of the festivities that evening, I had planned on a day of “down-time” and stayed close to “home.” I met-up with Dr. Danilo Cadamosti who was on one of our youth-teams and whom I had befriended. Back then I would see Danilo being dropped-off by his Mother each day, and I always admired the dedication and the support she gave him, similar to that which my Mother provided to me. He advised me that it was his birthday and we toasted with a chinotto, and the gifts we exchanged were the memories (and photographs) of when we were playing and the time Danilo and his sister spent with me while on a visit to NYC, all too many years ago.
“LE DINNER” Saturday, 11 Maggio
The Celebration Dinner was planned for Saturday night at 8:30 PM at the Caffe’ Armani located at via Manzoni, 31. For the sake of convenience, and since certain traffic is precluded in the center of Milano, Basilio & Antonietta Andolfo and Michi Cerioni (Mauro Cerioni was ill and unable to attend) and I took the 73 Bus to Piazza San Babila and enjoyed a delightful stroll the short length of ultra-fashionable via Montenapoleone. Our destination was the intersection with via Manzoni and the small piazza in which Caffe’ Armani is located. Along the way we ran-into Dr. Giorgio Papetti and his guest. Dr. Papetti was my “road-roommate” and Dr. Gaggiotti was my roommate in my apartment, which says a lot about the type of individuals who wore the Olimpia Milano biancorosso (our white and red) colors..
The cast of characters at Le Dinner:
OLIMPIA MILANO HOSTS: Giampiero Hrudy, Claudio Limardi, Tullio Marino and several assistants who photographed, filmed & recorded the event.
OLIMPIA MILANI GUESTS: Basilio & Antonietta Andolfo, Padre Mario Zaninelli, Coach Sandro & Stella Gamba, Michi Cerioni, Renzo Bariviera & daughter, Dr. Giorgio Gagiotti & guest, Dr. Giorgio Papetti & guest, Paolo Bianchi, Gianfranco & Pierisa Pieri, Giandomenico & Graziella Ongaro, Andrea & Bruna Brambilla, and me.
I had printed-out all the pictures from the “archives” on my computer and set two photo albums on the table to that my teammates could look at them during the “aperitif.” When we sat down for the meal, I distributed an 8½ X 11 inch personalized montage to each of the attendees on photographic paper, in a clear, plastic sleeve. One copy was to be autographed by them and returned to me for my collection album. The other copy additionally contained a copy of the preface I wrote for Sandro Pugliese’s book OLIMPIA UN SOGNO SUL PARQUET in which I wrote about each of them. Sandwiched in-between the two was an Art Kenney Fact Sheet of my complete career.
When “Team Olimpia” gave me the microphone so they could record everything, I first thanked our hosts and then my guests for sharing the moment with me and making so much more meaningful for their having come. I told them that the seating arrangements consisted of Team Olimpia at “the adult table” and the rest of us, at “the children’s table”, so our conduct “bar” was set very low. I elaborated further by saying that the dinner was extensively planned since I could see the potential that some “bighting comments” could cause verbal-hematomas and so I made sure that we had not just one but two doctors in attendance (Drs. Gaggiotti & Papetti). In case things got more extreme, I had arranged to have “Padre Mario” at the dinner! I concluded my opening comments by saying that for the 3-years with Olimpia Milano, when I would walk-over from my apartment for lunch and dinner in the 2nd floor dining room, I would see the pictures of Bill Bradley and Skip Thoren on the way up, and Skip Thoren and Bill Bradley on the way down, 2 times per day, 7-days per week, 52-weeks per year, for 3-years. I always thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to play well enough for this storied Club to merit having my picture somewhere in the Clubhouse, anywhere, even in the basement or attic, or even taped to the bottom of a desk drawer!” I never thought that I would be the recipient of such an accolade, having my Number 18 retired! I concluded by saying that I was willing to accept the honor, but only in the name of my teammates, and those who has gone before me and those who came after me, and those who are yet to wear the Olimpia Milano white and red. When they see my Number 18, they should see the different combinations of jerseys numbers that add-up to 18 and players who wore those numbers. If I had success at Olimpia Milano, it was only due to my teammates and our 100% commitment to forsake individual goals and work together to achieve our team goals and success. We then adjourned to the gastronomic feast.
At the conclusion of the meal, I rearranged the long-table seating to a circular arrangement saying that my home-sickness for Milano required an intense therapy “intervention” with quality “Milanese therapists” and that both Drs. Gaggiotti & Papetti had written me a prescription that had to be filled immediately. The stories and anecdotes flowed and our hosts were extremely patient as our game must have run into the equivalent of quadruple overtime. As we walked out, the “moveable-feast” simply adjourned to the small piazza right outside, and my new friend, and always on-the-spot/always on-the-mark, Tullio Marino, volunteered to take several pictures of the stalwart group, before we retired for the night, about 1-hour later. Oh, what a night and what a treasured experience Olimpia Milano and my friends had gifted me!
One invited friend, Antonio “Toto” Bulgheroni, was hosting business colleagues over the weekend so he was with us in spirit (the Italian expression is col cuore or with the heart…we say “in spirit”). I had an absolutely delightful luncheon across-the-street with Toto’ a few days later reminiscing on the mutual friends and relationships we shared.
TRIESTE PILGRIMAGE Monday, 13 Maggio
On Monday morning, Basilio and I left at 6 AM to pick-up Padre Mario on our way to my second-favorite city, Trieste, the birthplace of Coach Rubini and so many of my friends! We were going to visit and interview Ms. Laura Rubini, sister of my coach, “Principe” Cesare Rubini. During the 4-hour trip, we used the time in our mobile office to set up and confirm meetings. Zia Laura is a dear friend, and I refer to her as my Italian aunt! Nephew Giorgio said when speaking of the family, she refers to them as “noi Rubini” (we Rubini) which connotes a special group of people. I completely agree that, the Rubini Family is very special. During our visit with Zia Laura, I took every opportunity to ask about her family addressing them in terms of “voi Rubini” (you Rubini), and she got quite a kick out of my having picked-up on that mannerism.
Since the interview, was conducted by Padre Mario, it gave me an opportunity to listen to the family history and what an exceptional group of people “those Rubini” are. It was a very emotional experience to be a part of. After the interview, we rushed to meet Giulio Iellini for lunch. It was his first day back in the office after a minor surgical intervention which precluded his coming to Milano to participate in the celebratory events. Since he could not come to the celebration, we decided to bring the celebration to him. What a wonderful luncheon, and Giulio gave us all a present- the news that he will be marrying his fiancée Anna, an outstanding person, on September 5th.
After lunch, we returned and picked-up Zia Laura and went to the PalaRubini (Palestra which was renamed for Coach Rubini) to meet with Mrs. Marcella Skabar. Marcella is one of the most dynamic and energetic people that I have ever met. She had her hip replaced 2-months ago and then proceeded to race us around the PalaRubini as if she were training for the 400-meter hurdles! When we got to the gym-floor level a young AceGas boys’ team was practicing, and there was one younger .girl shooting pull-up jump-shots at the other end with incredible dexterity and proficiency! Mrs. Skabar immediately took charge and called the coaches over telling them to call the players over so that I could briefly talk to them. I told them about the rich tradition that Triestini have had in basketball. Our winning history at Olimpia Milano is rich with champions from Trieste who played major roles in that success: my coach “Principe” Cesare Rubini, the only person who is a member of the Basketball (Springfield) and Swimming (Fort Lauderdale) Halls of Fame; Gianfranco Pieri, and my teammates Giulio Iellini and Renzo Vecchiato. After my brief talk, I asked if the young lady would pose for a picture with me. I think I now have a picture of a future “azzurra” Triestina super-star!
Mrs. Skabar showed Padre Mario the salon with all the Azzurri-Triestini, a very impressive display of Trieste’s Champions in all sports! We bid Mrs. Skabar adieu after speaking to her about the biography Indimenticable: Cesare Rubini, to be released in the fall. We then stopped for la merenda with Zia Laura which she termed as “a cherry on the top of tort of a splendid day.” I must say that “those Rubini” all have style! The ride back to Milano was long and tiring, but Padre Mario used the time to send Mrs. Skabar a copy of the photo he had taken of us with the AceGas Team, and Mrs. Skabar got it into Il Piccolo, the daily newspaper of Trieste. Basilio did an outstanding job to complete our pilgrimage and got us home safe and sound and in great spirits!
VISITS TO TEAM PRACTICES & TEAM AWARD PRESENTATION CEREMONIES|
In addition to speaking to Team EA7 and the youth team and the ragazzina (the exceptional young girl player) of AceGas in Trieste, I was given the privilege and opportunity to speak to and present awards to other teams.
Sig. Enrico Ragnolini, President of the Lombardy FIP arranged for me to present awards on Sunday (19 Maggio) at about 11:30 AM in Legnano to the Under 17 Final Four. Davide Losi and his son, Marco, were kind enough to escort me to the event, and I had delightful conversations while going to and returning from the event. When we arrived, we presented awards to the 3rd and 4th place teams and members. We then had time to accommodate the many, many requests of fans to converse and also take pictures. The finals between the team from Milano (VisMi3.6) and Varese (Gazzada) was an exciting game! Milan, which at one point enjoyed a 20-point lead, had to stave-off a furious and courageous comeback by Varese, a comeback brilliantly orchestrated by their impressive young coach. It was too bad that either team had to loose, but both teams and coaches should be proud of the way everyone on their team performed, and the pleasure, excitement and example they provided of Lombardy basketball at its best. The Final Standings were: 1st Place VisMi3.6; 2nd Place Gazzada; 3rd Place Tradate; 4th Place Como 0. Legnano-Knights President Marco Tajana was a very gracious host and has a wonderful facility. It was an outstanding selection for the Final-Four venue!
That evening, Marco Gandini, the new director of youth-basketball at Urania Tumminelli accompanied me to the 2nd Annual “Per Albi 98” Under-17 Tournament at the Forza e Coraggio Gym. On the way, Marco gave me my Milanese word of the dayàcadrega (seat). The tournament is a fund-raising event to commemorate little Alberto Fabio who sadly passed-away from a brain tumor at only 13 years of age.
I sat in the stand as the finals began between a very strong team (eccelenza) and the team Tumminelli/Urania. I have known the Urania Club and have felt connected to the teams over the years since my friend Dr. Alfonso Angrisano was very involved with the club and even arranged for me to practice with the team during one of my visits to Milano. While I was watching the finals, I befriended the Gamma Basket Team – Segrate, and had fun-conversations with their extroverted Captain and the other players, and took many pictures with them. The game was another great demonstration of the quality of basketball in Lombardy, and “Urania” almost pulled-off a major upset by playing almost flawless basketball against a team that was physically superior. I was asked to present the awards and also say a few words. There was a banner for little Albie stressing his talents: grinta (persistence and stick-to-it-tivism) and entusiasmo, ovunque (anywhere). I first thanked all the fans, and saluted my new friends (Gamma Basket Team), and congratulated both teams for an exciting Final Game. I then talked about Albie’s talents (grinta e entusiasmo, ovunque) and how they served my beloved Olimpia Milano so well, as personified by “Il Principe” Cesare Rubini, Il Grandissimo Dino Meneghin, and even me. I also stressed the importance of transporting these talents and the lessons learned on the court and transforming them into “life-lessons” in order to have a happy, successful and fuller life. I gave the example of my roommate, Dr. Giorgio Gaggiotti who, when the University in Milano was plagued with strikes, studied all by himself, 12 hours per day, 7-days per week, and succeeded in getting his Medical Degree with honors. He eventually became a very noted surgeon in Ancona. The organizers then embarrassed me by presenting me with a plaque (it was an honor for me to be asked to participate, and then to be asked to speak to them…wow!) It was a wonderful experience! The Urania Team presented me with a Tuminelli/Urania sweat shirt, so I do consider myself an honorary club-member, and I am proud to be one. Ex President of Tumminelli Romana, Walter Marcolin, arranged for Paolo Bonetti, coach of the Under 17 Team, to drive me home and we had a delightful conversation on the way!. I loved watching how his team played, and that some of their plays were exactly like our plays…and they still work!
A few days prior to that event, (on Friday, 17 Maggio), my great friend and Olimpia Milano “Vecchia Gloria” Team member, Giando Ongaro, invited me to attend the practices of 2 of Tumminelli/Urania’s younger teams, which helps to coach. That was fun, as Giando and the head-coach got me involved in doing some drills with the kids. It was a pleasure to meet all the great coaches with the Club, some of whom are: Signora Michela Colnago, Claudio Brambilla, Marco Gandini, Maicol, and also Elio Ongaro, Giando’s brother. The evening concluded with a delightful dinner and conversation with Giando and his wife “Grace” (Graziella) at their home, and Basilio and Antonietta attended.
LUNEDI’ CANAGLIA PROGRAM
I have to admit that I am a big fan of Lunedi’ Canaglia which can be found on YouTube. The program is a tongue-in-cheek, humorous program orchestrated by Springfield Basket, a wholesaler/retailer in Rho, which is a suburb of Milano. The creator is a former basketball player, coach, and one of the most passionate sages of basketball that you can find, Dante Gurioli. I have known Dante for many, many years and have wanted to visit him in Rho. The location of his store/warehouse is like a Maine joke (“You can’t get there from here!”), but since his door around the back of the complex is green, it is more like the Emerald City of Italian Basketball, and Dante would be the “Mentor of Basketball Wizardry!”
My visit with Dante started at 12:30 PM on Wednesday, 15 Maggio. Toni Capellari was kind enough to reprogram his GPS to account for the numerous construction detours, and drive me there. After a few man-hugs with Dante and his regulars, we sat-down and started to talk about the vecchi tempi when Sandro Gamba (Springfield HOF Inductee’) and my assistant coach, dropped-in. I brought-out my 2 photo albums replete with photos from my electronic archives, and that helped to increase the granularity and level of detail of the conversation. My teammate, Mauro Cerioni then visited, which was a particular pleasure since he had been ill and missed the celebratory events. We talked all day and could have continued for a week. I remarked that during the day, no customers had come to visit (not-to-worry since Dante’s business is over 95% wholesale), so I said that since I was a salesman for over 28 years, that he should give me his client list so that I could call them all, and get some business done for him…Dante just chuckled. I told some friends that Springfield Basket is just a virtual store/operation, and that when it’s time to talk about basketball, Dante shows clients the door! The hoops-anecdotes continued until 6:30 PM when I had to leave to visit an aged fan who had just been admitted to the hospital. Dante made me promise to return when his videographer, Alessandro Mamoli would be available, and I told him that I would be happy to come back! I suggested that Roby and I film a Lunedi’ Canaglia on Vacation sketch when my Fly Club Guys go to fish Martha’s Vineyard in June…stay-tuned!
My return visit was the following Wednesday, 22 Maggio. When I arrived, I was greeted by Luigino Fassino who was a major fan of mine from the Alessandria province in Piemonte. He is the GM of Tortona. Luigino and I shared a man hug and I could not get over that he was trembling! We talked and I gave him an autograph on a postcard which I had printed of my celebratory events, and Luigino was ecstatic! Among the other Canaglia Club fans was Coach Matteo Boniciolli who coached in Kazakhstan where it averages -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and whose only sustenance was the Lunedi’ Canaglia program was his only link to the outside world and so for Matteo, a wonderful Triestino, every day was Lunedi’ (Monday). Silvio Saini, a Canaglia Club member was also there to provide additional, comic relief.
We then filmed an impromptu skit, and Alessandro used the “Go-Pro” HD Video-cam, which is so small, it avoids putting people ill-at-ease. Paola Ellisse, a broadcaster was also there and when I asked her if she had purchased anything, she said “No” because she wanted shoes for running which Dante did not carry. I was holding a sample red Converse sneaker, size 10 (we were known as Le Scarpette Rosse). I told her that our team used them and we were known for our “fast-break”, so she should buy them. Addressing her as Signorina Cenerentola (Cinderella), I asked her to try it on and when she playfully slipped her size 5 foot into the size 10 sneaker, I told her that with these she would never complain that her shoes were uncomfortable tight. When she said that they seemed loose, I said “Not a problem!”, and wrapped the long laces around the shoe, top-to-bottom a couple of times. In the last part, I was asked about how the Red Star Team of Belgrade started a riot when we played them in the quarter-finals of the 1972 Cup of Cups, and how we exacted our revenge by beating them in Salonika, Greece in the finals!
We all then sat and talked basketball for the balance of the afternoon.
QUARTERFINAL PLAY-OFF HOME-GAMES 2, 3, & 4
The 2nd EA7 vs. Siena Game was a thriller and as time was about to expire and a few fans about to concede a loss at home, with EA7 down by 3, Malik Hairston drew a foul while shooting a 3-pointer. He then made 3-free-throws to send the game to overtime where Ernest Lenell JR Bremer hit a 3-pointer to win the game. There is a picture of me and the fans celebrating his shot as he was running-back on defense which really captures the moment…Priceless!
The third home-game was at Desio because The Forum was occupied. I sat next to the charming and beautiful wife of Charlie Ricalcati, Giovanna Ricalcati. Charlie was a great, great player for the town of Cantu’, and is a very successful and generous coach, who is presently broadcasting, and has made incredible contributions to Italian basketball. I first met Giovanna Ricalcati in 1968 when I was touring with Jim McGregor’s Gulf All-Stars. Giovanna could not have been more helpful or more informative to help acclimate us Americans to Italy. She had the patience of a saint and would answer the same question over and over as it was posed by the different members of my team. She was a true Ambassador of Italian Basketball, and understood the game very, very well. I thanked her for all the patience she showed us back then, and had a delightful time watching EA7 defeat Siena in Desio and hearing her insightful perspectives. I was told that in the TV broadcast Edi Dembinski (the RAI TV broadcaster who had interviewed me) playfully asked Charlie Ricalcati “Who is the beautiful lady sitting with Arturo Kenney?”, and Charlie playfully retorted, “Why I don’t believe I have ever seen her before!”
At the end of the game, Flavio Portaluppi was so excited with the victory, that he asked if I could come to Siena on Monday night (20 Maggio). I had already scheduled a dinner with my Fly Club friends, so on the way out, Club President Roby made calls to try move the dinner to Tuesday night. On Sunday morning however, Roby relayed that EA7 had second thoughts about my attending since in the last game there, several parents were abused by their rude, unruly and un-sportsman-like fans, and they felt my presence could give them fodder to create an incident. It is too bad that their fans did not learn any lessons from our fans on how to support your team enthusiastically and yet be good sports. The proper descriptive phrase and mantra of our fans is “la costanza è la virtù dei forti.” The Milanesi fans are consistently positive, and that is the virtue of the strong…our fans are Olimpia Strong! The Siena fans would do well to follow their own city’s motto, “Mens sana in corpore sano” because they are often very rude and lacking in manners and class!
With my trip to Siena out of the picture, I decided it would be a good day to revisit the Olimpia Milano offices at the PalaLido and offer the staff lunch. Tullio took care of the details and I had lots of fun talking to the staff about the fun we had during my Simmenthal days. Roby came so that was also fun for him too!
The fourth home game of the seven game series) was at the Forum and was “win-or-go-home.” EA7 did not play well and was behind for the entire first half, but with a rally, at the intermission they were only down by 2-points. I thought they were in a great position since they had not yet found any rhythm and were only one basket behind. Unfortunately in the second half, they never found their rhythm, but that was not for lack of effort and they were eliminated from the play-offs and their season was ended.
With the mood downbeat, I knew that the administration had much on its mind and had a lot of work ahead. As for the staff though, I thought that a morale boost would help them (and me too), and so I went to the offices and I bought them lunch with the help of my friends Tullio and Roby. The entire staff accepted our luncheon invitation and filled the conference room. While we were having lunch, I said that they had been hearing all about me during my visit, but that I would like to hear about each of them. To make it comfortable I gave a couple of details on my background which were not well-known, and then I asked each of them to take a turn telling where they were born, their function, whether they have siblings, their hobbies, music tastes, etc. It was fun and I hoped it would build morale. I learned that Olimpia Milano entered the Maratona di Milano with a relay team, with each of the 4 members running between 9 and 12 kms. (Marco Esposito, Claudio Limardi, Flavio Portaluppi, & Tullio Marino). I briefly told them about my 2 NYC Marathons and 1 Boston Marathon. I also mentioned that years ago I had run the more famous StraMilano (21.097 km) in 1 hour 16 seconds. We all had many laughs when simpaticissimo Alessandro Barenghi whose function is that of magazziniere spoke to us about his functions (magazziniere translates as warehouseman or kind of quartermaster). Alessandro was asked about his position and so he closed the door, took a black “grease” pen and drew two pyramids one atop of the other, the bottom one right-side up, the top one up-side-down, with them touching at the points. He then drew lines parallel to the base (of lowest importance) working his way up to the point (highest importance) of the bottom triangle. He then began his tongue-in-cheek explanation of where he fit in the organization. Players were the lowest part of the Olimpia “food chain”, then the Staff, followed by Team Manager the GM, the President and at the summit would be Sig. Giorgio Armani. However, above this is the more-important magazziniere, represented by the entire triangle above! When asked about his functions, Alessandro listed the following functions: warehouse distribution, catering, driver, coach’s helper, rehab assistant, pharmacist (provide only over-the-counter medications), volunteer, pet-sitter and several others. When Alessandro had finished, I approached the board and crossed-out catering from his functions listing, since Tullio, Roby and I went and brought-back lunch on both Monday (20 Maggio) and Thursday (23 Maggio). I then asked since he had listed driver as a function, if he would be driving me to Malpensa on Saturday morning at 7:00 AM. We all enjoyed Alessandro’s humor and the contributions of all the others at our little morale-boosting luncheon!
Right after the luncheon, I was asked to tape a “good-luck” video message to all the young EA7 teams for their upcoming playoffs. That was fun to do!
FLY ANGLING CLUB OF MILANO
It was great to have my Fly Angling Club of Milano friends at the Kenney Celebration Night, and I enjoyed waving to them from the court ant their standing and waving back. I also enjoyed their taking pictures with me after the ceremony and Game. My Fly-guys were very supportive and I cannot thank them enough, but I have to thank Olimpia Milano for the kindness, generosity and hospitality shown to my friends and Club President Roby Pecorelli in particular! They could not have been nicer or more accommodative and I must extend a special series of Grazie to Tullio Marino, Carmen Dipalma e Paolo Avantaggiato.
I enjoyed presenting with Roby to the rest of the Club (8 Maggio) about our three trips to Martha’s Vineyard to fish for stripers. It was fun to attend the 15 Maggio meeting when Roby and others tied flies for our upcoming M.V. trip in June (9th through the 16th). The conversations and pizzas before the meetings were much fun, and the dinner that Roby and Paolo organized was a highlight.
I TIFOSI (THE FANS)
Maria Pia Gremigni: Maria Pia was a devoted fan for many years before I arrived. She has known Roby all his life and admits that the only regret she made was in letting Roby become a fan for our Milanese rival club, Pallacanestro Milano instead of my Olimpia Milano. Knowing her devotion to my club and that she was a fan of mine, that during a visit two years ago we knocked on her door and Roby ducked back and when she opened the door. I then stepped forward and showed her an old copy of Giganti Del Basket with me on the cover, held it by my face and asked her if she knew the where-abouts of “Arturo Kenney.” She recognized me and we conversed for a while and she then took our some of her memorabilia from before my era! When Roby saw her in the bakery the next day, she told him that she was so excited to meet me that she did not sleep at all last night. I told Roby to tell her that “Arturo said that he was so excited to find such a loyal fan of Olimpia that he did not sleep at all that night!”
This trip, since my Number 18 was being retired, we had planned a surprise visit to take a picture of her in my old uniform. Unfortunately, Roby’s wife, Anna Maria called the day of the surprise visit and said Maria Pia was taken to hospital for surgery. The poor 87-year old Super-fan was scheduled for gall-bladder surgery the next day. Roby simply reprogrammed our personal GPS and went and visited her at the Hospital of San Carlo, near the San Siro soccer stadium, and also near Olimpia’s offices. We took a picture of Maria Pie with my uniform draped over her and Roby will print a copy for her.
A few days later, we visited Maria Pie after she got home and she showed me her priceless collection of vinyl jazz records and even played a couple for me!
Dr. Alfonso Angrisano: The good doctor is a pediatrician, has always had a passion for basketball (he was a sponsor of and introduced me to his team Tumminelli/Urania many years ago), and still is involved in global philanthropic work. Unfortunately he is somewhat paralyzed on his right side. When he heard I was in town we spoke on the phone and he invited me and Basilio to luncheon…he said the pizzeria next to his office was the best in Milano. Since he hails from Naples and I lived there for a year I was happy to see my old friend. We had a great time talking about his work with children in the Philippines, and I took some pictures of me and him flexing our muscles, at his suggestion!
Claudia and Pupo Pastore I was so happy to carve-out some time to see these dear friends! They were part of our inner circle of friends and of course loyal, loyal fans. Pupo was an excellent photographer and has an incredible archive of photographs of our games and of our times spend together. He gave me an outstanding photo of my player/friend Pino Brumatti standing at attention with hat under his arm after opening the door of a Mercedes-Benz for Basilio Andolfo. Basilio had won a bet with Pino and the prize was that the winner would be formally chauffeured-around all-day by the loser. The photo shows the camaraderie and good-naturedness of my teammates! Pupo also promised to send me a photo of the caricatures which he had done for each team member and put on the wall for a New Year’s Eve party at his home. The head was a photograph of the player, and the body was a drawn caricature. My caricature was the body of a Scotsman with a kilt. I can’t wait to receive the scanned picture!
Silvia Trevisan and Patrizia Diana Buongiardino Silvia and Patrizia were schoolmates and lived across town near the PalaLido. They were 13 year olds and were tifosissime (big-time fans) when I played in Milano! They were at the Celebration night and they asked Roby to take a photo of all of us together. I knew Silvia when her wonderful and charming husband, Enrico Lana played at Desio, back when my teammate, Renzo Bariviera was their General Manager and Luigi Bergamaschi was coach. During a trip to Italy, I went to a game at Desio and Renzo invited to the post-game meal, at which she admitted before everyone how big a fan she was of mine. I turned redder than my Simmenthal uniform or even the red Converse sneakers that our Olimpia Milano trademark. Enrico was a great sport and assured me that Silvia was not a stalker and I had nothing to worry about. Patrizia has an effervescent personality and I dare anyone to try to say that three-times-fast in Italiano!
Silvia and Patrizia said they would love to get together with their families and me and Roby over pizza, and talk about the “Glory Days.” We met and I brought another Fly Club member with us, Pino Savino. Pat and husband Marcello, and Silvia and husband Enrico Lana and son Marco all joined us.
I had so much fun telling stories and anecdotes that they were ready to order desert and I was not even half-way through my risotto. The ladies admitted that as 13-year olds, after school they would take the 91 Tram across the city to my apartment building in the hopes of catching a glimpse of me. The few times they saw me they would duck behind a car and so, those few times, I never saw them. I told Patrizia that with all that ducking behind parked-cars, her professional calling should have been an automobile sales-person! Silvia said, “How did you guess, Patrizia used to sell cars?!”
We had so much fun that on my next visit, we are all going to take the 91 Tram and take pictures all together at via Camillo Hajech, 37 and of course, behind some of the cars parked on that street! Maybe we will walk over to via Caltanissetta and sprinkle ashes of some pictures of Bill Bradley and Skip Thoren! (see the context right below)
VIA CALTANISSETTA, 3
I had mentioned that during my Olimpia Milano tenure, that every day for lunch and dinner I would pass in front of photos of Senator Bill Bradley and Skip Thoren on the way up to the dining room, and Skip Thoren and then Senator Bill Bradley on the way down. My one desire was to play well enough to earn the acknowledgement to have my photo somewhere in the Club House.
With the club house now empty, the pictures of Senator Bradley and Skip Thoren no longer grace the walls, but for me their spirit will always be there. To be part of that spirit, I took a photo of me playing defense and one playing offense, and cut out the backgrounds. I then cut the photos into pieces being careful not to cut the number 18 on my uniform, and then burned them with assistance from Basilio and placed the ashes in a plastic bag. We then surreptitiously deposited the ashes inside the gate of via Caltanissetta and then took a picture to record the moment.
Roby and I each took hundreds of pictures during my Milanese sojourn, and with the help of Carmen, put all of the photos at Olimpia Milano’s unrestricted and unlimited use and access. Roby, in his usual, generous manner, took the time to download all the photos to my photo files on my computer. I will be reviewing all the photos and smiling from ear-to-ear for years to come!