Providing Inspiration On and Off the Basketball Court
Steve Adubato sits down with Jonathan Peña, Head Coach, and Chris Christiansen, Coach Emeritus, of the Berkeley College NY Basketball team to discuss how they are inspiring young men on the court and in the classroom.
"There they are, two guys who know basketball and leadership, Jonathan Pena is Head Coach, Chris Christiansen, Coach Emeritith... Emeritus... I can get that out! It's... [laughter] Don't edit that. Keep that in! [laughter] Berkeley College New York men's basketball team. How you doing guys? We're doing great, thank you. Doing well, thank you very much. So what's the story with you Chris? 23 years ago, you were a professor at Berkeley, what happened? Well, I started at Berkeley 23 years ago, and when I got into the school, I noticed that they didn't have an athletics program. So being the person that I am, I just decided I wanted to have a program, and I started getting groups of guys in the school into basketball, and we started the program and... We're these scholar athletes? Or excuse me, these like… like athletes who... their whole lives, what? No, in the beginning they were just students that came to the school. They had no idea that a program… They were students? Yeah, they had no idea... Academics was their focus? Yup, and they had no idea that there was gonna be a program, and I just went around and picked people based on height! [laughter] Based on...? [laughter] And we got them involved. Yeah. And you know, we basically went to local games, and played, and got beaten badly, but started to get exposure, and eventually I got into, you know, some colleges playing against them, and before you know it, we're here. You're in the game? Yeah. And this guy, so you wind up playing for him? I did. When? '06 to '09. Alright. 2006 to 2009. You didn't do it based on height? Because you're just about, what? I don't know, 5'10" or so. Yeah I don't know what he's talking... it's definitely not height! [laughter] So he's... clearly you're a point guard? He was a point guard? Yes. You can see the whole court? [laughter] Right? You can shoot? Absolutely. You can also set other guys up? There you go. Where did you learn to play ball? It was mostly in the street. Where did you grow up? You know... I grew up in Brooklyn, I moved from the Dominican Republic when I was ten years old to New York. In Brooklyn? Did they play basketball there? They do... they... I'm joking! [laughter] They tend to be pretty good out there. They sure do. They sure do. So you wind up playing for him? Yes. So then what is the thing where you become a coach? And he's the emeritus? [laughter] How does that happen? So once I'd finished the last season in 2009, Coach Chris, and Sean, who was an assistant coach back then..."