The idea of a “Dan Finn Classic” was the brainchild of Bob Lauterhahn, a board member of Referee Board #33 as well as an assistant baseball coach at William Paterson University. In the fall of 2004, in an effort to do something to help defray the costs incurred by the Finn Family following the tragic death of their son, Bob sat down with a few fellow board #33 members to come up with a plan.
A similar format to what exists today was discussed but logistics, mainly in the form of shortness of time, precluded such an effort. Bob knew that in order to even think about a Dan Finn Classic II, the first one had to be successful. A simplified version that packed some punch was decided on.
With the help and cooperation of Bob Hurley, Steve Ricciardi, the Jersey City Police and Firemen, numerous members of Board #33, and many others, it was decided that the Police would play the Firemen followed by an entertaining game between the St. Anthony basketball alumni and the basketball alumni of the rest of Hudson County. The day turned out to be a smash hit and the Dan Finn Classic was born.
Almost immediately following that February day, the wheels began turning for the Dan Finn Classic 2006 which would involve twelve of the best high school teams, both boys and girls, in the State of New Jersey. The venue would be none other than the revamped Jersey City Armory with its built in, mesmerizing, awe and lore. Once the sight of the best high school and college basketball in the east, the Armory played host to some of the most prolific players in the nation including Lew Alcindor, Connie Hawkins, Calvin Murphy and local favorites Jim Spanarkel and Mike O’Koren.
The success of the Dan Finn Classic 2006 was measured in many ways. Sure it provided needed relief to the Finn Family. Sure it provided needed help to the family of Jasmine Manzanel, a 6 year old victim of a rare form of brain cancer. Sure it provided for financial aid to six or seven elementary school graduates towards their high school tuition. But possibly most important was that it proved it could be done and that the future of the Dan Finn Classic was on solid footing.
Getting the schedule set for Dan Finn Classic 2007 was a relative breeze. The previous successes attracted requests from over 75 teams looking to be part of what was, by now, a showcase event. The ever improving Armory added new lights and a state of the art court overhang scoreboard and message center. St. Anthony, St. Benedict’s, Linden, and Plainfield, all included in the top seven or eight teams in the State, were among the teams competing.
Not only was DFC 2007 a tremendous card but it also far exceeded fund raising expectations providing tuition assistance to twenty two additional students, again helping the family of a young athlete stricken with brain cancer, and sustaining the Dan Finn ’99 St. Peter’s Prep Memorial Scholarship; all in Dan’s name.
Plans for Dan Finn Classic 2015 are on the drawing board. The organization is now incorporated and has qualified for tax exempt status, two important strategic steps in fund raising and continued success. The teams are ready and everything is top shelf as in the past.