We are incredibly delighted and honored to welcome sportswriter Howie Evans to our Board of Directors, as of January 1, 2014.
Evans is the Senior Sports Editor for the New York Amsterdam News. His career has spanned over 50 years as a journalist, educator, communications specialist, youth sports organizer, and basketball coach.
He joined the Amsterdam News as a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where he was a point guard on the varsity basketball team, after starring at Morris High School in the South Bronx and on the playgrounds of New York City. Evans began at the News as a contributor and soon became a regular sports columnist at the 104-year-old weekly paper, a position he still holds today. His column appears in the Amsterdam News every Thursday.
Evans was the first African American sports reporter to travel with the New York Knicks and New York Jets. He has covered the Yankees, Mets, Knicks and Nets and has been granted press credentials for over 40 Super Bowls. Evans has covered Olympiads, NBA Championship Finals, NBA All-Star Weekends, Major League Baseball All-Star and post-season events, McDonald’s Basketball Championships in Barcelona, Munich, Toronto and Paris, European Basketball Championship Final Fours, the USA Davis Cup, and the US Open Tennis Championships. He has also covered the White House and written on social issues of national importance to African Americans and others.
From the beginning, Evans’ writing was incisive, outspoken, unforgiving, and relentlessly activist in his advocacy not only for better recognition, rights, and treatment of African American athletes but also for changes and improvements affecting the black community as a whole.
Always passionate about community service, Evans became the director of the Wagner Youth and Adult Center at Junior High School 45 in East Harlem, also known as the Wagner Center. Using the facility’s gymnasium as a base, he helped found the City Wide Rec Basketball League (City Wide Athletic Association, Inc.) in 1964, and was on its Board of Directors, governing over 6,000 kids registered in every New York City borough.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, he almost single-handedly created new visibility for former New York Renaissance Big Five (aka “Harlem Rens”) players during a time when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame had still not yet enshrined any African Americans as individual inductees. Through his column and letters, Evans demanded recognition on behalf of deserving African American candidates. The Hall of Fame eventually agreed, which resulted in the enshrinement of Renaissance team owner Robert “Bob” Douglas in 1972, Charles “Tarzan” Cooper in 1977, and William “Pop” Gates in 1989. No other Rens players or contributors have been enshrined into the Hall since Gates, though Evans and others believe that several more are deserving.
By the early 1970s, he had become the first African American to be a part-owner of a major professional sports team, the Garden State Colonials of the Eastern Basketball Association, and was president of the franchise.
Evans also was as a Senior Staff Writer for Black Sports Magazine, with Bryant Gumbel as Managing Editor, and was the host of his own weekly radio show, “Sports on the Local Side with Howie Evans,” which focused on the local youth sports scene and was broadcasted on Riverside Radio 106.7 WRVR-FM (now WLTW).
Evans was a regular panelist with Black Entertainment Television on the groundbreaking Bud Sports Report with colleagues Michael Wilbon (Washington Post) and David Aldridge (Philadelphia Inquirer).
All the while, he helped mentor many of the greatest young players New York City has ever produced, including high-schooler Lew Alcindor and playground legends such as Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond, whom Evans took to a Los Angeles Lakers tryout in New York City at the request of the NBA team, acting as his agent. The workout was so successful that the Lakers selected Hammond in the 1971 hardship draft.
During this time, Evans became the second African American employee at Converse (legendary basketball coach and Hall of Fame member John McLendon, Jr. was first). Converse, then the leading basketball shoe maker, tapped Evans as its regional marketing and promotions liaison for New York City. In that role, he was instrumental in helping Converse sign young New York Nets star Julius Erving to what became a signature endorsement deal with the sneaker company. Erving had played in the City Wide Rec League run by Evans.
Expanding beyond New York City, Evans founded the AAU Junior National Basketball Program in 1973, now the nation’s largest amateur youth basketball program. He coached the first-ever USA AAU Junior National Team on a tour of Europe, and has coached USA Junior and Senior basketball teams in England, Spain, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and Russia. Evans was the first US coach to take an American high school basketball team to the former Soviet Union when he brought a New York City all star squad to Moscow in 1974.
In 1976, Evans helped push the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) to include African American coaches on its selection committee board for the first time, ensuring that the tournament would invite at least one black college team annually.
In the mid-1980s, Evans was an assistant basketball coach at Fordham University in the Bronx, and briefly took a leave of absence from the newspaper to become the head varsity basketball coach at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, his alma mater.
Evans was founder and President of HEC Communications, which specialized in public relations, marketing, promotions, and event management. His clients included Don King Productions, Magnavox, American Express Satellite Tennis Circuit, Converse Rubber Company, and Yago Sangria.
Evans was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. He served as a charter member on the New York City Board of Education Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletics, devoting over 20 years in the New York City Board of Education as Director of Youth and Adult Education in troubled areas such as the South Bronx and Harlem. Evans has been active for many years with the John Hunter Camp Memorial Fund in Harlem, with the Bob Douglas Hall of Fame, as a charter member of the Board of Trustees of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, of which he is Chairman, and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the 49-year-old City Wide Athletic Association, which continues to run sports leagues throughout New York City.
Evans has appeared in numerous documentaries on CBS, NBC, ABC, MSG and ESPN, and has been a frequent guest on the CUNY Television program African American Legends.
He has been honored by over 100 organizations including the NAACP, United Negro College Fund, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Wheelchair Charities, Positive Images, Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Trey Whitfield Foundation, Positive Images Inc., Jackie Robinson Culture Center, National Old Timers Athletics Association, and Oakland, California-based African American Sports Hall of Fame. Evans was presented with Keys to the Cities of Paris and Lyon France, was awarded the China Award of Merit, and the International Sports Service Award (Montreal, Canada). He is inducted into numerous sports Halls of Fame and on the New York Daily News list of 25 Most Influential African Americans in Sports and Entertainment in New York City.
Evans has served on youth-serving sports organization boards in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, and he has been cited by New York State Congressman Charles Rangel for his work with young people.
Evans is already familiar with the efforts of the Black Fives Foundation, having covered some of our organization’s achievements for the Amsterdam News, and through his previous affiliation with Black Fives, Inc. as a member of its advisory board.
“Howie’s wisdom, integrity and commitment to serving youth and communities through basketball will be invaluable in helping guide our efforts,” says Black Fives Foundation executive director Claude Johnson. “His work along with his dedication to promoting and advocating for the African American basketball pioneers who paved the way for today’s stars are not only inspiring but also pioneering in themselves.”
Attesting to its potential for sociological and cultural impact during a recent documentary film appearance, Evans said, “We would have never had integration in this country if it wasn’t for professional sports.”
We couldn’t agree more about the power of using basketball and its history to help engage, inspire, and teach people–especially our youth– today.