PAWTUCKET – Jim Hoyt, the CEO of the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club, has a vision of taking the two existing preseason boys’ basketball tournaments in the city – the James W. Donaldson Memorial Tournament and the Dennis M. Lynch Memorial Tournament – and combining the tradition each one represents. The end result would be an all-inclusive tournament that would serve as the perfect wet-your-whistle appetizer for league play.
“I would be honored to have Jim Donaldson’s name connected with a tournament at (the Boys & Girls Club) that would include all the (local public and private) schools,” expressed Hoyt on Monday. “I can’t speak for the Lynch family, but I know they have great respect for Jim. Honoring his memory would fit right in with what we’re doing with Dennis by honoring their contributions to basketball and to the youth of the city.
“It can only make for an exciting kickoff to any Interscholastic League season.”
The idea of creating one tournament that includes current Donaldson mainstays Tolman, and Shea, as well as present Lynch Tournament participants St. Raphael, Central Falls, Woonsocket and Providence Country Day, figures to have a hard time seeing the light of day, according to Tolman athletic director John Scanlon.
“I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Jim Donaldson and the Jim Donaldson Tournament,” was the counterpoint Scanlon offered. “If we start combining, it probably wouldn’t take place (at Tolman High School, site of the Donaldson Tournament). I just don’t see it working for us.”
Five years have elapsed since the city’s three high schools and Central Falls compiled the makeup of the Lynch Tournament, which is always held at the Boys & Girls Club. In the time since, the Donaldson and Lynch tournaments have undergone alterations, some more noticeable than others. For instance, the 15-year-old Donaldson tournament moved from its original Christmas date to early December approximately five years ago.
The fields in both have changed hands several times over – Woonsocket replaced Davies Tech in the Lynch field, while participants in the Donaldson tourney besides Shea and host Tolman have included Pilgrim, Mt. Hope and Mount St. Charles.
Presently the RIIL caps the number of games a team can participate in (22 league and non-league games, which doesn’t include the Injury Fund). That remains one of the most noticeable hurdles in preventing Tolman and Shea from re-entering the Lynch Tournament in addition to competing in the Donaldson Tournament.
“There are a number of factors why we got out,” explained Scanlon. “One of them was schedule limitation. We had to pick and choose. We couldn’t do both, and we’re not going to cancel the Donaldson Tournament as this point. The family pumps in $1,600 in scholarships. Plus I was an old friend of Jim Donaldson’s.”
The other noticeable area of change is that both tournaments now tip off on the same night, thus placing local hoops enthusiasts in a major bind in terms of what venue to plunk down the admission fee at. The good news was that after last Thursday’s opening round games, the championship game spotlight for each tourney was reserved for different nights. Tolman edged out Shea 48-45 Friday night in the Donaldson finals, while St. Raphael ran past Woonsocket 66-53 in Saturday’s Lynch finale.
The crowds for each title game were drastically different. A couple of hundred or so came out to see SRA-Woonsocket while Shea-Tolman featured “a packed house” according to Scanlon.
“The finals aren’t held on the same night but obviously the prelims are,” Scanlon said. “You never do as well on the prelim night as you do on the finals. That’s a natural for any tournament. The finals always draw more people, especially if there are two crosstown rivals. A consideration in putting together a tournament is trying to get teams that are going to bring people with them.”
Hoyt would like nothing more than to see a hoops festival including the city’s two public high schools. That’s the primary desire.
“To have the kids from Tolman and Shea participate at the peak of their high school careers and make this a true city-wide tournament … we’ve certainly missed those kids playing in (the Lynch Tournament),” Hoyt expressed. “Most are members of the club. They grew up on this court. It’s all about making it fun and a kid-centered tournament. I know they all play one another during the regular season, but to have that bragging rights kind of thing …”
The particulars of how many teams to invite, how many days to spread it over, the official naming of the tournament, how to properly distribute the scholarship funds and where it takes place (one suggestion is to rotate it between the city’s high school gyms and the Boys & Girls Club) are all issues that can be ironed out once all involved parties sit down – if they ever select to do so. Until then, Hoyt’s vision will remain nothing more than a pipe dream, no matter how honest-to-goodness his intentions are.
“We just want to be a good community partner,” said Hoyt, who may just hold the key to getting this ambition of his off the ground.