From Star Player to Star Coach, Dallaris Teaches Today’s Youth

NEW YORK – Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow could stop local Greek American youth from showing up to their basketball games over the Jan. 29-30 weekend. Accompanying them every step of the way were many of their parents, and of course, their coaches. One of these coaches is Manolis Dallaris, who is quite an authority on basketball, and sports in general. A former athlete himself, standing out as a former basketball player for Greece’s junior (under 17) national team and the Esperos Basketball Club of Kallithea, Dallaris now coaches the B2 White Team for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Community in Flushing, N.Y. A simple look at Dallaris’ career and impressive experience is enough for anyone to realize that basketball is his favorite sport. Having played the game for years and having spent a good amount of time coaching local Greek American tams, Dallaris shared some of his knowledge with The National Herald and spoke about the local youth league, facilities, and the duty that the Greek American Community has to its next generation of members. “Basketball is doing very well. Here in the Community of Flushing where I volunteer my services, we have a large number of kids who play on all different levels, and each level has plenty of teams participating.
{33638}There is some serious work being done by Greek Orthodox communities, parents, and coaches. We bring the kids to the gym to exercise, get to know each other, and form long lasting friendships. With the help of experienced and trained coaches, teams develop and their performance improves from game to game. There appears to be a future here, thanks to the longstanding nature of our league. The players of yesterday have gone on to become the coaches of today. We believe that our children will go on to do the same. Later on, we will pass on the torch to them. And so, the continuation of the Community is secured and guaranteed,” Dallaris said.
Aside from just playing in the games, there are greater and more valuable things to be gained. “As I said, there is a sense of camaraderie among the teammates, but they also acquaint themselves and form friendships with their peers coming from other communities. These friendships will go on over time and keep them all united. Just like they all play together on the same team, tomorrow, when they become adults, they will be able to remain united and succeed in the game of life. We lay the groundwork for the children to be able to play together, and to teach them to work together so they can survive later one through collaboration,” Dallaris added.
But exactly what role do local parish communities play in this effort? According to Dallaris, “the parish community plays a huge role. There wouldn’t be a league without them. Parents and volunteers from local parishes dedicate countless hours of work to help us achieve our goal. A lot of people work to make our league run.” And while things seem to be secure at the present time, Dallaris is well aware of the needs that go along with this effort, and the fact that the future often comes faster than expected… “It’s time for the Greek American Community to cross over to the next level,” he says. “What do I mean by this? After 1987, when the Greek national men’s team achieved international acclaim and won the European Championship, basketball courts and gyms started being built all over the country. We left the sandlots and the outdoor courts behind, and we started playing at respectable athletic facilities. This is a major reason why basketball has done so well in Greece. That’s why we have a future. Greece is one of the top countries in Europe when it comes to basketball. There’s no coincidence here. Years later, we are reaping the rewards of all the hard work that was sown. But remember, it takes years to reap rewards. We have to emulate what they did in Greece here, and we must decide to follow their example.”
Simply put, the goal is a sports complex. This is regularly atop parents’ wish list. Recently, Petros Galatoulas, of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Greater New York, called for a Greek American soccer field as well. Dallaris strongly agrees. “This (a sports complex) is an urgent need, and it must get done! If we manage to built a sports/cultural center, we will be able to bring together all of the basketball and soccer teams in the Community. We will have built a main venue where all our athletic events can be held. There could also be concert halls, a hall for theatrical and dance events, and a library. It would serve as a magnet for our kids. Other ethnic groups have succeeded in doing this, they’ve gone ahead with it. The lack of such a venue is a big absence. We should have had one already, and we have fallen behind because of it. We are lacking because of this deficiency, and it would serve as a huge asset to the Community is we build it. It would be our next step forward. We are planting the seeds now to enjoy the fruits of our labor tomorrow.”
When asked if he thinks it is attainable, he answers an unequivocal “Yes! It is possible if we all band together, parish communities, local associations, federations, prominent Greek Americans, governments… We’ve built so many churches, buildings, headquarters for associations. We’ll find a way to raise the money and make this extravagant plan come true. We are lacking such a facility, and our children need it.”
Aside from being a stand-out athlete, good father, and coach, Dallaris is also an accomplished businessman. “I came to the US on a basketball scholarship. I didn’t play. I got involved in the cafe and restaurant business. Then I started a family. I have four kids. In recent years, I work almost exclusively on green technology: solar energy, photovoltaic systems, solar panels for roofs. We have factory units in Europe, with ten stores in Greece, and twelve in Germany, Italy, and England. Here in the U.S., we have the exclusive importing rights and three stores. We are trying to bring new technology to society and educate our children and the world that our survival is tied in to the environment and the use of more eco-friendly energy sources.”
Business is going good, Dallaris says, but the ultimate goal of every father, coach, and active member of the Greek American Community is the future of their children. “They are our future. We must sow now, so we can harvest the rewards later. In order to achieve our goals, building a full athletic and cultural complex is a dire necessity. I am willing and favorably inclined to contribute myself to help in the achievement of a large-scale idea like this.”