Noon Hoops scores big in fostering community

Ben Oliva ’12 attempts a jump shot during a game organized by the intramural faculty and staff basketball group “Noon Hoops.” --Alex Marshall/Photo Editor
Ben Oliva ’12 attempts a jump shot during a game organized by the intramural faculty and staff basketball group “Noon Hoops.” –Alex Marshall/Photo Editor

Only at Williams can the varsity basketball team be kicked off the court. This is because for the last 40 years, every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, members of the College’s faculty and staff, as well as the occasional student and Williamstown local, come to play “Noon Hoops.” Wanting to see what 40 years of basketball tradition looked like, I went down to Chandler Gym last Thursday.

When I arrived, a PE volleyball class was on one court, and Paresky Lead Custodian Keith Noel and Systems and Database Administrator David Parks (who is also known by his self-given nickname, “Showtime”), were on the other, lightly shooting and stretching. “I know Adam [Falk]’s coming,” Parks said while tossing in a layup. “Adam [Falk] told me he’s coming.” Shortly thereafter, Assistant Coach of Baseball and Football Ben Oliva ’12, Assistant Coach of Lacrosse and Football Mike Silipo and Assistant Coach Scott Farley ’03 entered the gym. As expected, they are three of the better players. Oliva was the best shooter in the group, Silipo the most athletic and Farley, as a former football player at the College and member of the New England Patriots’ practice squad, was the biggest. When Assistant Director for Administrator Services Tim Reisler arrived, the game began to get organized. Reisler has been playing Noon Hoops the longest, since 1989, and this has made him the de facto leader on the court. He said he is only “a decent player,” but of the non-coaches (whose youth and athleticism put them in a different class), Reisler is certainly the most skilled player of the bunch. Eli Goldstein ’16, the lone student, said that Reisler is “awesome, controlled, fantastic shooter, just overall [a] good basketball player” and is “like a silent leader.” As this silent leader, Reisler makes up the teams (“They let me do it,” he said). While making teams, he saw there were only about seven people on the floor and asked, “is Adam coming?” to which Parks replied, “he told me he’s coming.” And sure enough, Falk walked into Chandler Gym soon after.

Falk does not get any special treatment because he is the College’s president, but the rest of the group is quite proud that the president plays. Everyone has his own “Falk moment.” Professor of American Civilization Mark Reinhardt ’56 noted that he “knocked President Falk over the other day.” Goldstein said he likes to joke to other students, “I blocked Adam Falk today; he almost expelled me.” Reisler remembered that once when Falk pulled up to take a shot, Reisler said to him, “Adam, that’s too far, that’s way out of your range.” Reisler noted “that was probably not the greatest career move, to trash talk the president, but he doesn’t mind it at all.” In fact, the only person who really acknowledged Falk’s position while on the court was Silipo who, whenever Falk scored, would shout, “nice move, Prez!” “Mike does that just to give him a nickname,” Noel said. “He tries to give everybody a nickname.” “Falk doesn’t want to be special just because he’s the president of the College … he’s here just like us to run up and down the court,” Noel said. “One of the great things about this game is that nobody cares what anybody else’s job is,” Falk said. Despite his claims that he is “definitely at the bottom end ability wise,” having grown up on the courts of North Carolina, he can hold his own in Williamstown.

There is quite a bit of talent on the court, and the games are competitive and highly organized. If they have 10 guys, they play five-on-five; anything more than 10 and they play with subs every four baskets; more than 13 and they play to five points instead of the standard 11 (all baskets are worth one), with a new team coming on every game and no team staying on for more than two in a row. The goal is to keep the games flowing and make sure everyone gets an equal opportunity to play. The games are full-court and fast-paced. Everyone plays hard and to win. Goldstein likes to play more with the Noon Hoops group than with other students because “they play harder than 18-year-olds,” and they “know what to do.” On the court, and even more so in the group’s e-mail listserve, there is quite a bit of trash talking. Falk described the trash talking as “very, very friendly trash talking, and it’s mostly either done by or aimed at Dave [Parks] or people picking on Tim [Reisler].” Since everyone is just looking for a good game and exercise, everything is in good fun.

More than the talent or the trash-talk, Noon Hoops’ greatest attribute is its ability to bring people together. Everybody wants to get some exercise, relax from their busy College schedules and enjoy the game they love. “It’s an incredible mix of rich traditions and how things are done and institutional memory, and the fact that anyone can just show up,” Reinhardt said. And anyone does just show up. Falk loves that Noon Hoops “brings people together from students to staff from all parts of the College: faculty play, townspeople play, it’s a great variety of really great people.” The high level of competition and trash talking, as well as its social heterogeneity are part of Noon Hoops’ enduring success, but there may be an even simpler reason. As Tim Reisler explained, “It’s just a really fun game.”