Remembering Chester High ex-basketball coach Alonzo Lewis

Alonzo Lewis as coach of Cheyney University in 1996. He also coached at Chester High and played at La Salle.
Alonzo Lewis as coach of Cheyney University in 1996. He also coached at Chester High and played at La Salle. (File Photograph)
Posted: February 23, 2012

Alonzo Lewis, the longtime Chester High School basketball coach who was killed in a car accident Tuesday in East Falls, was remembered Wednesday as a great player and a gifted leader.

Lewis, 77, was crossing at the intersection of School House Lane and Henry Avenue just before 7 p.m. on his way to watch a high school basketball game at Philadelphia University, according to his wife, Kathy.

He died of his injuries at Temple University Hospital. The driver of the car that hit him stopped and is not expected to be charged, police said.

During his 10 years at Chester, Lewis had a 237-67 record, and his teams won six league championships and two state titles. He was the third-winningest coach in the Clippers' history. Lewis stepped down in 1995 to become head coach at Cheyney University.

"We're going to miss him," Fred Pickett, Lewis' assistant, who succeeded him as Chester coach, said Wednesday. "He took the program to new heights and levels. He gave a lot and demanded a lot from his student athletes."

Rob Knox, who was basketball manager for the team while he attended Chester from 1987 to 1991, said Lewis treated every player the same. He recalled how one star scored 43 points in a playoff game. He also missed two dunks. The coach didn't like showboating and penalized missed dunks. The star "ran laps the next day at practice," Knox said.

Retired Temple University coach John Chaney had fond memories of Lewis, who was a star player at what is now La Salle University.

"He was a great basketball player, one of our great players," said Chaney, who grew up with Lewis and played with him in the Eastern League for nearly a decade.

"He will be somebody that, every time I look over my right or left shoulder, I'll always think that he'll be there."

Lewis was a member of La Salle's 1954-55 team, which lost to Bill Russell's University of San Francisco team in the NCAA final, 77-63. He scored 1,137 points in his La Salle career.

Lewis, who lived in Chadds Ford with his wife and daughter Alison, was inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame in 1980.

He also is survived by another daughter, Anastasia, and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Robert Moran, Rick O'Brien, and Anthony R. Wood, and Daily News staff writer Morgan Zalot.

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