Ozanam African American Legends Series - part 9
Sitting in the heart of the Hill District, the Ozanam Summer Basketball League was an asphalt cradle, nurturing local talent into success at college sports and beyond.
The hand that rocked the cradle was Carl Kohlman's, who lead Ozanam, a Catholic-sponsored recreation and cultural center, from 1970 through 1987. He created the summer league in 1972.
He touched the lives of Sam Clancy, Ricky Coleman, Dwight Clay, Kenny Durrett and other high school standouts who sharpened their skills in the Ozanam league.
Mr. Kohlman believed that sports provided young people the chance to build character and self-esteem and learn values such as discipline, teamwork and responsibility. He took rag-tag teams of ballplayers and created a tradition of great pride for people on the Hill.
Mr. Kohlman was a beloved figure who believed sports could lead to self-development, said a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the group that hired him to run the center.
In 1993, when the Pittsburgh Public Schools wrestled with lowering the 2.0 average required of students to play sports, Mr. Kohlman was opposed.
Years before, he lobbied the board to institute the 2.0 standard, although he believed there should be more services, like tutoring, for those who are ineligible.
"There ought to be a commitment to educate the kids better, not lower the current standards," Mr. Kohlman said at the time. "If a kid's a 'D' student, how's he going to succeed at anything in life? If he's a 'D' student, he probably can't succeed at a fast-food restaurant."
Mr. Kohlman was a 1958 graduate of Peabody High School. He went to Duquesne University, earning a bachelor's degree in German in 1967 and a master's in African affairs the following year.
He believed in international travel and bringing different cultures together. Through his basketball programs, Mr. Kohlman took his teams overseas, where they competed and won against European leagues.
In addition to Ozanam, Mr. Kohlman was regional AAU chairman for basketball, softball, baseball and soccer. He also created the Zoo Players Project, which provided jobs for high students while introducing them to drama.