NEW YORK CITY -- When the August Martin Angels hold a reunion, Joel Ascher is the guest of honor.
For these women and hundreds of others who played high school hoops during his 30 year tenure, he was their coach, mentor, but most of all guardian angel.
When Ascher arrived in the late 1970s or early 80s, the girl’s team had no uniforms, no form of transportation. They didn’t even have a basketball.
“The situation for girl’s athletics in New York City was terrible,” Joel said. “If they didn’t have me, they had nobody.”
But in three years, they went from a losing season to the city playoffs. By the late 1990s, they’d earned 12 city trophies and four state championships.
“Winning games is nice, but it’s not the ultimate goal,” he said. The bottom line was college and success… I would really get on them for school work, I would check their report cards, there was no mercy with me.”
Most of Coach Ascher’s players went onto college, playing for such schools as Stanford, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Northeastern.
Some even won scholarships. Yolanda Wilson and Allison Jenkins were on his 1988 championship team.
“We built a family when we were here. Ash did so much for us,” Allison said.
These days, those roles have reversed.
A team of angels now watches over him. In their 40s and 50s now, they drive him to doctors appointments and take him out to dinner.
Joel Ascher got emotional when asked if he has daughters of his own.
“No. Those are my kids,” Joel said.
Coach Ascher may have never been a father, but it didn’t stop him from acting like one.