Chappell, Andrew and Minos, Robert
BRONX AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: Mark Naison
INTERVIEWEE: Andrew “A.J.” Chappell, Robert Minos, Margarite Chappell (helper)
SUMMARY BY: Patrick O’Donnell
Andrew Chappell and Robert Minos grew up in and around the Forest housing project in the Bronx and were players in the Hilton White basketball program. Hilton White himself was a park recreation supervisor at the time, and he ran a basketball program that boasted a number of teams and coaches from all over New York. His basketball program had several levels, catered to age and experience, and because it was so popular, it was quite difficult to make the team.
Andrew entered the program when he was 11, and Robert, who came from a well-known basketball family, entered when he was 13. Robert’s father, a US post office worker, was from the Carribean and his mother, a nurse at Lincoln hospital, was from the American south. Robert was born in 1948 and attended St. Anthony of Padua Catholic school from 1st to 8th grade. He remembers it as a safe neighborhood filled with hard-working lower-income tenants.
Andrew, born in 1950, started out playing baseball and only began playing basketball when he was 11 years old. His basketball days started in junior high at PS 120, which had a renowned program at the time. Both Robert and Andrew began playing for the Hilton White program around the same time, and were both mentored by coaches throughout the Bronx and Harlem. The coaches in the program were thorough and introduced the young men to the nuances of the game very effectively. Andrew’s mother had a big influence on her son as well—she was an activist, a member of the Jackson Democratic club, and was very involved in the PS 120 community. Robert was raised by his grandmother, uncles, and older brothers, who paid special attention to his upbringing. Andrew and Robert both had somewhat strict upbringings: their parents demanded respect, obedience, and proper manners. Both boys were exposed to the drug and gang culture growing up, but neither of them were a part of it. Andrew was a talented player, and he succeeded in making the team at a regional tryout. From Hilton White, he attended NYU, where he also played. At the moment, Robert is a coach in the Hilton White program, coaching from high school to college, and he takes most of his teaching method from White himself. Andrew works with a youth program in Yonkers. Both players agree that White was an extraordinarily dedicated and influential coach. He created and improved upon a number of classic plays that are run today in high school, college, and professional basketball, and he made sure that the players were as mentally attuned as they were physically fit. He had a palpable influence on his players, and Andrew and Robert estimate that White has influenced thousands of people on a personal and professional level. Both players use White’s tactics in coaching basketball, and they also appreciate the fact that White’s basketball program was a community effort which was very effective in getting neighborhood kids involved in something besides gangs and drugs.