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I rise today to speak about a great West Virginian, Lewis D’Antoni, and his extraordinary family.  I do so because the D’Antoni family is being honored tonight for the countless lives they have influenced and the untold students they have inspired to reach for the stars.  At its annual dinner in Charleston, the Education Alliance of West Virginia will celebrate the D’Antonis.  And I wish to add my salute to this remarkable family and to thank its patriarch for all he has done for the people of West Virginia in a lifetime of almost 99 years – as a dedicated educator, as an innovative coach, as an inspiring man of integrity and industry.

Lewis D’Antoni had a long career as an educator but he is best known throughout West Virginia as the “coach’s coach.”  And for good reason!  He was one of West Virginia’s greatest high school basketball coaches, with 450 victories, including a state championship, while coaching at Mullens High School in Wyoming County.   He believed in fast-forward basketball even before there was a shot clock. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that two of his sons, Mike and Dan, have been advocates of the run-and-gun offense in their NBA coaching careers.  And with Mike named just this week as the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers – reunited with point guard Steve Nash – look for a lot of full-court play at The Forum this season.

All four of the children Lewis parented with his late wife, Betty Jo, are accomplished and respected throughout West Virginia.  Their youngest son, Mark, was an Academic All-American basketball player at Coastal Carolina College and is a partner in a Charleston law firm.  And their daughter, Kathy, is an assistant state superintendent of schools in West Virginia and the author of two books on adult education. The D’Antonis personify the power of families – working hard, supporting each other and standing together, no matter how tough times may get.  These are the values of the D’Antoni family.  These are the families of the West Virginia family.

Lewis D’Antoni’s father, Andrea, came from Italy to West Virginia in 1910. He was so proud to be an American that he initiated what is probably a very unique tradition in any American household, especially these days.  Every April 15th, after paying his taxes, Andrea D’Antoni would open a bottle of wine and celebrate Tax Day with the entire family.  Kathy D’Antoni remembers stories of how happy her grandfather was to pay his taxes because, as she explains, “he loved America and he wanted to show his appreciation and to give something back to this great country.”

That has been the hallmark of the D’Antoni family ever since Andrea D’Antoni’s Tax Day celebrations. That certainly has been the hallmark of Lewis D’Antoni’s life work - through his many years as a coach, a teacher and school administrator.  He taught discipline on the court and in the classroom.  He emphasized that success depends on “how well you prepare” and “how you react to the ebb and flow” of the game.  And never, ever give up.  And that has also been the hallmark of the careers  of his children, Mike, Dan, Mark and Kathy.  All have given great service to their communities, their state and their country.

The Education Alliance is a non-profit organization that works to keep students in school and on track to graduate through various programs, including mentoring.  And every year, at its annual dinner, the organization honors West Virginians who have had a positive impact on the lives of students, as role models for discipline and hard work.  This year, the Education Alliance is honoring the D’Antoni family whose own lives bear witness to the fact that talent is unstoppable, that tenacity has rewards and that dreams can come true.  They have lived lives that made Andrea D’Antoni’s dream come true - that the D’Antoni family name would be honored in America and in West Virginia.  

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