Tickets on Sale to Honor MCCC’s Former Basketball Coach Howie Landa
In the words of Ann Meyers Drysdale, legendary player, sportscaster and current president/general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and vice president of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, “There could be no greater honor for one of the best teachers and coaches we have had in the game, Howie Landa.” Meyers is one of many Landa fans who is happy to hear that Mercer County Community College will pay tribute to its beloved former Men’s Basketball Coach Howie Landa on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Landa coached at MCCC from 1962 to 1987, playing for four national titles and winning two. He was named Region XIX Coach of the Year 10 times, as well as National Coach of the Year three times. Meyers Drysdale, who played for Landa as a member of the WBA’s Jersey Gems in the late 1970s, said, “He proved his work ethic, his love for the game, and his love for his players.”
The Howie Landa Tribute will start with a ceremony in the gym on college’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road, at 4 p.m., where Coach Landa’s name will be unveiled on the basketball court. Landa, now 80 years old, will be joined by his long-time colleagues from Mercer, along with former players, other MCCC alumni, and community friends who remember his golden era at the helm of MCCC basketball. The event is free and open to the public.
Following the public ceremony, friends and supporters of Landa and Mercer athletics are invited to attend a Reception/Dinner at the MCCC Conference Center, which starts at 5:30 p.m. The cost for the dinner is $65 per person and includes a buffet and beverages. Tickets are limited. (Local hotel rooms have been reserved for out-of-town guests.) Proceeds from the event will be used to benefit MCCC student athletes. Those who contribute $500 or more to the initiative will receive two complimentary dinner tickets. Tickets may be purchased online at www.mccc.edu/landa.
The reception/dinner event will include an archival photo show and the viewing of footage from the 1973 championship game – the Vikings’ first national title. Landa’s friends will be invited to share remembrances and congratulatory remarks.
According to MCCC Athletics Director John Simone, major fundraising for MCCC's Howie Landa basketball court is ongoing. Proceeds of the fundraising will be used to benefit MCCC student athletes. Those who contribute $500 or more to the Land Tribute Fund will receive two complimentary reception/dinner tickets.
Notes Tribute Committee Chair Al Leister and Co-Chair Bob Pugh, the excitement is growing as committee members continue to reach out to the many people whose lives have been touched by Howie Landa. “We’re hearing from people we haven’t seen since the ’70s,” said Leister, an MCCC professor emeritus who was athletics director during many of Landa’s years at the college. Adds Pugh, an MCCC Physical Education professor who served as Landa’s assistant coach, “He built Mercer basketball into a national program. Hopefully the community will come together and make this a great day for Howie.”
Other committee members include MCCC Board of Trustee member Robert DiFalco, current Men’s Basketball Coach Howie Levy, Trentonian sports writer George O’Gorman, Landa Assistant Coach Bill Panella, current Athletics Director John Simone, MCCC retiree Charles Smith, and Academic Counselor Fred Weiner, who advised many of Landa’s players.
According to Simone, with ticket sales underway, the committee continues to seek help from the community to identify former players who may want to attend the Sept. 15 tribute. “If you know someone who had a connection to Coach Landa or Mercer basketball, they won’t want to miss this event. We encourage community members to get in touch to share names so we don’t miss anyone who will want to attend this unique reunion,” Simone said.
One former player looking forward to the Landa Tribute is Trenton resident Mel Weldon, who came to MCCC from North Jersey in 1971 to play basketball under Coach Landa. Weldon was a team leader for the Vikings – the team’s leading scorer in his first season and Player of the Year in his second season when the Vikings won the national championship. He went on to play for Boston College (BC), where he made major contributions, and was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 1991. He currently works as the manager of residence services for the Trenton Housing Authority. Weldon, who is still regularly in touch with Landa, said, “Howie has been a blessing to everyone in and out of his circle.”
Ticket and donation information for The Howie Landa Tribute is available at www.mccc.edu/landa. Those paying by check should make checks payable to the MCCC Foundation, noting "Howie Landa Tribute" in the memo line, and mailed to: MCCC Foundation c/o Finance and Accounting, P.O. Box 17202, Trenton, NJ 08690. For questions about ticket purchases and/or donations, call Charlene Dow Edwards at 609-570-3659 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the latest updates or to add comments or share photos, the Landa Tribute Committee invites community members to “like” the Howie Landa Tribute on Facebook and get the party started.