When you look at some of the great high school basketball coaches in Philadelphia, Ken Hamilton ranks as one of the the city’s best scholastic basketball coaches. Hamilton, who is one of the winningest high school basketball coaches in the Philadelphia Public League, will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, Nov. 5.
Due to the restrictions on crowd size, space requirements and other issues during the pandemic, the hall of fame induction ceremony will be done virtually for the Class of 2020.
Hamilton was the head basketball coach at Ben Franklin High School from 1972 to 1999. For nearly 30 years, he had one of the top high school basketball programs not only in the Philadelphia Public League, in the city as well. Hamilton’s coaching exploits have earned him a spot in the hall of fame. He’s thrilled about the upcoming enshrinement.
“It’s big,” Hamilton said. “It can’t be a bigger, better or higher achievement than anybody could possibly have. That’s how I feel about it. Having my name on the same list with some of these great people, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Hamilton will be inducted with some Philadelphia sports legends such as the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Witherspoon, Herman Frazier, Rick Tocchet, Vic Sears, Jerry Sizemore J. Russell Peltz, Deron Cherry, Cherie Greer Brown, Cy Williams, Bo Ryan, Dave Montgomery, Bob Rigby, Earl Strom, Lisa Raymond, Bob Rigby and the 1910-13 Philadelphia Athletics three-time World Series Champions.
Hamilton deserves the recognition. He compiled a terrific 456-184 overall record during his coaching career. He won four Public League championships.
In 1981, he won his first league championship. The Electrons posted an amazing 27-2 mark. They were led by Victor Alexander, Keith Walker and Reggie Faison.
In 1984, Ben Franklin won the league title behind Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, Will Bolds, Jimmy Richardson and Brian Smith. The Electrons finished with a 27-1 slate.
Hamilton completed his impressive coaching career winning back-to-back championships in 1998 and 1999. In 1998, the Electrons had a 17-6 overall record. Alex Wesby was a big star on that team. Wesby was joined by Calvin Johnson and Kevin Isley as the Electrons’ other standouts. In 1999, Ben Franklin put together a 23-2 mark and Hamilton captured his fourth and final league crown. The Electrons key players were Calvin Johnson, Jason Dunham and Denelle Holly.
Hamilton coached Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, Randy Woods and Paul “Snoop” Graham who went on to play in the NBA following great college careers at UCLA, La Salle and Ohio University respectively. He really enjoyed coaching these players and others over his career.
“I’m really grateful,” Hamilton said. “I’m not just talking about the athletes. I’m talking about the students. When I was there, I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do this. I couldn’t wait to get back to work. I was just fortunate to have that experience with the kids.”
Hamilton was not only a great basketball coach, but a good teacher, too. He coached basketball and taught social studies at Ben Franklin High School.
Hamilton has inspired a lot of young people over the years. Eddie Hurtt, who was recently named the Philadelphia 76ers Jr. NBA Coach of the Year, was a student at Ben Franklin during Hamilton’s coaching career. Hurtt has become an outstanding youth basketball coach from his days in the Sonny Hill League, but also from working with Hamilton who was a great mentor to him.
“”They couldn’t have made a better choice,” Hurtt said. “He’s one of the best coaches. He taught me a lot as far as coaching basketball. He was also teacher, father figure and a basketball coach at Ben Franklin.
“A lot of stuff I’ve learned from basketball was through Coach Hamilton and took some of concepts along with Coach [John] Chaney’s concepts [former Temple head basketball coach and Hall of Famer] to my program.
“To this day I see people who recognize me from coaching with Coach Hamilton. I think it’s an honor that Coach Hamilton is being inducted into the hall of fame. He’s always been humble. It wasn’t about him. It was always about his players making sure that they go to college and do the right thing even after basketball.”
In 2011, Hamilton was inducted into the Cheyney Athletic Hall of Fame. The Ben Franklin High School gymnasium was rededicated and named Hamilton Hall. Today, Hamilton works with former Overbrook High, Villanova and Philadelphia 76ers guard Wali Jones, Tee Shields, Joe Foster, Al Miles, Lou Williams, Jay Bagley and Askia Hamilton (son of Ken Hamilton) with the Shoot for the Stars basketball program, which holds clinics throughout the city and has a high school basketball classic each year.
For more information on the virtual hall of fame ceremony, go to www.phillyhall.org.