Lowell Coach Remembers a ‘coachable, Great Kid’ in Rivera

July 28, 2018 GMT

As the assistant coach for Lowell High’s great basketball teams of the mid-1980′s, Dennis Canney served as the eyes and ears for head coach Charlie Ryan, and in some ways the cool-headed ice to Ryan’s hot-headed fire.

And he was a big Ramon Rivera fan.

“He was very coachable,” said Canney about the legendary LHS hoopster who was killed in a tragic car accident Wednesday morning in Lowell at the age of 52.

“He didn’t have an attitude at all, a really great kid. He got along with all his teammates. You know how it is when a kid is really good and he’s got that attitude, that swagger? Not Ramon.”

Rivera headlined a starting five with Scott Stapleton, Derek Oliver, Mike Provencher and Jimmy Slattery that sent Lowell on an unbelievable tourney journey in the winter of 1984, his junior year.

Lowell beat Cambridge R&L, Lexington High and Don Bosco, teams that were 60-1 all told heading into the MIAA Tournament. In the EMass final, defending state champ Don Bosco lined up across at 6-foot-9, 6-8 and 6-6, with four future Division 1 players on the roster.

The Red Raiders won in double-overtime, 84-80, in a game played before on overflowing Riddick Field House crowd. Mike Lynch refereed that game. The Channel 5 sportscaster was obviously impressed. He mentioned Rivera on his broadcast the night he was killed.

Lowell lost to Durfee in the 1984 state final at UMass Boston. Canney still blames a ref (we’ll just call him “F.F.”) who refused to whistle an obvious foul against Durfee late in the tight game.

The heavily-recruited Rivera signed in 1985 with the University of Houston, at the time a powerhouse program that had made the Final Four in 1982, ’83 and ’84 with their “Phi Slama Jama” style of play.

The Cougars were big time. And coach Guy V. Lewis, on a recruiting trip to Lowell, told Ryan and Canney that Rivera reminded him of one of his star players in their NCAA run, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. High praise indeed.

On that trip the Lowell contingent brought Lewis to a high-brow restaurant in the city, where he proceeded to order a corned beef sandwich, Canney remembers. So much for wine-and-dine.

Rivera lasted only a year at Houston, leaving after Lewis retired. But while there he formed a friendship with Tito Horford (Al Horford’s father) and the two later played semi-pro ball together in the Caribbean.

“He didn’t really have a position,” said Canney. “He could play the 1, 2, 3 and even the 4. He holds the school record for offensive and defensive rebounds and I think steals and blocked shots too.”

“But a great, great kid. It’s just a shame.”

Playing catch-up

Pro golfer Alison Walshe, who holds the Women’s City Tournament record of 4-under par 68 (which she shot twice in her three City wins) had this to say when asked about Molly Smith, the 13-year-old from Walshe’s hometown, Westford, whose back-nine score of 29 at Vesper CC got her a second Women’s Cities crown:

“Molly’s play is very impressive,” she texted. “No matter what course or condition or yardage, a 29 on a back nine is a 29! Gutsy performance and incredible win. I can’t wait to watch her golf career develop. It’s a fun road and she’s got the talent!”

Former Sun sportswriter Lynn Worthy, the Terror of Tyngsboro who left Lowell for Binghamton, Salt Lake City and points west a few years back, has surfaced as a Kansas City Chiefs beat-writer for the Kansas City Star.

Talk about a choice gig! No doubt Lynn will leave no stone unturned while attempting to discover why the underachieving Chiefs haven’t even been to a Super Bowl since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Next year’s Super Bowl will be the 50th anniversary of KC’s SBIV win over the Vikings.

Andrew Graham of Westford had a very profitable World Series of Poker this past summer. Graham, 24, took third place in the No-Limit Hold’em Six Max event and earned $254,684 on a $5,000 buy-in. Well-known poker pro Jean-Robert Bellande won the bracelet.

In the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event, Graham cashed in 545th place for an additional $23,940 added to his bankroll. Graham also cashed in the Main Event in 2016 and has about $400,000 in casino winnings on his record.

Follow Dennis Whitton on Twitter @DAWhitton