“I have to fight tears back,” Why Calvin Lewis is proud of his boys at the Rumph

By Nick Gangewere

Sitting courtside with his former players coming to show love was longtime Philly basketball coach Calvin Lewis.

In many ways, the Rumph Classic doesn’t happen without the influence of the one known simply as “Coach Cal.”

Once upon a time, Lewis coached Rumph and Foundation members Mike Morak, Justin Scott, Sharif Hanford and Sharif Bray. Seeing his boys all grown up and producing a spectacle that continues to rally together the city of Philadelphia, Lewis fought back tears

“This is one of the best tournaments ever,” Lewis said. “It’s just the way they carry themselves. They dedicate themselves to helping others, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Rumph, Hanford, Bray and Morak met each other at different times between elementary and middle school, and became family as the years passed. 

All four of them played basketball in their own different ways, but their personalities allowed them to become a close-knit group. Although they may not have been the premier names in Philly, the “second-class citizens” worked hard at the game they all loved. 

“It was family,” Lewis said. “They was in the gym all the time, Monday through Sunday. They just wanted to learn how to get better.”

Coach Cal said his four players were simply “good guys” who grew together on the floor and supported one another off of it. A combination of skill and spirit that has culminated in lifelong impacts. 

Whether it was Danny’s leadership, Bray’s shooting or Morak’s playmaking, the teammates meshed into a formidable squad who could pull up to any park, but especially Mallery Rec Center, and show out. Danny Rumph was a key component to that.

“He played real hard and he played to win,” Lewis said. “He made others believe they could, too.”

Some weeks, everybody would want to head over to exclusive basketball workouts, and oftentimes, Coach Cal’s players wouldn’t get in. Instead of just practicing individually, Danny led a charge to start their own training events. Eventually, it was open for anybody to attend Lewis’ workouts. 

The willingness for the players to help others improve their game came from a passion for both the sport and improving the community. 

That same passion is felt to this day. 

Morak, director of the tournament, has further expanded the reach of the Danny Rumph Foundation each year, and Lewis knows it comes from his heart. 

The dedication to put on a successful event has paid off year-in and year-out, and the city comes out in numbers to support. From celebrity appearances to cameos from community leaders, the Rumph has become a summer staple in the city. 

“He would be the one to do it,” Coach Cal said of Morak. “That’s the kind of person he is.”

So as Calvin Lewis sits down in his chair directly on the sideline and looks at the crowd around him, the Rumph turns into so much more than a collection of hoopers. 

It becomes a testament to who Danny Rumph was. A born leader. 

“It’s not just about basketball,” Coach Cal said. “I have to fight the tears back.”