Ed Kolakowski is a first-generation American, born to Polish immigrants in Bayonne, New Jersey. Ed first played organized basketball at Bayonne Junior College where he was inserted into the lineup when the starting center was injured. While at Bayonne, Ed went on to become the leading scorer on the team.
After graduating from Bayonne, Ed enrolled at Siena College and joined the basketball team. Again after another player’s injury, Ed won the starting center’s role and stayed there for the remainder of his three-year career at Siena. Ed played a huge role that helped establish Siena as a major basketball power on the East Coast, and nationally. Ed was the top player on the 1949-50 team, whose record was 28-5. Siena College won the National Catholic Invitational Tournament that season, with Ed being the top rebounder on the team. During the 1950-51 season, Siena College led by Ed Kolakowski, pulled off a huge upset 51-47 victory over Seton Hall. Under Ed’s leadership, Siena soared to become ranked 11th nationally by the Associated Press. Ed averaged 14.2 points a game that season and was selected to the East-West All-Star game, which was coached by the legendary Clair Bee. Ed is the only Siena College basketball player ever honored to have played in the East-West game that was held in a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Ed was inducted into the Siena College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971. After the season Ed received a letter from the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA, but decided to forgo that offer and search for a more permanent job.
Ed married Jane Metzger, a student at St. Rose College, and coincidentally an usher at the Siena College basketball games. In 1951 he joined the Army and served his country overseas in Germany. While in the Army Ed played on the Fort Dix cham- pionship team and was the leading scorer on his Regiment team while in Germany. In the off season Ed also had a very successful baseball career while serving in Germany.
After being discharged from the Army, Ed was offered a teaching job in Suffern where he and Jane relocated, and in 1954 Ed became the varsity basketball coach, a position that he held with dignity for 27 years, and retired in 1981. His most memorable teams were: the 1960 Section 9 champions; the 1968 team where Ed was voted the RCPSAL Coach of the Year and they were Rockland County champions plus Section 9 Class B champions; and the 1973 Suffern team that beat Newburgh to win Section 9 AA-A championship.
Coaches and officials thought very highly of Ed Kolakowski and his teams. Ed McGrath, the former coach at Clarkstown/Clarkstown North and a Rockland County Hall of Famer, says of Ed, “He was an extremely intelligent coach; his teams were well prepared. They played hard and competed well. After the game, win or lose, Ed was always a true gentle- man.” Jim Kane, another Rockland County Hall of Famer said of Ed, “His teams were well coached, played hard, and treated the game, the coaches, the opponents, and the officials with the respect they deserve.”
While teaching and coaching in Suffern, Ed made an impact on Rockland County sports in other ways. In the ’50s and ’60s Ed played both competitive basketball and softball for the J.J. Brown Insurance Company team. In the summer Ed was an out- standing pitcher on the softball team, and in the winter Ed led the J.J. Brown basketball team as their center and leading scorer. Ed averaged 30 points a game despite being double and triple teamed most of the time. Ed was a perennial All-Tournament team player in the famous St. Peter’s open tournament. Jim Kane, who played against him during that time, says of Ed, “Ed was, in my opinion, by far the best player I ever played against or ever seen play in Rockland.”
Ed’s mark on Rockland County was not limited to basketball and softball. For 30 years he was a football official. He was a member of Rockland County’s elite football officiating team consisting of Jim Kane, Jerry Holstein, Herb Reilly and himself. Those four gentlemen worked every important high school football game played during that era and their judgment was never questioned. Ed also took time to work freshman and modified football games with young referees to teach and encourage new referees in the sport.
Ed retired in 1984 with his wife, Jane, to run Sunset Mt. Lodge in Brant Lake, N.Y., full time; they have owned the lodge since 1970. They have four sons: Giles, Kevin, Gary, and Kyle – all Suffern High School graduates. Ed and Jane still try to make as many Siena College basketball games as possible.