By Anthony Bosco
In my time as the TimesLedger sports editor, there has been one guideline above all others that has been drilled into my head as the cornerstone of journalism and that rule is impartiality. No matter what my personal feeling on any particular issue may be, my opinion — by and large — should be kept to myself.
But I have come across certain people in my travels as a wandering scribe who are just impossible to root against, at least for me. So, this being my column, an opinion piece as it were, I would like to take this opportunity to tip my well-worn cap to a few individuals and teams that have tugged at my heart strings in recent weeks.
Most of the people on this list are just good guys (or girls) whom I have come to respect not just because of their athletic exploits but for who they are off the playing surface.
Just recently it was Paul Gilvary who made me want to cheer. Gilvary, the head coach of the Holy Cross boys’ basketball team, is one of the nicest guys you will ever come across, always courteous, never wanting the spotlight and seemingly in a perpetual good mood.
This past Sunday Gilvary’s Knights took on Christ the King in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan quarterfinals and were certainly the heavy underdogs going in (even though Cross had beaten CK handily earlier in the season). The Royals have been on a roll of late and the Knights were right in their way.
But Gilvary’s undersized team played its guts out, taking it to the defending CHSAA state champs before finally falling by eight. All the while, though, Gilvary shouted encouragement to his kids, things like “Great effort, Michael” or “Nice play, Anthony,” even when the team was struggling at points.
It’s that kind of coaching that belongs on the high school level. Even when the refs make a bad call, Gilvary has a way of arguing without really arguing. It’s really quite impressive and something that certainly makes me want to pull for Gilvary and his team. Of course, I’m a big CK fan, too, so go figure.
On the other side of the coin you have Ron Naclerio, the irrepressible head coach of the Cardozo boys’ team, the squad expected to end its season on the floor at Madison Square Garden as the No. 1 seed in the PSAL playoffs.
I recently ventured over to the Cardozo campus to catch the Judges’ first-round playoff win over the Far Rockaway SeaHorses. But I didn’t go for a lot of the same reasons as others who attended the game. I went more to watch Naclerio coach than his team play.
Naclerio is one of those New York characters, Queens characters who is simply one of a kind. His sideline intensity is matched only by the effort his players put out on the court and the laughs he can illicit from those close enough to catch the endless commentary that slips past his lips during the game.
I was sitting right behind the Cardozo bench during the game, along with a couple of friends and some former Cardozo players who remain close to their former coach, like St. John’s star Daryll Hill and future Red Storm member Ryan Williams.
I think they sat behind the Cardozo bench for the same reason I did, because every time Naclerio nearly lost it, everyone around me seemed to crack up at the same time. Of course, the Judges won, allowing Naclerio to slowly come back down to Earth to coach another day. I don’t know what would have happened had they lost.
I also have to admit to being a tad partial to the Archbishop Molloy girls’ team this year. While some have pointed suspicious fingers at the program run by Marty Towey, who has built one of the best teams in the state in just four years, I can’t help but love to watch them play.
The Stanners fight for loose balls, battle under the boards and have heaps of talent. It’s not just that they are good, but it is how they play that does it for me. They have perhaps the best player in the city in Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, but they also have some of the toughest, players like Jessica McEntee and Kerri-Ann Jetter, two girls I wouldn’t hesitate to take into battle with me.
The thing about the Molloy girls, however, is that it is hard to root for them against the other Queens Catholic teams only because the other teams have earned my respect and admiration, be it the class of St. Francis Prep’s team, the greatness of Christ the King or the scrappiness of Mary Louis. All of the teams are fun to watch and pull for.
Last but not least is the St. John’s University men’s basketball team, a team now dubbed “The Mighty Nine.” Decimated by scandal after scandal that have gutted the team of six scholarship players during the course of the year, the Red Storm is more fun to cheer for than ever.
Only five scholarship players and four walk-ons made up the team roster when it took the floor this past week to take on Georgetown and Virginia Tech.
Miraculously, thanks mostly to the ever-improving play of Hill, the Red Storm picked up its first conference win over the Hoyas and nearly made it two in a row days later in a one-point loss to the Hokies.
They might not win again, but their play has been the silver lining of an otherwise forgettable season. Giving sports writers something to root for is tough enough, but St. John’s and the others I have mentioned have done it for me recently.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.