By Joseph Staszewski
Tom Marchesini’s concern wasn’t how he got the job as Holy Cross boys’ basketball coach, but the task it entailed.
The alum of the all-boys Catholic school and former freshmen headman didn’t look back when former Coach Paul Gilvary, who spent 16 seasons at the helm, was removed Nov. 10 for alleged improprieties. Instead he was concerned about moving his players past that and putting his stamp on the squad.
“I didn’t even think about how they were feeling about the coach,” Marchesini said. “We didn’t even talk about it to be honest with you. We just tried to wipe the slate clean and get at what he needed to do.”
He said he was a virtual unknown to his new players outside of being a gym teacher at the school. They had no idea he graduated in 1986, played for the Knights and was a successful junior varsity and varsity assistant coach at St. Francis Prep. It took time for them to earn his trust and they his.
“Most people don’t know who the heck I am and I like it that way,” Marchesini said.
He implemented a new passing offense after the Knights were a dribble-drive squad under Gilvary. Marchesini has them pressing more and is running many of the sets he learned working under Tom Finn and Tim Leary at St. Francis Prep. He had three practices before his first scrimmage as coach.
“I’m running a lot of Prep stuff because it’s what I know,” Marchesini said. “It’s a different style. [Gilvary’s] style was very successful. I feel we can be successful with ours.”
The Knights, the defending CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens champions, won their opener 65-56 in a non-league home contest against Holy Trinity Dec. 4. Joshua Wallace scored 14 points and sophomore guard Jermaine Bishop tallied nine of his 13 points when Holy Cross pulled away in the third quarter.
“With everything going, on it’s a good win,” senior guard Terrance Williams said.
Holy Cross President the Rev. Walter Jenkins, who was on the bench for the game, declined comment, including on why Marchesini was chosen for the job. The New York Post reported that Gilvary was removed for watching his players during mandatory shower sessions and that the city Police Department was brought in to investigate the allegations. Williams felt the school didn’t handle the situation justly.
“I don’t think it was fair the way he went out,” he said.
Marchesini believed Gilvary’s dismissal and the squad’s youth means they have expectations on them from the outside. He told his team that before the game and sees it as a positive and something that can bring the players together moving forward.
“It gives us motivation to prove people wrong,” Williams said.