By Laura Amato
BY LAURA AMATO
The Queens athletic community lost one of its most prominent and successful names Thursday when longtime Cardozo tennis coach Howie Arons died after battling cancer. He was 67 years old.
Arons was a dominant presence with the Judges throughout his 36-year career, leading the program to a whopping 18 PSAL city championships. His leadership on the court was electric and while he retired from Cardozo in 2012, Arons’ legacy is something the Judges will never be able to shake.
“He was always the most positive, exciting person,” said Cardozo boys’ basketball coach Ron Naclerio, who considered Arons both a colleague and friend. “During the course of the year he would call me and I would call him and he would tell me how things were not going well, but he was so positive about it. He just told me, ‘I’m always going to keep fighting.’”
During his time at ‘Dozo, Arons racked up 584 career victories and just 51 defeats, but it was what he did once the matches were over that truly set him apart from other coaches in the area. Always ready to lend an ear or help finetune a serve, Arons’ relationship with his players was the defining characteristic of his coaching approach.
“I look at the history of this school and what it’s meant to me in my life,” Naclerio said. “And these big names were like my uncles and Howie Arons was my big brother. He always made you feel so good. He was just one of those people who walked into the room and he made everyone feel good.”
In addition to his work at Cardozo – where he was as an English teacher and eventually dean of the school – Arons also served as the co-director of the New York Tennis Academy at Great Neck Estates, sparking a successful junior program on Long Island.
He also ran the junior program at Alley Pond Tennis Center and devoted much of his time to helping foster an early love of the game for players across the area. In 2015, he was the recipient of The Vitas Gerulaitis “For the Love of Tennis” Award and was also a member of the Cardozo athletic Hall of Fame.
All of Arons’ hard work paid off – he saw more than 80 players move on to the Division I level, including both his sons, Ian and Andrew.
“If I had to say there was a Mt. Rushmore of Cardozo athletics and there were three or four people that had to be on it, he’s easily one of them,” Naclerio said. “Not just athletically, everything he did.”
Arons had not spent much time on the court at ‘Dozo since announcing his retirement, but the longtime coach was still regarded as one of the most important figures in the Judges’ storied athletic history. Naclerio knows that reputation won’t change any time soon either.
“One of his former players called me last night and told me that he’s meeting with a couple of guys, graduated in ‘83 and ‘84, at Cardozo so they can all go to the services together,” Naclerio said. “That’s the kind of impact he had. He said he never saw a teacher so enthused as [Howie] was. Thirty years later and he remembers that.”
Arons’ funeral will be held this Sunday, Oct. 16, at 12 p.m. at the Star of David Chapel, 1236 North Wellwood Ave., West Babylon NY 11704.