Less than a week after being honored by family, friends, and a slew of his former players at a special event at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, former longtime Pinkerton Academy boys’ basketball coach and teacher Tony Carnovale’s brief battle with cancer ended with his death.
John Barry, Carnovale’s friend and former fellow PA teacher and hoop coach, announced the death in a Facebook entry to the large number of people connected with the ex-Pinkerton basketball coach last Saturday morning, April 5.
“Tony Carnovale passed away at 3:15 a.m. this morning. (His eldest daughter) Tracey and (Manchester Central basketball coach) Dave Wheeler were with him when he passed.” wrote Barry.
Calling hours were set for Wednesday night, April 9, with a liturgy of Christian burial at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church in Derry Thursday, April 10, at 10 a.m.
The 67-year-old Carnovale worked at Pinkerton for 31 years and led Astros’ boys’ hoop teams to state championships in both 1988 and 1990. He attracted controversy and attention unlike just about any other area high school coach during his era. But while he was at times a lightning rod, Carnovale also earned the undying love and respect of a great many people with the way he taught young men the fundamentals of basketball and much more related to life, and his pure love for the game of basketball.
Those facts were borne out on the Saturday afternoon prior to Carnovale’s passing, March 29, when after hearing that the coach had been diagnosed with cancer and given four to six weeks to live more than 30 of his former players and hundreds of other people showed up at Hood Middle School for a quickly-organized Pinkerton alumni basketball game both in Carnovale’s honor and to raise funds for the brand new Anthony and Gail Carnovale Scholarship Fund.
John Barry and ex-Astro players Dave Brown (PA Class of 1991) and Chris Hunt (PA Class of 1994) quickly slated the benefit hoop contest through social media and other manners of communication, and the response was both massive and moving for the frail Carnovale and his daughters Tracey and Jenn.
The organizers of the contest weren’t certain if coach Carnovale would feel well enough to attend the game, so it was filmed to make it possible for him to watch it later. But with the urging and support of his daughters both of whom were former Pinkerton basketball players the coach arrived about 20 minutes before game time and didn’t leave until it was over.
Carnovale didn’t get to watch a whole lot of the action, however, as wave after wave of people kneeled in front of him and offered their support, hugs, and remembrances of events past.
“This shows the impact that dad had on so many young men for so many years. And even my mom’s memory is being honored with this benefitting the Anthony and Gail Carnovale Scholarship Fund. It’s hard to find the words to say how nice this is,” said Jenn Carnovale, who lost her mother in the early 1990s after two battles with breast cancer.
Several of the men against whom Carnovale coached including current Manchester Central head man Dave “Doc” Wheeler and former Londonderry High coach Dan Kiestlinger were also in attendance at the game.