A father’s influence has been responsible for many lives spent enjoying – and careers spent working in – sports.
A conversation with P.J. Carlesimo about his early years in sports, extends from the influence of his father, Peter Carlesimo, to the input of the many men who helped shape his life by giving him a positive impression of coaching.
Perhaps that appreciation for the other coaches he met early in his life is what makes P.J. Carlesimo so proud of the impact his father had on the University of Scranton program.
That dedication to Royals athletics will be remembered May 6 when Peter Carlesimo, who died in 2003, is honored in a dinner at the Byron Recreation Complex, one of the many impressive athletic facilities the university now boasts.
“I remember how much the campus has changed over the years,” P.J. said. “For him to be part of a critical time in the growth of the university when he was always scraping for fields, he would just be so proud – and he was before he passed away.”
As director of athletics from 1953 to 1968, Peter Carlesimo was part of making sure sports had a prominent place on a campus that has enjoyed some of the finest moments NCAA Division III competition has to offer. That will be part of the message P.J. will try to share when he delivers the keynote address at the dinner.
“For people who didn’t get to meet and know him, they’ll get to see people who grew up in academics and athletics and look back and hear about early athletes at the university and the sacrifices they made,” P.J. said. “It was a challenge for them how tough it was to be an athlete at the University of Scranton.
“Now, you see how far it has come.”
P.J. said his father’s influence extended beyond athletics.
“For a lot of people, he was one of the faces of, if not the face of the university,” he said.
That was particularly true on the national athletic level where Peter Carlesimo kept active on NCAA committees before eventually moving on to become athletics director at Fordham University and the executive director who kept the NIT relevant in the college basketball world in an era when the NCAA Tournament was growing into the March Madness it has become.
When P.J. travels around the National Basketball Association, currently as assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, he understands how far Peter Carlesimo’s reach extended.
“One of the good things about the NBA and traveling to 29 cities is that very seldom does a week go by when I don’t run into someone from Scranton who knew us or who knew my Dad,” P.J. said.
That is what will bring P.J., his nine siblings, and other family members back to Scranton for the celebration. P.J., a Scranton Prep graduate who was a sophomore athlete at Fordham when the family moved to New Jersey, said that he and his older siblings will always consider Scranton their home. Their mother, the former Lucy Rogan, is from Olyphant, and may make the trip back as well.
P.J., 61, has now spent 40 years of his life as a basketball coach. His career has taken him to an NCAA championship game as Seton Hall’s head coach to stints as head coach of three NBA teams, assistant coach of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and assistant coach with Team USA, including the original “Dream Team.”
It would not have happened for P.J. without his days in Little League baseball, junior football and playing basketball at the Boys’ Club and in Catholic school programs or without his time traveling with the university’s teams, whether as a ball boy, bat boy or simply a son supporting his father’s passion.
“Growing up in that environment, I had a very positive impression of coaching,” P.J. said. “I played for guys who I thought were really good men and really good teachers.”
The only part of the career choice that might have surprised a young P.J.is that the coaching path did not lead him into football.
One of Peter Carlesimo’s good friends, dating back to their days as teammates on Fordham’s famous Seven Blocks of Granite offensive line, was Vince Lombardi, the game’s greatest coach. When P.J. and Peter had time to sit down and talk sports, it was often over the old reel-to-reel film coaches used to watch of their football teams.
“I remember watching plays and asking questions,” said P.J., who played football at Fordham as a senior despite having attended Scranton Prep at a time when the school did not offer the sport. “He’d make corrections here and there.
“I always respected coaches because of him and his interactions with players.”
On May 6, the entire University of Scranton community will get a chance to show respect for one of its coaching greats.
The Royals Annual Award Dinner May 6 will honor the late Peter A. Carlesimo for his contributions to the University of Scranton.
The annual dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the university’s Byron Recreation Complex, annually honors a person who has made special contributions to the athletics department. It also serves to raise funds for the athletics department and the student-athletes that it serves.
NBA and college basketball coach P.J. Carlesimo, Peter’s son, will deliver the keynote address.
Peter Carlesimo came to Scranton in 1944. He guided the growth of the department as athletics director for 16 years, went 80-60 as coach of the football team, served through two stints as men’s basketball coach and one as cross country coach.
Later in his career, Peter Carlesimo was athletics director at Fordham University and executive director of college basketball’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased by contacting Robert Davis at (570) 941-6667 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Corporate special ticket packages are also available.