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Naclerio to receive honor at NABC convention

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Not even Ron Naclerio believes it, but his name is now linked with basketball coaching legend John Wooden.

The Bayside resident, who has coached the boys basketball team at Cardozo High School for 24 years — 21 as head coach — will be honored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches at its 2002 convention in Atlanta, Ga. March 31.

Naclerio is the recipient of the 2002 Guardian Award for Service. Wooden, who coached UCLA for 27 years and led the Bruins to an unprecedented seven straight NCAA titles, will be presented with the Guardian Award for Education.

Also being honored will be Dave Gavitt, the former Providence men’s basketball coach and athletic director, who helped form the Big East conference and was its first commissioner, and Ed Bilik, the former athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Springfield College, who is now the secretary-rules editor of the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee.

Gavitt will be presented the Guardian Award for Leadership while Bilik is the recipient of the Guardian Award for Advocacy.

“When I think of some of the things I’ve done, personal and team-wise, this tops them all,” Naclerio said. “This is a national award. It’s not typically what a high school coach gets. I’m shocked, but proud.”

When he received the letter last week, Naclerio dismissed it as some sort of practical joke. But after calling NABC Assistant Executive Director Kevin Henderson, he realized the award is indeed real.

Guardians of the Game is a program started 18 months ago by the NABC. The goal is to focus attention on the positive aspects of basketball and the role coaches play in the lives of student-athletes, in addition to the contributions coaches make to their communities.

“You scratch your head when you see the other coaches and all they’ve accomplished and you say, ‘Why am I with them?’” Naclerio said. “Maybe my father’s attribute of helping people rubbed off on me.”

Naclerio’s father, the late Dr. Emil Naclerio, was a renowned heart and lung surgeon and helped save the life of Dr. Martin Luther King when the civil rights leader was stabbed in 1958.

After playing baseball and basketball at Cardozo, Naclerio went to St. John’s University where he led the nation in stolen bases in 1979. He was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 17th round of the 1979 Major League Baseball Draft and spent three seasons in the minor leagues before a series of ankle injuries forced him to quit baseball in 1982.

He returned to Cardozo and served as an assistant coach before becoming the head coach in 1981. Since then he has dedicated himself to high school basketball and, in turn, dedicated himself to helping some of the more troubled high school basketball players get into college or just get off the streets.

Naclerio co-authored a book with John Valenti about one such player, Lloyd “Swee’ Pee” Daniels.

“The service award is one leg of the Guardians of the Game program and we want to recognize coaches who serve as community leaders through civic involvement,” Henderson said. “And we believe Ron Naclerio is a perfect example of that.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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