Gilvary steps down as Holy Cross soccer coach

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In actuality, the Bayside resident did so much more for the soccer...

By Dylan Butler

Ask any of the hundreds who played for Paul Gilvary in his 15 years of coaching soccer at Holy Cross and they’ll say the most famous of his many sayings is, “I just drive the van.”

In actuality, the Bayside resident did so much more for the soccer program, helping build it into one of the state’s elite.

But Gilvary, who is also the director of admissions and the varsity basketball coach at Holy Cross, has handed the keys to the van over to Dominic Cinelli, the junior varsity coach for the past three years.

“There’s no good time, but this is the best time. I just felt like the timing is right,” said Gilvary, who compiled a 248-58-23 record in 14 years of coaching the varsity program. He also coached the junior varsity team for one year. “I wear a lot of hats and I just felt like I was doing too much. I’m involved in so many different things.”

In addition to his job as director of admissions and coaching soccer and basketball at Holy Cross, Gilvary is also the CHSAA boys’ basketball commissioner and is the president of the North Shore Baseball Assignors, Inc. making him one of the busiest people around.

Gilvary’s success on the soccer field is unparalleled. The Knights won nine Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan championships, seven city titles — including three in a row from 1993-95 — and back-to-back state crowns in 1999 and 2000. Gilvary’s Knights also went a remarkable 55 consecutive league games without a loss, spanning six years.

Gilvary doesn’t even know how many players went on to play college soccer, only saying, “there were a lot.” Among them were Joe Navarino, Carlo and Alessandro Acquista and Jimmy Buscemi, who all went to St. John’s. Other standouts include Armando Petruccelli, Shaun and Michael Higgins, Marcial Alzugaray and Jiva Milenovici.

“There were lots of great moments, but the thing I’m probably the most proud of is the number of kids who went on to play college soccer,” Gilvary said. “They were able to use soccer to advance their education. That’s the thing I probably worked hardest at and it’s probably the biggest success I’ve had.”

Gilvary, who has been coaching basketball for 20 years — including 17 at Holy Cross, six as varsity head coach — brought a basketball mentality to soccer. He practiced every day, instead of just once or twice a week, and actively sought out the top competition, becoming the first to travel on a regular basis for non-league games.

Because of his success in soccer, the month of November was always one of his most harried. With the Knights competing for the city and state soccer titles on an annual basis, Gilvary would find himself coaching a key soccer match in the afternoon and rushing back to Holy Cross to coach basketball practice.

September through November were also the busiest for Gilvary in the admission’s office, making things even crazier.

Between coaching basketball and his work as the league’s commissioner, Gilvary was constantly busy though the winter and into March, which is usually when baseball teams start playing exhibition games.

“The one thing I didn’t have was time,” he said.

Gilvary said he almost called it quits two years ago, when Holy Cross defeated Monsignor Farrell to win its second straight state title in 2000. But he decided to give it one more year because of the bevy of seniors on last year’s team, including Milenovici and Andrew Isopo.

Just as he had after every game, Gilvary refuses to take credit for Holy Cross’ soccer prosperity.

“We won because of the talent, the dedication and commitment the players brought to the games,” said Gilvary, who will serve as Intersectional Soccer Coordinator this year, helping secure playoff sites. “That’s not going to change. I’m sure they’ll work as hard. I hope the program will be even better than when I took over.”

Some of his former players disagree with Gilvary’s selfless statements.

“The reason he was so successful was because he cared and was a father to some of these kids,” said Carlo Acquista, the newly named St. Francis College men’s soccer coach. “If someone got out of line, if someone needed help with school, if someone needed someone to talk to, he was there — always.”

“Every time we stepped on the field, we knew what he wanted and expected of us,” said Marcial Alzugaray, a sophomore midfielder at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. “On and off the field, you always knew he expected more from his soccer players and that made us want to give back for him.”

Like Acquista and Alzugaray, Shaun Higgins heard the rumors about Gilvary possibly quitting when he was at Holy Cross, but he didn’t believe it would ever happen.

“I’m pretty shocked to hear it,” said Higgins, a senior midfielder at Hofstra. “I always thought he would be coaching soccer until he retired. I just hope Holy Cross can keep up the tradition.”

Cinelli, who also coaches in the Auburndale Soccer Club, will have to fill the large void left by Gilvary, but led by midfielder Tamer Mohamed, Jeovani Parades and Paul Nittoli, the Knights should once again be one of the teams to beat in the city.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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