One of the truly great pioneers in NYC and NJ basketball passed away at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Friday. Words cannot express how much respect I and most others have for Doc Nicelli, the founder and legendary coach of the NY Broncos. I will not go into history about him because others have done a better job than I could ever do on this subject. But I do want to reflect what I know.
Doc really hated the direction AAU and Travel teams were headed in. He despised how some programs were buying players and not concerned about those kids academically.
Doc was a true "TOUGH GUY" and everyone knew it! But he was soft as tissue when it came time to help people, especially the kid who was underrated and under recruited. He did things his way and it worked.
Playing travel ball for Doc meant your child would be cared for and act like a gentleman in public and on the court. Your kid had to wear his Bronco jacket and be respectful at all times. Doc would handle the tough stuff, he just wanted the kids to play basketball.
Doc made sure that when he traveled it was done first class. His teams did not eat at McDonalds for dinner. Not Doc. He made his kids eat at red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other similar restaurants. He always said kids need to eat dinner at a place where they needed to use a fork and a knife.
Still remember when my son played for the Broncos. Doc had a fund raising dinner. I sat with Rich Kossick aka Books and Balls, and Jim Gatto,ex coach at St. Johns Prep. Well they had a bidding thing going on to raise funds for Doc's teams. This event was in the Wall Street area and alot of Brokers were in attendance. They believed in Doc and were bidding on autographed balls, pictures , etc. What was interesting was the bids were as high as $50,000 for many items. These guys were bidding so much that Rich, Jim, and I put our hands in our pockets just to make sure our hands did not go up by mistake. Doc raised alot of money and spent every dime on his kids.
Those were just a few of the things I remember about Doc. He was so respected that Bob Hurley requested his kids travel across the water to play for Doc as opposed to playing for other AAU or travel teams. Doc if you are watching and reading these posts please remember how admired and appreciated you are. EVERYONE RESPECTED YOU because you refused to kiss up to anyone and remained true to who you really were. God bless you Doc!!!!! We will miss you but even worst, the kids of the NYC metropolitan area will be the big losers because they will not have you as a option.
Below I have attached a two comments from the NYCNJ Hoops board. Both people are good friends of mine so I know they will not object. neither will my friend Robert White, who is the NYCNJ HOOPS site administrator. Ted Gustus is the ex Head Coach at Bishop Loghlin and Nazareth HS, both in Brooklyn. A GREAT COACH!! Rick Kossick is one of the top people regarding HS athletes and preparing for college. He also is the Academic Coordinator for the ABCD Camp. Please read below.
Coach Ted Gustus - I am greatly sadden about the death of one of New York's finest person, Doc Niceili. Yes, his legacy in the basketball community has been well documented, however it is Doc the person that has had an great impact on me and others. Back in the mid 80's I entrusted three of my adopted sons in the hands of Coach Doc, Robert Phelps, Phil Hayes and Marquis Scott. At that time, we were trying to figure out which traveling AAU programs that these guys would play with. Well, after comparing Doc's Bronco program to the others, it was a no brainer for us. Despite not having the budget as the other programs, Doc made it up with character, honesty, integrity, and trust. My kids enjoyed playing for Doc and he truly put the "fun" back into "fundamentals" Doc will surely be missed and I want to personally thank his family for allowing him to invest countless number of hours being a coach, mentor, and father figure to thousands of urban young men.
M.A.D. Respect and Love for a great individual!
Coach Ted Gustus
BooksnBall - The world of high school basketball in metro NYC has suffered a major loss. Paul "Doc" Nicelli of Bronco's/Student-Athlete Inc. fame lost his valiant fight against cancer on Friday afternoon at Mt. Sinai hospital. His lovely wife Sandy & daugher Nicole were at his side when he passed. Doc was 70 years old and had started his original Broncos Program at the Boy's Club on 29th Street upon leaving the service in 1964. A former NYC All City high school guard in the mid-50's, Doc earned "Little All American" honors while at Kings College in Pa., graduating in 1961.NY & Nortth Carolina point guard legend Tommy Kearns once told me that Doc was a "tough, smart, quick" player who backed down from no one. That description could readily be used to describe Doc's teams!
Starting out as a social worker, Doc became an administrator in NYC's Human Resources Administration before retiring in the late 90's. His love of the city game had Doc spending week nights as a coach at the 29th street Boy's Club-where he sponsored a highly competitive annual Easter Tournament (Think 1970-80's version of today's IS 8!) and his annual high school holiday tournament-"Gobbler/Snowflake Classic" at F.I.T. was at one time the largest high school tournament in the USA. In 1985 Doc started Student-Athlete's Inc.which sponsored annual Bronco travel teams, local summer tournaments and provided tuition assistance to many high school & prep school students. Tom Konchalski, noted hoops evaluator called Doc one of NYC's "unsung heroes" for his over 40 years of serving the youth of our city & beyond. Doc's annual "Gala-fund raiser' for student athletes became a night of great celebration of high school basketball, local high school legends, Bob Hurley, Bobby Hartstein, Jim Gatto and others would be joined by college coaches Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Lou Carnessecca, Bobby Gonzalez, Fred Hill, Jay Wright, Tubby Smith, Bill Self. Barry Rohrssen, Ben Howland, Tom Pecora and members of the business/entertainment world would make each year's gathering special. Smiles abounded when cast members of the Sopranos attended and noted actor/muscian LEON had moms & daughters reaching for pen & paper to get autographs & request pictures! Doc's emphasis on fundamentals and unselfish team play for his teams made his players attractive recruits for college coaches. They knew if they signed a player from the Broncos that they were getting a player who knew how to play the game well. Doc will be missed and I'd like to use the best compliment Doc would bestow on someone he liked and respected because it fits him perfectly........... Doc, you are truely, "some kind of wonderful!" Always were & always will be in our hearts.
The wake for Doc will be held on Monday, Oct. 27 & Tuesday, Oct 28 from 2-5 P.M. & 7-9 P.M. @ Joseph Farenga & Sons Funeral Home located at 38-08 Ditmars Blvd. Astoria, N.Y. 11105 (718 726 6060) The funeral will be on Wednesday, Oct. 29th at Most Precious Blood Parish- 36th Street off of 34th Avenue in Long Island City. Time to be determined.