HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - While the retirement of Hasbrouck Heights football coach Nick Delcalzo was a surprise to most, the reaction to the decision has not been. There is a single message from all who have spoken, praise for not only his accomplishments, but the man.
“Hiring Nick was an easy decision,” stated former Hasbrouck Heights athletic director John Tessaro. “We had coached together in the 70's and Nick has always been all about Hasbrouck Heights, going back to his playing days. He played for and coached under Peter LaBarbiera, who was a big influence. He knew the town and how important football was to the community.”
“One of his greatest strengths was hiring assistants and letting them coach,” Tessaro continued. “If you look at the number of former players who have come back to coach in some capacity it’s an indication of how well he’s thought of and respected. His accomplishments and legacy will stand for a long time.“
Another former colleague and administrator, Joseph Luongo, echoed those sentiments. “Simply the best, he bleeds orange and black...If a kid wants to play football for Hasbrouck Heights, Nicky will find a way to get him on the field.”
The North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Twitter page forwarded the news of Delcalzo’s retirement with the following statement:
“One of the all-time great football coaches in North Jersey. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to the student-athletes of the Hasbrouck Heights School District. You will be missed.”
“Nick was certainly one of the coaching gemstones of our conference,” stated NJIC Executive Director Stan Fryczynski. “I have known him his entire career and have nothing but total respect for the man and the coach.”
Some of the current coaches who played, and later coached with Delcalzo, spoke about how the experience was as a player and then a coach.
“It will never be the same," stated Rocky Minichielo. “Not to say that Heights football is going to fall apart, and that we are not going to be good, or any of that. But it will be different without Coach. He is the first thing I think about when I think about Heights football."
When asked how it was different playing and coaching with Delcalzo, Minichiello, laughed and said, “I have been coaching with him for so long, I can’t remember. I was on the team when he became head coach, through those two tough losses in the playoffs, there are just so many memories.”
“I think I came to appreciate how much he cares about his players more when I was coaching than I did when I was playing,“ said Corey Lange. “He truly does care about all his players, coaches, people. He truly does so much for people without anyone knowing about. The expression 'he would give you the shirt off his back is true’ isn’t an expression for Coach, it is true. He would do it without even thinking about it.”
“I was fortunate to have Coach Delcalzo as a teacher, a coach and finally be part of his staff for 13 years,” said Dom D’Amico. “As a player he instilled in me the importance of dedication and leading by example. He has been a mentor to me, as well as thousands of past Heights student/athletes.
“Working with Coach Delcalzo as part of his staff has been an absolute pleasure,” he continued. “He treats everyone as if your part of his family. He is one of the most loyal men that I know. He’s taught me that wins are great and that losses aren’t the worst thing in life. I will miss Coach D tremendously but I feel blessed to have had my time with him and honored to now call him a dear friend. I wish him and his family all the best in the future.”
Adam Baeira joined the staff nine years ago.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity Coach gave me,” Baeria said. “It’s been a privilege to work for him. He is easily the most caring, loyal, and selfless person I have ever met. There’s a reason why the kids play so hard and why the coaches work so hard for him over the last 35 years. They don’t make guys like Coach Delcalzo anymore. We miss him already but I know he will be around.”
“Coach D welcomed me to his staff seven years ago,“ said Pat Campen, another of the Aviators coaches. “I have learned a lot from him over those years. He is a great person, coach, and I'm glad I can call him a friend. I hope he enjoys his time with his family.”
"From the day I walked into high school back in 1983,’ said Assistant Coach Mark Sonzogni. “Nick Delcazo was there. As my freshman football coach, then as an assistant and the Offensive Coordinator my sophomore year under Jeff Sheetz, then as head coach. Those first two years were something to remember. We made a run to the finals both years but fell short. I graduated in '87 and started my second life with Nick, transforming from playing to coaching.
“I went down just to help out on the sidelines doing whatever was asked,” continued Sonzogni. “In the old days we used to trade (game) films. I would travel all over the county swapping VHS tapes with other coaches. I never minded doing whatever was asked of me.
“My son Declan played for Nick during the three greatest years in Heights football. These years are worthy of its own book. My father and mother went to school with Nick. I played for Nick and so did my son.
“Time changes and so do the seasons but for almost 40 years Heights has stood still,” Sonzogni continued. “With the chaos of football coaches coming and going at almost every school, Heights has stood still from the outside world. Heights was on the map way before Nick took the helm but now, after his run, you can go anywhere for 200 miles and people ask you about Heights football and Nick Delcazo.”
“We are at a turning point in the road. I feel like a ship without a rudder. For 40 years he has guided us through the rough and turbulent seas of high school football with the precision of a surgeon.
“Now, a new era begins and I hope whoever takes over, gives half as much as this man has given to everyone around him,” Sonzogni stated.
Frank D’Amico was an All-State offensive linemen and has coached the lines for Aviators, whose brother Dom is also a coach.
“I have always said that Coach has earned the right to retire whenever he so chooses,” said D’Amico, who has been an assistant for 17 years. “We have spoken about a lot of things as a coaching staff over the years, but Coach D retiring was NEVER something that we spoke about amongst each other.
“Why? Well I don’t know why or I should say I didn’t know why,” D’Amico continued. “But now I know. Because like most people, I’ve dreaded this day, because Nick Delcalzo is Heights Football. Heights football without Coach will never be the same."
"So in many ways," D'Amico continued."this is sad for me and for a lot of people. The good news is that Coach has built such a strong program in his half-century of hard work that football will always remain a huge part of our school and community. I am going to miss him so much but luckily for me, Coach is one of my best friends.
"That, he cannot retire from that because I won’t let him,” D’Amico stated.
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