Appreciation: Tony Carnovale was coach and father figure to Derry youth
Dave Brown was a freshman at Pinkerton Academy in Derry when his two younger brothers were injured in a gasoline explosion. Because his parents were divorced when he was young, Brown was not living with his father at the time.
There was a father figure in the picture, however: Pinkerton Academy boys' basketball coach Tony Carnovale. Carnovale, who died Saturday morning after a battle with cancer, is perhaps best known as the former Pinkerton Academy coach, but those who knew him best will tell you his reach extended far beyond basketball.
"(After the accident) school was the last thing on my mind during my freshman year in high school," Brown explained. "He took me under his wing and always looked in on me - and that continued after high school. Who knows where I would have ended up if I hadn't taken some of the advice he gave me.
"He was more than just a basketball coach. He passed along life lessons. He took the time for anybody who needed it."
Carnovale's teams were 289-163 during his 22 seasons at Pinkerton. He led the Astros to four state championship games and two Class L titles. Pinkerton beat Manchester Central for the Class L title in 1988, and again in 1990,
Carnovale, who was 67 when he died, also coached high school basketball at Cape Cod (Mass.) Tech and Goffstown.
Brown, who is a physical education teacher at Hood Middle School in Derry, was a forward on both of Carnovale's championship teams.
"As a basketball coach he expected us to play the game the right way," Brown said. "He wanted us to play hard all the time. Anyone he saw dribbling a basketball he would encourage them to play."He ran all these camps that not only gave kids a place to go in the summer, but gave high school kids jobs. He always encouraged us to be a good role model."
Manchester Central boys' basketball coach Doc Wheeler had a close relationship with Carnovale, and said Carnovale loved to teach above all else.
"When he retired as a teacher at Pinkerton Academy what did he do?" Wheeler said. "He became a substitute teacher.
"He loved to work with kids and impact kids. He was tough on kids, but he believed in them. He was a born teacher."
Wheeler also said Carnovale was a trend-setter for New Hampshire high school basketball.
"He was one of the first guys who played a lot of games in the offseason," Wheeler said. "His teams were tough to play against because they would trap and use a variety of defenses. He could do that because he was playing 50, 60 games in the summer.
"I'd say he and (former Winnacunnet of Hampton boys' basketball coach) Jack Ford were the first ones here to make basketball a year-round program. Tony built that Pinkerton program."
Brown was among those who helped organize a Pinkerton Academy alumni game - at Carnovale's request - last weekend. The event was well-attended by Carnovale's former players.
"He asked for that alumni game and he really enjoyed the fact that a lot of people came out to support him," Brown said. "It's pretty hard to say his name without 'Coach' in front of it, but he could talk to you about so many things other than basketball. When you reflect on it you realize he was coaching us in life, not just the game."