Sad news today for Harrison football and the Harrison community. Art Troilo Sr., the longtime Harrison coach and the father of the team’s current head coach, passed away at 81 after a long battle with cancer.
Troilo Sr. was a staple at football games until recently when he was too sick to attend. He coached 11 years as an assistant at the school, another 11 as the head coach and, as the school’s AD, hired his son, Art Troilo Jr., who has coached two state champions. Art Sr. also played and starred at Syracuse University, running in the same backfield as the great Jim Brown.
But enough from me. Here’s a 2009 column by Rick Carpiniello, who knew Art Sr. a heckuva lot better:
Art Troilo Jr. synonymous with Harrison football
HARRISON - I’ve done hundreds of stories on the best coaches I know. Here’s one on the coach I know best: Art Troilo Sr.
He wasn’t around long enough (11 years as an assistant, 11 as head coach) to reach major milestones, finishing his football-coaching career at 66-23-3. And he wasn’t around late enough to win sectional or state playoffs – and even his son, a two-time state-champion coach, admits that we put too much emphasis on those things.
Art Sr., 77, is being honored along with two of Harrison’s best teams – his 1973 team, and the ‘87 team that Artie Jr. thinks was as good as his state-championship teams – at a golf outing and dinner Wednesday at the Canyon Club in Armonk.
Having played (albeit sparingly) in ‘73, I can tell you with certainty how much that team respects and thanks the man because of a sacrifice he made before that 9-0 season.
On the eve of the season, the Harrison teachers union went on strike.
“I sat down with (assistants Ted Coppola and Don Ferraro),” Troilo said. “I didn’t know what the heck to do. They were talking about going on strike, and we were already in our third week of practice. It was a great ballclub, and I said to the guys, ‘Go out. … I’ll keep the kids going.’ ”
He told his wife, Karen, “How can I tell these kids I’m going on strike, when they’ve given me three weeks in terrible heat and worked so hard? I can’t do that.”
So Troilo, who felt the union was using the football team as a pawn, took a 55-man roster into the season by himself. Some alumni from the program – John Gelcich, Bill D’Imperio and John Selvaggio – volunteered their time. And the winning began and never stopped.
Some people in the town and in the school still don’t speak with Troilo, who later became the athletic director, and eventually hired his son, who is the longest-tenured football coach (23 years) in school history.
“He was not going to let the strike get in the way,” said Seth Morris, the star tailback on that ‘73 team. “The kids were more important. We had all waited years and years to be seniors on the Harrison Huskies and get our time, and he was not going to let that pass for us.
“That was very special to me.”
Troilo was a defense/field position/ball-control coach who would quick- kick on third down more often than he’d pass the football.
Before that, he had been a standout athlete.
“Here’s a kid whose parents were immigrants, coming out of Harrison and going to Syracuse University,” said North Rockland AD/football coach Joe Casarella, who played at Harrison in the 1960s when Troilo was an assistant, and grew up a block from the Troilo family. “He was a tremendous role model for me, so I could see how education changes a life. It gave him a livelihood that he loved.
“For me and a lot of people, he carries himself so well, and he speaks badly of no one, he’s almost like Harrison’s little Joe DiMaggio for us.”
Another name to whom he’s linked is Jim Brown.
When Troilo first went out for football as a freshman at Harrison, he wanted to play center. They gave him No. 99.
“Then when we went out for wind sprints, I was the fastest one. So they said, ‘You’re in the backfield.’ ”
Troilo – a five-letter (football, basketball, baseball, track and golf) athlete from 1947-50, held the state long-jump record for about 10 years (Claudio Delli Carpini recently broke his school record). Then he started for three years at tailback for Syracuse, and also played defense and punted. He played in the Orange Bowl as a sophomore.
Brown, who joined the team in Troilo’s junior year, was not a blocker, not a receiver and he didn’t play defense. Troilo was averaging about 11 yards a carry as a senior.
“I sprained my ankle against Cornell senior year,” Troilo said. “Jimmy Brown feels that’s where he got his break. That’s what he credits me for. He wasn’t playing my position. We could all play each other’s positions. The week before, I played fullback. But Jim Brown could only play tailback. I got hurt, and they put him at tailback. They found a position for him. Just give him the ball. He was a ballcarrier. He was an automatic pro from the time he hit the field.”
Troilo went into the Navy, where he was asked to organize and coach football, basketball and baseball teams at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“What a pleasure that was,” he said. “I never wore a uniform. I always wore sweats.”
He said that 1957 “was a great year for me. I got a wife, I got a job and I got out of the service.” The job was at Harrison, as an assistant to Allie Young, and later to Ralph Friedgen Sr. Karen – with whom he has four children and 12 grandchildren – has been on the sideline almost uninterrupted for 44 seasons, including a Rye game she attended a day after being released from ICU after quadruple bypass surgery.
You might say that together, they are the heart of the program.