THIELLS, N.Y.—The passing of Rockland County coaching legend Ralph Cordisco on Sunday has likely left few grieving more than current North Rockland Central School District athletic director Joe Casarella.
Casarella got his start out of college in 1967 when Cordisco, then coaching North Rockland’s varsity football team, hired him to coach the junior varsity squad. Nearly half a century later, Casarella has established himself as a coaching legend in his own right after leading North Rockland to 11 league and 10 section titles during his tenure, but still sees himself standing on the shoulders of a giant.
“He was very unique,” Casarella said of Cordisco, who served as head coach of North Rockland from 1956 through 1979 and also as the school’s athletic director for many years. “He was a great mentor for me and the many coaches he hired.”
Over 23 years, Cordisco compiled a 123-50-8 record, and he was named Rockland Football Coach of the Year and New York Daily News Coach of the Year each six times and inducted into the Rockland County Hall of Fame in 1984. North Rockland’s stadium bears Cordisco’s name, and the field bears Casarella’s.
But Casarella, who succeeded Cordisco in 1980, said that despite being “ahead of his time as far as Xs and Os” what made Cordisco so special was that “he knew the Jimmies and Joes.”
“He could deal with all types of kids. He cared about them,” Casarella said. “I still use many of his techniques for dealing with young kids.”
According to Casarella, Cordisco attended games up until a few years ago, when at 93 years old, he moved to a Rhode Island nursing home to be closer to his son.
Cordisco will be buried on Saturday in Rhode Island, and a memorial service will be held the following Saturday, Jan. 23 at St. Peter’s Church in Haverstraw, where Casarella and others will look to remember his teachings.
“It’s pretty well-known,” Casarella said about Cordisco’s prized principle. “Give everybody a chance and treat everybody the same.”
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