DERRY — It was a gym full of red shirts and a lot of love as former Pinkerton Academy basketball players and other alumni suited up to honor a coach they love.
A benefit basketball game was held March 29 at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School to honor longtime Pinkerton coach and teacher Tony Carnovale.
Carnovale is battling cancer. Former students and players organized the game to raise money to support scholarships in the coach’s honor.
Carnovale coached basketball and also taught social studies at Pinkerton.
As the Astros’ head basketball coach, he won two state Class L titles. He also led popular summer youth basketball camps and leagues for young athletes in Derry and surrounding towns.
Carnovale was also instrumental for decades at Pinkerton, forging a regular “sister city” trip to Russia, offering students an opportunity to see that country.
The game Saturday drew a big crowd. All participants donned bright red shirts to honor “Coach C.” The event joined family and friends together for a day to celebrate their coach.
Carnovale was able to attend the game, flanked by his family, including daughter Jennifer Carnovale, who helped organize the alumni outpouring for her father.
“We got a network going to do something special,” she said.
Dave Wheeler coaches basketball at Central High in Manchester and said his path crossed with Carnovale several times through the years.
“I think he’s been a community icon for Derry,” Wheeler said. “He’s done so much.”
As people entered the gym for the game, there were displays of past Pinkerton basketball players and games, an Astro tribute to a popular former coach.
Ryan Brown played for Carnovale at Pinkerton in the early 1990s. He said seeing so many people come out to support the coach showed what an impression he made on so many people for so long.
“It shows the commitment and compassion he had,” Brown said.
For Carnovale, it was a good day spent with family and many friends.
“I liked seeing the little kids especially,” the coach said.