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Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Carlesimo fostered NIT change, kept it afloat
Associated Press

MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- Peter A. Carlesimo, father of basketball coach P.J. Carlesimo and the first full-time executive director of the National Invitational Tournament, has died at age 87.

Carlesimo died June 22 at his home following an unspecified illness. His career included coaching football and basketball at the University of Scranton. He served as athletic director there and at Fordham University.

Carlesimo is credited with two moves that saved the NIT, a postseason competition that was being eclipsed by the NCAA Tournament.

He helped put early-round games on campuses starting in 1977, which led to increased ticket sales. The semifinals and finals continued to be held at New York's Madison Square Garden, where the entire tournament had been played. He also created the Preseason NIT in 1985, so NIT events now bookend the collegiate hoops season.

His son, P.J. Carlesimo, an assistant coach with the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, said family, religion and vocation were the things his father cared deeply about.

"Those things were always the focus of his life. He didn't make it any more complex. He didn't have to," P.J., the oldest of 10 children, has said.

As coach at Seton Hall University, P.J. led the Pirates to the NCAA championship game in 1989. He left in 1994 to coach the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, and later coached of Golden State.

Peter Carlesimo was born in Newark and was a 1940 graduate of Fordham, where he played football with Vince Lombardi.

He began his career as a history teacher and head football coach at his high school alma mater, St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, from 1940-42.

At Scranton, he coached football from 1944-60, basketball from 1944-46 and 1951-55, cross country from 1961-68, and was athletic director from 1953-68.

He then returned to Fordham, where he was athletic director from 1968-78.

While there, he served on the NIT committee, and when he left the school he became the NIT's first full-time executive director, holding that post from 1978-88.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Thursday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

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