By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Nicholas “Nicky” Cavallaro, who has died at age 88, became well known as a high school basketball coach and respected game referee in West Virginia, then moved to Florida and became a sports legend.
He was a graduate of Morgantown High School in the early 1940s, enlisted in the U.S. Navy for military service during World War II, then graduated from West Virginia University.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. While his small size wasn’t really conducive to compete as a player in athletics, basketball appeared to be a spot he loved more than others.
So he became involved in various duties while completing his college studies.
Then, after graduating, he took up basketball officiating. That was combined with coaching and he spent a few years coaching at St. Francis High School in Morgantown.
Cavallaro also found time to referee basketball games in West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio.
Before moving to Florida in 1960, Cavallaro married Dorothy L. Ledford and they had three sons: Dan, Terry and Ted. Daughter Vicki is the youngest child.
His first coaching job in Florida was a three-year stint as head basketball mentor at Chiefland High School.
After that, Cavallaro took his family to the Largo-Clearwater area in 1963 and remained there. He was hired as athletic director at the newly built Clearwater Central Catholic High School. In addition, he not only directed the school’s entire athletic program for 30 years but also coached basketball and other sports there.
Cavallaro’s relatives include Morgantown residents Rose Weimer, a sister, and WVU associate athletic director for women’s sports Terri Howes, a niece.
Both attended funeral services in Florida last Saturday. He had died peacefully on Wednesday with family present.
“Nicky,” who had made numerous friends in West Virginia and Florida, had earned legendary status in the Sunshine State. Many of his former athletes wore their athletic jerseys during the funeral service.
Cavallaro served as student manager of some basketball teams while at WVU. He also helped Hall of Famer “Whitey” Gwynne in the training equipment room.
His St. Francis High basketball teams were very successful, with some qualifying for the State Catholic Tournament.
He is a member of the WVU School of Physical Education Hall of Fame.
For his distinguished achievements, he also earned these high honors: Coach of the Year (1975-76); nominee for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Athletic Coach of the Year (1982); Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame nominee (1992); Florida Athletic Coaches Association Athletic Director of the Year Award (Regional/1993); Florida Athletic Coaches Association 333 Hall of Fame (2001).
He also was a member of the Sunshine Football Officials Association and a charter member of the PIAAA.
The Clearwater Catholic High School gymnasium is named in Cavallaro’s honor.