By Vincent Landolfi, Jr.
RED BANK – The newest member of the Red Bank Catholic boys’ basketball coaching staff is no stranger to the Caseys.
A 2009 graduate and First Team All-Division shooting guard, Dan Calandrillo has taken over the junior varsity team for first-year head coach Jim Catalano. Calandrillo graduated in 2013 from Bryant University after walking on as a freshman and going on to a very good four-year basketball career while earning a degree in finance with a minor in communications.
“It’s special for me to be coaching here at my alma mater,” Calandrillo said.
“I am not that far removed from their ages,” he said of his freshmen and sophomore squad, “so I feel that I am able to communicate well with them. Between all of the things I am still learning from Coach Catalano and (assistant coach Joe) Nappo, and what I’ve learned from my playing career, there’s so much I can pass on to them.”
That’s something no one had to tell the fledgling coach to do. Giving back and passing it on was something he learned his whole life – and from a source very close to home.
Calandrillo’s first teacher, coach and mentor happens to have the same name as he does. His father, Dan Calandrillo, was an all-state schoolboy star from North Bergen, who went on to be a standout guard at Seton Hall University, and the Big East Basketball Player of the Year in 1982. He now coaches a fifth- and sixth-grade team in Rumson and a shore-based AAU team.
“My dad was all about basketball,” said Calandrillo, the eldest of four boys. “It’s his first love, and what got him a scholarship and much of our life today. He was always willing to take the time to help us, and does a great job with the teams he coaches.”
The “us” in this instance is Danny, and his three brothers, Michael, Chris and Terrance, who is a freshman member of Calandrillo’s JV team at RBC.
“It was very competitive between us,” Calandrillo said of his years growing up with three brothers. “I remember a lot of late nights in the driveway (playing basketball), getting intense. My dad would watch and give pointers to all of us. We did a lot of things together.”
Whenever the four brothers did things together, of course, the oldest was in charge, a role he accepted and took very seriously.
“I looked out for my brothers and tried to set an example for them,” Calandrillo said. “I tried to do the right thing so they could be successful.”
For the younger Dan, it is an extremely positive case of like-father, like-son, that goes far beyond just their names.
“My mom and dad always emphasized a commitment to academics, even before athletics,” he said. “They met at Seton Hall and always wanted an education for each of us, but my dad never forced basketball on me or my brothers. After I had a growth spurt following sophomore year (in high school) and decided I wanted to pursue basketball seriously. He was behind me and gave his support 100 percent.”
Calandrillo’s path to becoming a member of the Caseys’ staff was as a direct result of his willingness to give back to his alma mater.
“RBC was a stepping-stone that taught me what to expect in college,” he said. “Taking honors and AP courses, along with learning to develop time management skills and processes, prepared me for academic life at Bryant (University) – one of the top business schools in the northeast.”
Calandrillo also worked as a Green and Gold Basketball Camp staffer during the summers since his graduation, where this past summer he met Catalano.
“Coach Nappo recommended me for the position, and it has worked out great,” he said.
Nappo, who is the Caseys’ varsity assistant, was the head coach for all four years of Calandrillo’s RBC playing tenure.
As a first-year coach, Calandrillo is beginning to realize some of the rewards that come with giving back what he once received.
“The kids are great,” he said. “We are getting closer as time goes on, and having fun while taking a serious approach to learning basketball.”
Coaching is something Calandrillo hopes to continue even as he works on developing his career in finance. “So much of what I have in my life comes from basketball, which was passed down from my dad as so much a part of his life.”
It is a prototypical illustration as part of the American dream, and father-son dynamic. Especially if your name is Dan Calandrillo.