Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oliva Steps Down as CTK Coach


By Conor Greene

Nine months after he revealed he was accused of sexually abusing a family friend, Christ the King High School head boys’ basketball coach Bob Oliva has announced his retirement.

After 27 years at the Middle Village parochial school – a perennial city basketball powerhouse – Oliva officially retired this week. He had not coached a game since March, when his squad lost to Holy Cross in the city Catholic High School Athletic Association championship game.

In April, Oliva informed Christ the King’s board of directors that he received a letter accusing him of sexually abusing longtime family friend Jimmy Carlino starting when the boy was 13 years old. On May 1, a Florida attorney sent Oliva a follow-up letter informing him that Carlino would drop the matter in exchange for a $750,000 payment and the coach’s resignation from CTK by the end of the 2008 school year.

While the school’s board of trustees stood by Oliva, the coach has been on a leave of absence since the team began practicing in November due to a heart ailment. According to published reports, Oliva believes the heart condition was aggravated by the allegations.

“I’m finished,” the 64-year-old coach recently told the Daily News. “I’m going to walk away from the program. It is a terrible way to go out.” Oliva finishes his career with a record of 549-181 and five city championships. Dozens of former players went on to play high-level college ball, and eight players eventually reached the NBA, including Lamar Odom – currently a star with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The school’s athletic director, Joe Arbitello, has been named the permanent coach after guiding the squad to a 9-1 record to start this season.

When the allegations first became public, attorney Thomas Ognibene, a member of the school’s board of trustees and former City Councilman, said he doubts the claims, given Oliva’s track record overseeing thousands of children over several decades coaching.

“It’s a lot of nonsense, but unfortunately he has to be subjected to this,” said Ognibene. “He used to be like a godfather to the kid, he met him when he was eight and basically took care of this kid for a number of years. The kid had gambling and drug problems, and Bob stood with him.”

Late in 2007, Oliva decided to drop Carlino from his will, which Ognibene speculated led to the accusations. “He [Oliva] said, ‘I can’t help you anymore and I’m taking you out of my will,’ which I understand was a pretty substantial sum,” said Ognibene. “As soon as that happened, he had an epiphany and said ‘Bob Oliva molested me when I was a kid.’”

Oliva met Carlino, who attended Archbishop Malloy High School, when the coach owned a bar in Ozone Park called the Short Porch. Carlino’s father was a bartender there, and Oliva sometimes paid the boy to clean the bar, according to reports.

He also coached Carlino in the Catholic Youth Organization athletic league. “It’s about time that he did the right thing,” Carlino told the Daily News. “I’m glad he won’t cause any more problems for any more children.” That paper reported that two former players have recently claimed that Oliva abused them. CTK President Michael Michel said that the school didn’t force Oliva to resign, and isn’t aware of any other allegations against the coach.

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