We all know how big the World Wide Web has become.

Forms of communication include the Container Diaries blog, Facebook, Twitter, Message boards and e-mail.

But nothing beats a good old telephone call to an old friend.

A few days ago, basketball referee Nick Gaetani passed away.  I thought Nick was a good guy and a solid official.  He worked a ton of high school games and also spent time at the collegiate level. When I was attending John Jay and played a few games for their varsity team under Pete Coakley we played New Utrecht one Friday afternoon. While going up against them at their gym in Bensonhurst I became friends with one of their players.

It turned out to be Nick’s son Frankie.

After that game we played against each other all over Brooklyn in the summer time. East Fifth Street, Manhattan Beach and the Brighton Y.

When I received the news about Nick’s death, I decided to reach out to Frankie and send him my condolences.

Now mind you, we haven’t spoken in over thirty years.

Someone passed me Frankie’s number and we had a great conversation. We talked about the good old days of ballin’ in Brooklyn. It was amazing that he remembered me!

I know technology is great and all and has made communicating easy but you know what? Nothing beats a conversation over the phone. I still know my old phone number from when I lived on ninth avenue ST8-7307.

Sure e-mail and texting is easy and the thing to do but I miss dialing up old friends and chatting.

Think I’m going to start making more calls instead of e-mailing.



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  1. jim casey says:

    nick was a fine official and an even nicer person
    he reffed some of my games when i coached at all hallows

  2. Bill LaVasseur says:

    It’s a small world. Nick’s daughter Lisa and I worked together in the NYPD. Lisa was a an office aide in my units main office in 1 Police Plaza. I drove Lisa to and from work in the days following 911. I went to the wake Thursday afternoon and met Lisa’s family. Nick also worked for the NBA at Knick home games as an official watching the refs. At his wake I also learned that he was quite the basketball player in his youth. God Bless his soul.

    • hoopscoach says:

      Thanks Billy, I spoke to Frankie today.

      Hope all is well.

      • Bill LaVasseur says:

        Everything is good, hope all is well with you and your family, sounds like you are doing well. Love the old pictures and stories. Do me a favor and ask Vackner to proof read before posting! LOL

  3. jimmyvac says:

    The ST stood for south and if your number began with 499 it was HYcinth 9….I like the new way better.. I agree with you, the internet is great for catching up or finding old friends..but hearing the voice is still the best…

    • Willy Wickham says:

      You’re right about HYcinth but ST was for STerling. Ours was ST8-4543 back on 15th street. Wonder who has it now? South was SO. The Sanders had a South number, SO8-6000 I think, which got funny in the early sixties when they bought an answering machine. Jimmy Curtis, the manager, spoke Brooklynese and his greeting went GOOD AFERNOON, SANDERS TATER, DIS IS A RECORDED ANNOUNCAMENT. He would then plow through the features and the times they were showing. He threw me out of that place on more than one occasion but his announcaments were tops.

    • hoopscoach says:


      ST stood for Sterling…

  4. jimmyvac says:

    Youre’ right.. my Brooklyn number was South 8… snother senior moment…
    But again you are right about speaking on the phone.. I recently caought up with a buddy I used to work with who has moved to Louisiana.. it was great to catch up and plan a reunion with some other folkss….

  5. John Langton says:

    Anybody know who’s in the photo?

  6. Dan Leary says:

    I was at the wake for Nick last week also. Great guy. Didn’t know he was such a good player too. He is in the NYU Hall of Fame. Was a 1000 point scorer. Some great pictures at the wake. Tom Konchalski filled me in on all the guys Nick played with and against. After school , he played on a team from the DAC that traveled around the country to play.

  7. Mary Lou Malczewski says:

    I was a friend of Frankie’s I just got news that he recently passed away . I’m in shock my twin boys who played basketball loved him. I do not know any details I think I will pass by to see his mom

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