Holy Cross Lifer Among CHSAA Hall of Fame Inductees

Joe Giannuzzi, center, the former varsity ‘B’ basketball coach at Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, was inducted May 9 into the CHSAA Hall of Fame. He’s pictured with Brooklyn-Queens CHSAA President Ray Nash, left, and treasurer Sal Fischetti, right. (Photo: Courtesy of Pete Goyco)

If you take a look at Joe Giannuzzi’s resume, there’s only one stop: 

Holy Cross H.S. in Flushing. 

Giannuzzi was among seven inductees to the CHSAA’s Hall of Fame on May 9 at the Inwood Country Club on Long Island. He most notably served as head basketball coach for the Knights’ varsity ‘B’ team for 25 years. 

A native of Flushing, Giannuzzi attended St. Ann’s Elementary School and played baseball and basketball for the parish’s Catholic Youth Organization program. He went to his first choice for high school: Holy Cross. Though he did not play sports for the Knights, he describes himself as a super fan who was always in the gymnasium. 

“I was a gym rat from day one,” he said. “I was a huge fan and got to see some of the legends of the Catholic high school athletic league throughout my four years. I loved the game of basketball.” 

After graduating in 1965, Giannuzzi went to Villanova University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He continued to play basketball for fun as well as cheer on the Wildcats in what he called the four best years of his life. 

From there, it was right back to his high school alma mater. Holy Cross had a global studies teacher position open right at the time Giannuzzi graduated, so it was the perfect fit. Giannuzzi thought he’d stay there for a few years to get some experience, but a few years turned into 46 strong. 

He started out coaching freshmen football until head varsity basketball coach Bill O’Meara approached him about creating a varsity ‘B’ team, which a few schools in Manhattan had started. Giannuzzi’s first season coaching the ‘B’ squad was 1971-1972. 

“We had so many kids in those days that were great basketball players that there was never enough room for them,” he said. “If you have 15 good kids on the freshmen team and 15 good kids on the junior varsity, by the time they got to the varsity level, there was no place for these kids to play.” 

With four total teams, gym time was hard to come by. So Giannuzzi started the tradition of “6 a.m. Pride” in which his ‘B’ squad held their practices at 6 a.m. before school started. This dedication undoubtedly helped these young men on and off the court. 

The early days of the ‘B’ team featured the Knights playing anyone they could whenever they could. As more Brooklyn-Queens schools started up varsity ‘B’ teams, a full league — with playoffs and a championship game — was formed. 

“The ‘B’ league really evolved into a great league — 12 teams in the league over the years,” said Giannuzzi, also a member of the Holy Cross Hall of Fame. “The quality of play in the ‘B’ league now with schools like Stepinac and St. Raymond’s and Iona, it’s phenomenal.” 

Giannuzzi had an 11-year stint as dean of students at Holy Cross, in which he was able to continue coaching basketball. However, when he became the school’s principal in 1996, he stepped away from the sidelines. His 17 years as principal are the most in school history, and he’s forever indebted to Holy Cross for providing him with his dream career. 

“I really am one of the lucky ones,” he said. “I got to raise my kids in that gym. All four of them played basketball, and I coached them all. That’s what Holy Cross did for me.” 

Over the past number of years — even after his retirement — Giannuzzi has helped to host an annual basketball game held in the memory of his late son, Matthew. Played against rival Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, the game raises funds for the Matthew Brian Giannuzzi Fund, which provides Holy Cross students with financial assistance and special programs throughout the school year. 

When he received the call about the CHSAA Hall of Fame, he was humbled and honored — and even questioned why he was even being inducted. Yet since the goal of the CHSAA is to create memorable athletic experiences for as many student-athletes as possible, Giannuzzi’s guidance of the Holy Cross varsity ‘B’ program for a quarter century fit the league’s overall mission impeccably. 

Frankly, the only reason it took this long to induct him was that everybody thought he was already in!