Sports

St. Thomas Aquinas Lifers Pass Reins on Parish Sports

Longtime St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Association volunteers Guy DeFonzo, left, and Anthony Quaranta, right, were recently honored for their years of service. (Photo: Courtesy of Guy DeFonzo)

It’s the end of an era at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands.

Two longtime volunteers, Guy DeFonzo and Anthony Quaranta, are moving on from running the parish’s Sports Association. DeFonzo served as athletic director, while Quaranta, who moved this summer to Sacred Heart, Bayside, was the chief financial officer.

On Dec. 7, members of the parish community, including pastor Dwayne Davis, gathered at Dolce Vita restaurant to celebrate the enduring legacy DeFonzo and Quaranta leave. Brian Shea, who played youth sports at the parish, will take over the program.

Originally from Resurrection parish, Gerritsen Beach, DeFonzo grew up across the street from a park, so he played sports every single day. He went to Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, where he played basketball and baseball. After attending St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, he joined the NYPD in 1985.

While working as an instructor in the Police Academy, DeFonzo reignited his love of basketball, playing every day in his free time. After he married his wife, Sheila, the family settled into St. Thomas Aquinas, where DeFonzo coached his daughter Kate in basketball starting in 1995. His three sons – P.J., Jake, and Timmy – all played sports for the parish as well.

As he reflected on his time, DeFonzo said he wouldn’t trade his volunteer experiences for anything. Sure the hours were long at times, yet the true reward was seeing generation after generation of children playing sports and having fun.

“Anthony and I always said we wanted a place for kids to come – didn’t matter how good you were – just to come and be comfortable and be yourself,” DeFonzo said. “I think we did that.”

Just like DeFonzo, Quaranta had a passion for sports growing up in St. Francis of Assisi parish, Prospect Heights. He also attended Xaverian and went on to Brooklyn College, Midwood, where he studied to become an accountant.

After marrying, he moved to St. Thomas Aquinas. His son, Christian, was born in 1995 and when he came of age started playing basketball and baseball at the parish. DeFonzo coached Christian in both sports.

While his son was playing a baseball game for St. Edmund Prep H.S., Sheepshead Bay, Quaranta received a call from DeFonzo asking him if he would help run a newly conceived Sports Association at St. Thomas. Though he couldn’t commit to coaching hoops, he surely was interested in helping to run the organizational aspects, such as overseeing registration and running the website.

With the support of then-pastor Father Thomas Doyle, the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Association was born in 2012. It came from humble beginnings to eventually welcome more than 300 children from families that truly bought into the organization’s mission.

“That’s what made the program a thriving one: We had good parents…I mean really good parents,” Quaranta said.

While the late Msgr. John Brown was pastor, the idea came about to bring back the historic Msgr. King Basketball Tournament to the parish. A staple in the community for decades, the tournament had been on hiatus when DeFonzo and Quaranta took over.

After a pivotal meeting with the late basketball scout and guru Tom Konchalski, who voiced his support for bringing the tournament back, DeFonzo and Quaranta took the steps to continue the tradition. The “Mecca” of local basketball was back, with public and Catholic high schools from all over the East Coast participating.

Of course, running the tournament was a team effort. In addition to Sheila’s many dedicated hours, Amanda Dawson and sisters Nicole and Heather Edmund were instrumental to the smooth operation. This year’s tournament tips off Dec. 26, and DeFonzo has remained tournament director for one last time.

With the Sports Association in the more-than-capable hands of Shea, DeFonzo and Quaranta will now serve in a consulting role for anything Shea needs. After nearly 30 years from DeFonzo and 10 from Quaranta, it’s nice to see the reins being passed to one of the parish’s own.

“We couldn’t ask for a better person to hand the program over to,” DeFonzo said. “Brian is a great guy and a great person to work with. He knows all the nooks and crannies of this place.”

DeFonzo and Quaranta will cherish the many memories from their time at St. Thomas. Still, there’s a bittersweet feeling attached to their departure. The parish gymnasium was their home away from home for so many years.

“At the dinner, I got to see a lot of the parents again,” Quaranta said. “It’s like anything else. It’s another chapter in your life.”

The meaningful impact these two men had on the youth of South Brooklyn will live on as Shea begins to carve out his own legacy within the sports community.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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