Nick DiMaggio, the longtime athletic director at Tampa Catholic who was a fixture at the school's sporting events for more than 50 years, died Wednesday (July 18, 2018) from complications related to a stroke. He was 86.
"Nick was an icon, a walking encyclopedia of anything related to Tampa Catholic athletically," said Don Dziagwa, the Crusaders' current athletic director who has served as the boys basketball coach since 1991. "He knew so much about the school because he had been a part of it for so long."
Mr. DiMaggio was a Tampa native who graduated from Jesuit and earned a pair of bachelor's degrees from Florida Southern College. A Korean War veteran, Mr. DiMaggio began his teaching career at East Bay in 1958. Eight years later, Mr. DiMaggio was hired at Tampa Catholic as the head track and assistant football coach.
The biggest accomplishments in Mr. DiMaggio's coaching career came in track, where he guided the program for 34 years while winning more than 400 meets, 23 district titles and coaching his athletes to 51 individual state titles.
Mr. DiMaggio's 36-year tenure as athletic director was just as impressive. Tampa Catholic won eight state baseball championships, two softball titles and two basketball titles. The baseball, volleyball, wrestling and boys and girls soccer teams finished as state runnersup.
The Tampa Sports Club named Tampa Catholic the Athletic Program of the Year in 1975.
Mr. DiMaggio was one of the first five members to be inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988 and is a member of halls of fame at Tampa Catholic and East Bay. He was a finalist for National Track Coach of the Year in 1977.
In 2002, Mr. DiMaggio retired as the school's athletic director. But his devotion to athletics could not keep him away.
"Nick was still at just about every home game for most sports at the school," Dziagwa said. "He often would stop by office just to chat about how the teams were doing. And he was on our Hall of Fame committees, which was a big thing because his wealth of knowledge was immense."
Mr. DiMaggio's passion for all things related to Tampa Catholic is what former players and coaches remember most.
"It's going to be hard to go to an athletic event at the school and not see Nick there," said Bob Henriquez, who graduated from Tampa Catholic in 1982. He played football and ran track under DiMaggio before returning to the school to serve as football coach and track coach for nine years during the 1990s.
"For those who went to Tampa Catholic when he was there, there's an empty hole in our hearts."
Funeral arrangements had not been made Thursday afternoon.