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The Sins of the Coach

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The matter might have ended there had it not been for Carlino’s allegation that Oliva molested him on trips outside of New York, including one to Boston. While the statute of limitations had long ago expired on any abuse that might have occurred in New York, it had not in Massachusetts, where the statute-of-limitations clock stops ticking once a suspect leaves the state. Investigators in Massachusetts began looking into Carlino’s claims, and Oliva allegedly started trying to cover his tracks. Sam Albano, a friend of Oliva’s since the early seventies, hadn’t believed Carlino’s accusations when he first heard them. But then, Albano says, Oliva came to him for a favor. As it happened, Albano was visiting Boston at the same time Oliva had taken Carlino there in 1976. All three men had gone to see the same Yankees–Red Sox doubleheader, and Albano bumped into Oliva and the then-14-year-old Carlino outside Fenway Park. Now, Albano says, Oliva wanted him to tell the investigators in Massachusetts that he had stayed at the same hotel as Carlino and Oliva, which Albano says wasn’t the case, as he eventually testified to a Boston grand jury.

Ray Paprocky, who’d played for Oliva at Christ the King and later served as one of his assistant coaches, also initially believed Oliva was innocent. It wasn’t until Mark confided to Paprocky that Oliva had molested him that Paprocky confronted his mentor. Paprocky says he asked Oliva about Mark in October 2008 during a meeting at the Triple Crown diner in Bellerose. “That’s where Bobby admitted everything to me about my friend,” Paprocky says. “But he tried to claim to me that it was consensual because my friend was 17.” Paprocky ultimately told this story to the Boston grand jury, too. Later that month, Oliva was indicted.

“He’d say, ‘Take your shirt off. You’re going to be a pro and do locker-room interviews. You’ve got to be ready for that.’ ”

Albano and Paprocky say they’ve approached Christ the King officials to ask them to investigate whether Oliva may have molested other students, to no avail. Bernard Helldorfer, a member of Christ the King’s board of trustees and a lawyer for the school, says Christ the King has handled the matter properly. “The legal system is going to take its course, and we’re content to stay out of it since it didn’t involve any student and didn’t involve Mr. Oliva while he was employed at the school,” Helldorfer says. “We’re not trying to go out there and search for victims who might not even exist.”

That position is “a typical Catholic response to all this,” says Hoatson, the priest who in addition to counseling Carlino runs a group called Road to Recovery, which offers support to victims of clergy sexual abuse. “The school is responding the way the bishops have responded to the priest stuff,” Hoatson says. Basketball coaches in New York’s top CYO programs and Catholic high schools are akin to “little priests,” Hoatson says. “The moment a priest gets ordained, he’s viewed as godlike. And the more successful Oliva was on the court, the more he was viewed as godlike. Oliva, because he was in a Catholic school, was in a culture that promotes power and authority. Oliva had a kingdom at Christ the King.”

Bob Oliva offers me a drink and asks if I want to watch a video. It’s a warm evening in February, and we’re sitting in the living room of his condominium in Myrtle Beach, where he’s been lying low since he resigned from Christ the King. Still, it’s not hard to see that the school remains very much a part of him. Just outside the front door hangs a sign emblazoned with the Christ the King logo and the words ROYALVILLE SOUTH; inside, the walls are lined with photos of his championship Christ the King teams (in addition to snapshots of him with Michael Jordan and LeBron James and a painting of a black baby and a white baby in Magic Johnson and Larry Bird jerseys entitled Let’s Play). Oliva, who gave up the toupee several years ago, is wearing a crimson sweatshirt and gray sweatpants with the word “Royals” stitched on them. Rising from his chair, he heads into the bedroom to fetch a DVD. “I’m going to show you something here, if you want to stick around for a second,” he says. “Are you sure you don’t want something to drink?”

Oliva’s lawyer in the Carlino case, a top Boston criminal-defense attorney, refused to comment for this article, so in late February I went to the golf community where Oliva now lives to try to get his side of the story. When I arrived at his apartment, he wasn’t home. Outside, a couple of young boys rode their dirt bikes around the parking lot, and their mother directed me to another neighbor who was a friend of Oliva’s. “We talk about things we have in common,” said the man, a retired math teacher from upstate New York, “like our attitudes toward young kids.” He was surprised I was writing a story about his pal. “I knew Bob was an accomplished basketball coach, but I didn’t know he was so famous.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him the real subject of my story.


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