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Joe Maniaci, a longtime Connetquot social studies teacher and Dowling College basketball coach who played high school basketball with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in New York City, died on Sunday, Sept. 25. He was 75.
Maniaci taught at Peconic Street Junior High School (now Ronkonkoma Middle School) for 37 years, and then continued to work part-time as a Connetquot photographer, totaling more than five decades of service to the district.
Inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, Maniaci began his coaching career as an assistant basketball coach at Dowling in 1971, soon after starring for the team as its leading scorer. He served as the team’s head coach from 1980 to 1986.
From 1987 to 1991, Maniaci took on assistant coaching gigs at St. Francis College and C.W. Post College (now Long Island University). He was the head coach at St. Joseph’s College (now St. Joseph’s University) from 1992 until 2001.
Maniaci played basketball for the varsity basketball team and graduated from Connetquot High School in 1966. He had previously attended high school at Power Memorial Academy in Manhattan, where he was teammates with Jabbar, whose name during high school was Lew Alcindor. As a freshman at Power Memorial, Maniaci was a defensive star for the school’s junior varsity team, which won the New York City championship that season.
Maniaci’s son Phil in a Facebook post on Sunday shared how dedicated his father was to Connetquot.
“He truly enjoyed the positive accomplishments of the students throughout the district and he wanted everyone to see them,” Phil Maniaci wrote. “He took pride in the photos that he took of the children of Connetquot and it brought a smile to his face every time you let him know that you were happy to see a photo he had taken of your child in action.
“The Connetquot community was a second family to Joe Maniaci. Always a Thunderbird!,” he continued.
The sad news of Joe Maniaci’s passing following his battle with cancer led to an outpouring of heartfelt thoughts about the educator and popular coach.
“I have a lot of good memories from high school but one of my favorites was varsity basketball. I was by far the worst on the team, so when I finally got to go in (probably down 30), Mr. Maniaci was there to see me make a foul shot,” Jamie Freitag commented on Phil Maniaci’s post.
“My team and coach were so happy for me that you would’ve thought I won the game!!” she continued. He took this awesome picture of me that is framed in my parents living room, and every time he saw me again he remembered me as his favorite player. Thank you Mr. Maniaci for all you did for us!”
Tom Roeder, a local high school basketball coach who played for Maniaci in college, expressed his thanks for Maniaci’s mentorship.
“I learned a tremendous amount from you both on and off the court. I will cherish the things you taught me about basketball and life,” he posted on Facebook. “Many of the things you instilled in me as a player I continue as a Coach.”
AnnaMarie Damore is among dozens of individuals who have shared memories and left touching messages on Moloney’s Lake Funeral Home & Cremation Center’s web page dedicated to Maniaci.
“Whenever you came into the schoolhouse to take pictures of the kids, you brought with you a huge smile and kind words,” she wrote. “I have so enjoyed working with you over the years! God bless you and your family.”
Scheduled Services for Maniaci
Visitation will take place at Moloney’s Lake Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 132 Ronkonkoma Ave. in Ronkonkoma on Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 7-9 p.m., and then on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
A funeral mass for Maniaci will take place on Thursday, Sept. 29, at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma at a time that has yet to be determined.
Top photo: Joe Maniaci (middle) during his time as a coach at St. Joseph’s. The photo was supplied by Tom Roeder, who is pictured to the right of Maniaci. Roeder said Maniaci sent him the photo a few years ago.