Former New York coaching legend indicted on child rape charges
Two stories are depressingly common: the youth coach who is accused of molesting members of his team, and molestation occurring within the Catholic Church. The story of former New York Catholic high school coaching legend Bob Oliva, indicted March 25 on two counts of child rape, sadly hits on both counts.
Oliva coached such future NBAers as Lamar Odom, Speedy Claxton, Derrick Phelps and Jayson Williams (talk about your troubled souls) at Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, winning nearly 550 games in 27 seasons before leaving in the 2008-09 season, supposedly for health reasons. He was having heart troubles, but in April 2008 he had already told the school he had been falsely accused of sexual crimes against a former family friend. The boy was Jimmy Carlino, who the New York Daily News said Oliva had called his “godson.”
You know how this story goes. At first no one believes the accuser, and the school and just about everyone else backs up Oliva. Of course, that is not in and of itself some form of evil: you’re innocent until proven guilty, and presumably many of Oliva’s supporters noticed nothing untoward.
But it was a bad sign for Oliva when the Daily News on Feb. 28 published a story about some of his defenders starting to believe the stories of his accuser, especially as they heard former teammates or friends come forward with their own stories about Oliva.
Less a month later, Oliva was indicted in Boston for two counts of raping a child (a 14-year-old boy) in 1976, while in town for a Yankees-Red Sox doubleheader, and one count of disseminating pornography to a minor. Carlino wasn’t named in the indictment as a victim, but he says at that age and that time Oliva took him to Boston and molested him.
I’ll say one more time that officially Oliva is guilty of nothing. But if the pattern holds, more boys-grown-up, emboldened by the walls starting to come crashing down, will come forward. They did when former students sued a Brooklyn prep school over a failure to protect them from a long-time, child-molesting, now-deceased football coach. They did when Andrew King, a 40-year swim coach in the San Jose, Calif., area, got busted for molesting a 14-year-old girl, and authorities found at least 12 other girls reporting similar offenses dating back to 1978. Former 1972 U.S. Olympic swimmer Deena Deardurff Schmidt recently stated she was molested by her swim coach as a child, holding a news conference to support an anonymous swimmer who has sued King and to lambaste USA Swimming for how it handled molestation allegations over the years.
The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for on how it handled its child-molesting priests, but it’s not the only organization that had such issues. Youth coaches have been given god-like powers over the years, and unfortunately many of them took advantage of that stature to take advantage of children. Unfortunately, it’s still happening, even with background checks in place that weren’t around when Oliva started coaching.
Whatever happens with the Oliva case, the lessons for parents remain. If something seems a little weird, then it probably is. Don’t leave your child alone with a coach. Don’t tell your child to do EVERYTHING the coach says. And, for God’s sake, don’t let your child go out of town or anywhere solo with a coach. It’s sad to say this, but it’s the only way to ensure your child’s safety.