Robert "Apache" Paschall, highly successful but at times a lightning rod
for controversy on the New York City girls basketball scene, died
Tuesday of cardiac arrest, Nazareth Regional High School officials said.
Paschall, who had been undergoing chemotherapy as well as five weekly
radiation treatments on his neck and jaw after being diagnosed with skin
cancer in October, was rushed to New York Infirmary-Beekman Downtown
Hospital early in the afternoon and was pronounced dead.
He was 37.
"Apache was dedicated above all else to the girls in his program and to
improving the profile of girls basketball," the school said in a
statement announcing his death. "Our prayers are with his family,
particularly his daughter, and his players. May he rest in peace."
coached Nazareth (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
to a 29-3 record and the Federation Class AA
championship in Albany last season. Paschall and many of his players
came over to Brooklyn from St. Michael Academy in Manhattan - which won a
Federation crown in 2009 - after that school closed its doors in June
Nazareth, which pulled out of California's West Coast Jamboree last week because Paschall wasn't able to travel,
is 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state by the New York State Sportswriters
Association and No. 9 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings
presented by the Army National Guard.
Assistant coaches Ron Kelley and Lauren Best had assumed many of the
responsibilities with the team this winter, though the obviously
fatigued Paschall was on the bench for games and had attended practice
"He was important. He was a mentor for me, like a
second father," Darius Falk, who played for Paschall for two years at
SMA before moving to Nazareth with him, told the New York Daily News.
"I've been with him since I was in seventh grade. He helped me get where
I'm at right now."
As of Tuesday night there were conflicting
reports as to whether the Lady Kingsmen's game against Brooklyn/Queens
league foe Bishop Ford on Thursday would be played as scheduled.
Nazareth has another big league contest scheduled Saturday vs. perennial
national power Christ the King as part of homecoming weekend.
a product of the housing projects who endured the pain of having his
mother sentenced to prison when he was 10 years old, registered success
beyond the high school ranks. His Exodus summer program is considered
must-see viewing for college recruiters, having helped launch the
careers of players inside and outside the SMA/Nazareth dynasty such as
Long Island's Samantha Prahalis, now at Ohio State, and WNBA player Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State), who once scored 113 points in a PSAL game
for Murry Bergtraum.
But it's the string of great players at St.
Michael Academy and then Nazareth that nearly proved to be his undoing.
Paschall coached much of last season under the shadow of a CHSAA
investigation into whether players were offered improper incentives to
follow him to Nazareth, which had been without a girls program for
several seasons before Paschall arrived.
Paschall was cleared by
the league before the Federation playoffs, but not before being
hospitalized in December 2010 for congestive heart failure and being
suspended for a week – including two early-round playoff victories – by
his principal for speaking at length with The New York Post about the
Catholic High School Athletic Association probe.
This season, the Nazareth roster was bolstered by
the arrival in September of three-out-of-state guards – seen as over the
top even by the casual standards of many in the New York City high
school/AAU circuit. Brianna Butler from William Penn Charter School in
Pennsylvania and a Syracuse University recruit; Sadie Edwards, out of
Our Lady of Mercy School in Connecticut; and Destini Feagin from Ben
Davis High in Indiana were all initially ruled ineligible by the CHSAA.
November, the school supplied the CHSAA with documentation that the
players had properly moved to New York with their families, clearing the
way for them to join the lineup.
Combined with highly regarded
sophomore Bianca Cuevas and seniors Faulk (who signed with West
Virginia), Brianna Sidney (UNC-Wilmington) and Taylor Ford (Syracuse),
they formed a lineup that made Nazareth the favorite to repeat in the
Federation Class AA tournament. John Schiano has written about high school sports in western
and central New York for more than 25 years, and is president of the New York State Sportswriters Association. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.