Richard E. Iacono was a “one-of-a-kind” type of coach.
That’s too bad.
There should be more like Rick.
The former highly-successful wrestling and softball mentor at Governor Livingston – a coach with a wit and wisdom about not only sports, but life in general second to none – passed away Monday at the age of 72, succumbing to lung cancer.
Also a longtime baseball coach at Dayton and wrestling coach there as well in the early 1990s, Iacono guided all the teams he coached to a great deal of success, including Middlesex wrestling before he moved on to GL.
Iacono, a Middlesex Borough resident, led the GL softball team to the 2007 Group 2 state championship, that squad led by senior right hander Capri Catalano who that season set the state record for career strikeouts with 1,346.
Roselle Park softball coach Fran Maggio lived quite near Iacono, both of them Bound Brook graduates – Iacono class of 1966 and Maggio class of 1984.
“He grew up on Chestnut Street, about seven or eight houses down from me,” Maggio said.
Iacono worked for Maggio’s father, Ben, who in addition to serving as Plainfield High School’s Athletic Director from 1970-1993 was the Recreation Director in Bound Brook from 1959-1993.
“Rick was the Playground Supervisor at Codrington Park in Bound Brook for 30 summers,” Maggio said. “My brother John (Bound Brook class of 1980 and the present athletic director at Bridgewater-Raritan) worked there as a lifeguard.
“Also working there were Joe D’Alessandro (Somerville boys’ basketball coach with 512 wins), Bob Ulmer (longtime head football coach at Metuchen) and former Bound Brook head football coach Allen Beatty. They all worked there at different times.”
As head coaches of two of the most successful softball programs in Union County, Maggio and Iacono went head-to-several times.
The game Catalano tied the state career strikeout record was a Central Jersey, Group 2 quarterfinal contest in Berkeley Heights against Roselle Park on a hot Thursday afternoon, May 24, 2007.
GL won 10-0, concluding the game in the bottom of the sixth via the 10-run mercy rule. Catalano tossed a two-hitter and struck out 11 to reach 1,281 strikeouts, which tied the mark previously set by Ashley Forsyth of Freehold Boro. In GL’s next game five days later, Catalano one-hit Shore Regional in the semifinals, striking out 20 to shatter the record.
Iacono would go on to say that – at that time – the hearing-impaired Catalano was the most inspiring athlete he ever had the privilege to coach.
GL also defeated Roselle Park in regular season play three days before the state playoff contest. Roselle Park finished that season with a winning record of 16-9.
After serving as GL’s assistant softball coach, Iacono took over the reigns as head coach from Jerry Britt.
“He certainly spoke his mind and was even controversial at times,” Maggio said. “He was a great guy and the stories just go on and on and on about how successful he was with his kids.”
Iacono taught physical education and health for 16 years at GL. In wrestling he was named Union County Coach of the Year three times, Region 3 Coach of the Year three times and was also honored with the distinction by Districts 10 and 12.
His career coaching record in wrestling was 324-282-2 over a 40-year span. He also guided the GL softball team to more than 200 victories.
In 2015 he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, New Jersey chapter.
A 1971 graduate of West Liberty University in West Liberty, West Virginia, Iacono was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in April of 2018.
Earlier this year, Iacono was recognized by Region 4 wrestling with a Lifetime Achievement honor for his 324 victories achieved during his tenures at Dayton, Middlesex and GL.