By Hector Longo
---- — The 447 career wins, a state title and too many MVC and Christmas Tournament titles to count have and will propel Dick Licare into more than his share of Halls of Fame.
Rick Nault chooses to lend his own, clearly more intangible reasoning, to assess Licare’s greatness over 27 years as the Central Catholic boys basketball coach.
“He always conducted himself with such class, but I was most impressed by the way he always knew what button to push at the right time in the big games,” said Nault, who played for, assisted with and ultimately took over for Licare at Central after the 2005-06 season. “I’m not sure if it was instinct, or gut, or whatever, it always seemed to work out for him and for Central.”
Licare, who now lives in Texas, flew in this weekend, not just to visit for the holiday. Sunday night, he’ll be inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame at a ceremony being held at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
The man who revived not just basketball, but arguably all athletics, taking over after a storied career at both North Andover High and Merrimack College, will join his dad, Bob Licare Sr., in the MBCA Hall.
“I think that is what makes it most special, to be in the same Hall of Fame as my father,” said Licare. “Of course, I grew up around a lot of Hall of Fame coaches, guys like my father and Will Hixon. It’s a huge reason I got here.”
Dick’s younger brother, Bob will present Licare for the Hall induction. Former players and close friends like David Fazio, Leo Parent and Don Doucette will attend.
“It starts with the players and you just don’t win if you don’t have great players,” said Licare, now 55. “I had so many great ones over the years.”
Of course, Licare, hired by the late Mike Sullivan at age 22 right out of college, had so much to do with getting those players to choose Central.
A program that had been dormant for a decade or more before he arrived — playing in front of tiny gatherings of friends and family — became an Eastern Mass. power, drawing sell-outs or near-capacity crowds to Hampshire Street in a matter of two years.
The Central hoop tradition continues today.
“He started it all, and then he took the program to a whole different level,” said Nault. “The things he accomplished in his last 10 years — is there a coach who has done that in this era around here? I don’t think so.”