Vincent DeRiggi, a longtime football coach, teacher and substance abuse counselor in the Brentwood school district, has died. He was 63.
DeRiggi, who died Thursday of heart failure, worked in Brentwood schools for more than 34 years traveling throughout the district talking to students who struggled with addiction or were affected by it, his son Eric DeRiggi said.
The older DeRiggi also became one of the cornerstones of the district's football program, coaching different levels at various schools, his son said.
"Football was his passion," said the son, 32, of Holbrook. "He would just study it and he knew talent. He knew where people should be. He knew how to make people feel like a winner. He knew how to motivate people."
DeRiggi was born in Brooklyn and moved to Brentwood with his family in the 1950s. In 1966, he graduated from Brentwood High School, his son said. He then earned a bachelor's degree at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. Soon after, he moved to Oakdale, where he remained until his death, and got a job teaching history in Brentwood.
He began coaching football in Brentwood in the 1970s, working for more than 30 years at various levels of the sport and at several middle schools and at the high school, his son said.
During the 1990s, DeRiggi coached football in the Connequot school district where his son was a player, his family said. He later returned to coaching in Brentwood and founded a scholarship in his name for college-bound varsity players. He retired from Brentwood in 2005.
"The joke was 'Vinny bleeds green' -- the school colors," said longtime friend Nick Schroeder, 63, of St. James. "He was a Brentwood kid and he never wanted to leave."
Eric DeRiggi, now a teacher at Brentwood High School and a middle school lacrosse coach, said he was happy to follow in his father's footsteps and use the lessons he taught him.
"You have to give your best," DeRiggi said his father would say. "Anything less is unacceptable."
Besides his son, Vincent DeRiggi is survived by his father, Samuel DeRiggi, of North Babylon; sister, Genevieve Cohen, of Valley Stream; niece, Brenda Appold, of Shirley; and aunt, Nancy Lupo, of North Babylon.