George Davila, a familiar figure at Long Island high school boys basketball games for more than 40 years as an assistant coach, statistician, record-keeper and historian, died Thursday at a hospice in Northport after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 62.
"He was Mr. Basketball. Every coach in Nassau and Suffolk knew who George was," said Wally Bachman, Jericho High School basketball coach and Nassau County boys basketball coordinator. "He was involved with every team in Nassau and Suffolk. . . . He was like our right-hand man. From coach to athletic director to coordinator to officials, we all respected him so much. He was everywhere and he touched everybody."
Davila, a Bay Shore resident, was self-employed as a handyman and also worked in real estate. But his real passion was high school basketball, and he was omnipresent at countless games every winter, wearing his trademark sweater vest and tie, his curly hair slightly askew, and toting an ever-expanding black loose-leaf binder.
"That was his encyclopedia and he carried it everywhere. It had records going all the way back to the 1960s," said former Bay Shore basketball coach Benny Mahler, for whom Davila worked as an assistant. "He was terrific with statistics."
Davila also worked as an assistant coach at West Islip, William Floyd and North Babylon high schools and served for many years as the official scorer at Nassau and Suffolk playoff games.
Davila was born in Queens and grew up in West Islip as the oldest of seven children, said his sister, Lois Davila, 59, of Holbrook. He graduated from West Islip High School and attended SUNY Maritime College and St. John's University. "George got the basketball bug at West Islip High School and it never left him," his sister said. "High school basketball is what made his heart beat."
Gerard Smith, a close friend of Davila's, recalled that as an assistant to his father, former West Islip coach Jerry Smith, Davila would coach the summer league team, drive players to and from games, take them for burgers afterward "and never ask for a cent," Gerard Smith said. "He was a giving person and Long Island basketball was his life's passion."
Mike Hickey, boys basketball coach at the Stony Brook School, and a licensed minister, said, "It was an honor to be there with him at the end because he didn't have a pastor," Hickey said. "His sense of volunteering and service is a shining example that you just don't see today. He did it for love of the game, not for the money. He loved what he did with every fiber of his being and that was his payment."
Davila is survived by his wife of 25 years, Althea, and siblings Lois, Linda Glasgow and Richard Davila of Summerville, South Carolina; Elaine Gugler of West Islip, Robert Davila of Walnut Creek, California, and Christopher Davila of Westley Chapel, Florida.
A wake will be held Monday at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in West Islip. Visiting hours are 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m.