John Corso was known as the big man with the bigger smile.
“He made everyone feel like the most important person in the room,” St. Dominic High School assistant principal Matt O’Brien said of Corso, the school’s athletic director, who died Saturday at 58.
“He was everything to St. Dominic’s,” O’Brien said “He was the most influential and positive person you could ever meet. . . . He was a man of tremendous faith and had a passion for mentoring the student-athlete.”
The 6-foot-8 Corso had led the Oyster Bay school’s athletic program since 2010 after a career of officiating NCAA basketball games and serving as Hofstra’s director of men’s basketball operations.
“We came to St. Dom’s together nine years ago and I was blessed to have him as a mentor,” O’Brien said. “He treated every student-athlete the same, held them to the highest standard and always made them feel important. He was big on self-esteem for student-athletes. And it didn’t matter if you were a first team All-League player or the last player on the bench — he cared about you.”
Corso, born in Queens, led Holy Trinity High School as a star forward to three consecutive Nassau-Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association titles. And he was proud of his prowess.
“I was a pure three man,” Corso said in a recent interview with Newsday, describing himself as “a guy that could go get that tough rebound or the guy that nailed the 15-foot jump shot.” Those efforts earned him a spot on Newsday’s All-Long Island Team and a high school all-America honorable mention in 1978.
He went on to play Division I basketball at Florida and Davidson, then graduated from Adelphi in 1981 with a degree in athletic administration.
Corso officiated college basketball games for 25 years.
“I worked some big tournament games and felt I made some of the toughest calls, but I was always very fair,” he said earlier in January.
His next step was director of men’s basketball operations at Hofstra from 2001 to 2010.
“He was one of the most respected men on campus,” Terry Ryan, director of Hofstra’s summer camps, said of Corso, who served there from 2000 to 2010. “It was as simple as that; he was a gentle giant.”
Corso, who died of bladder cancer, is survived by his mother, Mary Corso, 90, of Jackson, New Jersey. Funeral services were Wednesday at St. Dominic.
O’Brien said the school will hold the Corso Basketball Classic, featuring boys and girls games between St. Dominic and Holy Trinity, on Feb. 9 at St. Dominic High School. All proceeds will go to the John Corso Memorial Scholarship Fund.