The title of "Mr. St. John's Prep" fit Paul "Buster" DiVincenzo to a T.
The former teacher, coach, athletic director and manager at St. John's Prep passed away unexpectedly yesterday.
DiVincenzo, who was 79, lived in Beverly and was one of the school's biggest supporters, especially when it came to its athletic programs. He was a star athlete for the Eagles in the late 1940s who came back to coach football and baseball at his alma mater before taking over the athletic director's position.
DiVincenzo (SJP Class of 1950) is in the St. John's Hall of Fame. He was at the helm of the first Prep undefeated state champion baseball team in 1960, and coached the football team to an 8-0-1 Class C title in his final year (1966) before turning the program over to Fred Glatz. He's also the first Prep coach in both sports to earn Catholic Conference titles.
"Buster is the reason why I went to St. John's," said Glatz. "At the time I was recruiting for UMass Amherst, and I was just about to leave his office after spending 45 minutes talking to Buster about some Prep players when he told me he was going to step down as the football coach to take over in the financial office (working as a business manager and treasurer from 1966-2001)."
Glatz said he always enjoyed working with DiVincenzo — and had a chance to one-up him that first year.
"His last team had a great year, but with one tie. (So) when I was introduced I thanked Buster for having that tie because it gave me something to shoot for — and we wound up going undefeated," Glatz chuckled.
"Buster didn't say much, but when he did say something it meant a lot. He was all about St. John's, and up until a couple of years ago I'd always see him at football and basketball games."
Current Prep AD/head football coach Jim O'Leary was a young coach out of the University of New Hampshire when he went to work for Glatz as his assistant in 1977. He said DiVincenzo was supportive and became a mentor for him.
"Buster was always a gentleman," said O'Leary. "He was one of the first guys to give me guidance. I think he gave up coaching too early. He was a great player at St. John's and dedicated his life to the school; a Prep guy through and through.
"When I became the head coach, on Monday mornings whether we won or lost I'd be on the phone or stop over to see him. He'd always have something to say, but in a very respectful way. He was truly concerned about St. John's. It was a loyalty thing that was unsurpassed on the North Shore."
O'Leary said DiVincenzo came to the Thanksgiving game at the Prep last fall, then saw him once after that.
DiVincenzo had received the Crystal Eagle Award for dedication and service to SJP athletics and had a room in Griffin Hall named for him. That's where all the school's state championship trophies are displayed.
"Buster was able to take a step back from his coaching days and look at things from a different perspective. At our Hall of Fame meetings he was supportive of not only guys from his era but those who played much later," said O'Leary.
"Years ago they made him an honorary (Xaverian) Brother (in 1998), which he took great pride in. He was a great family man and a wonderful friend and mentor to me. I can never thank him enough for that.
"Everybody at St. John's is going to miss him; we lost a great man."