By Anna Tsiaras
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – South Jersey native Lou Abbattista has more than devoted his life to the game of basketball and his players. Abbattista, a loyal and honest coach, emphasizes his true passion to help them succeed not only as players, but as young men.
Abbattista is one of four children (he has two sisters and one brother). He turned 57 years old on Nov. 14. He attended and played basketball at Haddon Heights High School and was later recruited to Division II Philadelphia University to play for NCAA Hall of Fame inductee and all-time winningest NCAA basketball coach Herb Magee while studying business management.
The title of coach never crossed Abbattista’s mind until the late Art DiPatri approached him when he was 23 years old at a playground park in Haddon Heights. DiPatri, who died in 2011 at the age of 70, gave Abbattista his start, asking him to be his assistant at Paul VI High School in Haddon Township for five years.
Influenced by many men, Abbattista humbly attributes his success to his father, who was also a coach. DiPatri, who was another father figure to him, taught him about the game of basketball. Abbattista calls Steve Selby, with whom he co-coached the Paul VI boys basketball team to a state championship, “a brilliant-minded man” and a “great X and O man.” Abbattista was also influenced by St. Augustine Prep’s Paul Rodio, who became the all-time winningest South Jersey high school basketball coach in February 2013. Abbattista says Rodio is the greatest motivator he ever met.
Abbattista, who has coached for 32 years, is in his eighth season at Camden County College, his third as head coach. He devotes himself to being a coach his players can trust. Abbattista emphasizes how much he cares for his players and wants them to succeed. “I’ve loved almost every kid I have coached. I consider them my sons,” he says.
Abbattista says his desire for coaching is not driven by awards, fame or wins, but by watching his players move to the next level of play and grow to achieve all they can.
Philadelphia-born Dan Burke, 28, who is in his first season as an assistant coach for Abbattista, says, “He is a great motivator. He cares for his players.” Burke says Abbattista has taught him how to mold young boys into men and get them to achieve their goals.
Abbattista hopes to leave a legacy. “People remember you for being a good person, for your team playing the game right,” he says.