MLK Day Sparks Fond Memories For Coach

While many Americans were celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday last week, it held added importance to New York City high school coach Ron Naclerio, who guides Cardozo's (Bayside, N.Y.) basketball program.

As it turns out, Naclerio's family is actually an important piece in the way this country history -- a protector of it if you look back at it today.

Naclerio's father, Emil, was a surgeon at a hospital in New York City in the 1950's and 1960's. While Martin Luther King was in New York City years before the "I Have A Dream" speech, a man stabbed King near his heart. Dr. Emil Naclerio was called upon to do the surgery. Emil's skills as a surgeon helped save King's life. Dr. Naclerio was quoted as saying, "if he had sneezed, he could have died..."

"My father was very proud of helping to save Martin Luther King," Naclerio said. "Dr. King sent my father a thank you letter. Dr. King would occasionally keep in touch."

Naclerio still has the letters and the thank you gift from King. He remembers fondly the long distance friendship King and his dad formed. And he understands that if it not for the skills of his father, a big, important piece of American history may not have ever been written.

"My father was a great man and a great dad," said Naclerio. "But what he did he did a lot. He had a very important job and helped many people."

So King's birthday is important to Naclerio for several reasons. It's a time to celebrate one of America's greatest historical figures and a chance for Naclerio to reflect on how special his dad was.

Naclerio possesses one of the best teams in the area and has some division one talent on his roster -- for example: James Southerland. But he does put his job of coaching one of the best high school basketball teams in New York City in perspective with his father's previous occupation. "It's great to win basketball games," he said. "I want to win all the time. But my father was having wins that were much more important."

And one of the biggest wins by Emil Naclerio helped this country on its way to celebrate a very important birthday every January...

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