Nicholas A. Gabardina, 87, a coaching legend in the New Hampshire sports world, passed away peacefully on Friday, October 11, due to deteriorating health.
Born in 1932, he was the son of Arthur J. Gabardina and Mary (Triantafilou) Gabardina.
A life-long resident of Manchester, Nick grew up in the center of the city playing on fields now occupied by the JFK Coliseum and spent his youth immersed in a variety of sports, especially baseball, basketball, and football.
At the age of 15, he played baseball for Henry J, Sweeney Post #2 American Legion and was a pitcher on the 1947 team that went to the Legion World Series in California. It was there that he met Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and played against eventual Red Sox Manager Don Zimmer.
While a student at Manchester Central High School, Nick was a member of the varsity football, basketball, and baseball teams for all four years and his talent as a lineman was good enough to be offered a football scholarship to Brown University.
After his playing days ended, “Mr. G”, as he came to be known, joined the coaching ranks of youth baseball interrupted only by a two year commitment to another team, the United States Army. Following that, he joined his brother, Ody, as a member of the coaching staff at East Little League then moved on to South Little League.
In 1956, Nick was hired by the city to both teach and coach at Manchester Central. Though he is best known for the years he spent coaching both football and baseball, it was his three-year stint with the Central JV hoop team that he most enjoyed. As he put it, “That was my favorite coaching job because Varsity Coach, Dick Healy, allowed me to do what I wanted. I kept 15 kids on the squad and rotated them every five minutes during the first half then, at half-time, asked them if they wanted me to continue rotating or did they want to win. Well, we only lost 3 games while winning 13 and the only time they wanted no subs from the opening jump was when we played the JVs from Bradley. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the players they wanted to beat…it was their coach…the 'tough-as-nails' football mentor, Eddie Kissell.”
In 1958, Nick was appointed head coach of the Post 79 American Legion baseball program, a position he held for 18 years. Assisted by pitching coach, Jim Copadis, their 1966 and 1967 teams made it to the finals of the American Legion World Series. The 1968 ball club lost the final game of the N.E. Regionals. Had they won, Post 79 would have been the first Legion team to appear in the World Series for three consecutive years, quite a feat for a northern baseball program.
UNH football was his next coaching stop where he served as a volunteer assistant offensive line coach in 1960.
In 1963, Nick headed to Manchester West to guide the Blue Knights’ football program.
In 1972, he joined the faculty at Manchester Memorial as a member of the social studies department while also taking over as head coach of the Crusader Varsity baseball team.
In 1978, he did “double duty” taking over the reigns of the St. Anselm baseball team, a program he headed for 10 years.
In 1992, he turned to a sport he played as a kid and really liked…fast-pitch softball…when he joined the staff of St. A’s varsity women’s program.
Though he loved to travel during the summer, Nick spent 37 years as a high school classroom teacher and more than 50 years as a coach.
Additionally, he attained the level of 32nd degree Mason (Washington Lodge) followed by induction into the Bektash Shriners of N.H where he joined his former Post 79 Athletic Director and Post Commander, Guild (Bushie) Hill, as members of the largest class (255) in Bektash history.
Because of his ability to correctly assess a player’s potential, Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds appointed him as a scout for their National League ball club..
After serving as the head coach in baseball for ten years and as an assistant coach in softball, St. Anselm College rewarded him for his dedication and his long and distinguished association with the school by presenting him with the prestigious Varsity “A”, the Varsity Letter of Special Merit Award in 1992.
In 2017, Nicholas A. Gabardina was officially inducted into the Anselmian Athletic Club Hall of Fame.
Important to note is the fact that he refused induction into the prestigious Queen City Hall of Fame because he believed that there were other athletes that were more deserving.
Nick was pre-deceased by his parents, his sister, Helen Gabardina, and his brother, Odysseus (Ody) Gabardina. He is survived by his niece, Nancy (Gabardina) Grant and her husband, Kevin, as well as a countless number of friends.
A calling hour from 5 to 6 pm will be held on Wednesday, October 16 at Goodwin Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 607 Manchester. Funeral Services will be on Thursday, October 17 at 9 am also at Goodwin, interment will follow at Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the J.D. Foundation, 107 Main Road, Abbot, ME, 04406.Funeral Home
To send flowers to Nicholas' family, please visit our floral section.