Daniel D. "Coach" Sylvester, 87, of West Warwick, passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of family Wednesday evening, January 8, 2020.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years Dillia (Lucero) Sylvester, his two sisters, Anna and Margaret (S. Marianna) and was the son of the late John & Lucinda (Benevides) Sylvester.
He was a devoted father to Daniel, Helen Irene & partner Bill, Ann Marie & fiancé Mark, Mary Elizabeth (Liz) & husband Kevin; involved grandfather to Liz, Matthew, & Dr. Steven Lafond, Zachary & Courtney Calci, and Victoria (Tori) Sylvester. Great grandfather to Adelyne, Isabella & Abigail and Uncle to 14 nieces & nephews.
Family was of utmost importance to him and he loved traveling to spend time with them, he enjoyed the theater, appreciated great music, and was an avid Yankee fan. He was extremely loyal and generous with his encouragement and support and was especially proud that his son and many of his former players followed in his footsteps and became coaches.
Dan was an amazing leader & organizer who touched many lives. His passion for athletics was demonstrated in many ways throughout his life. As a senior at LaSalle Academy he brought the Bristol Vikings basketball team to a championship and has since been known as “Coach”. He then served in the US Airforce from 1951-1955 and graduated from Sacramento State College in 1959. His first teaching positions were in Wyoming at Dubios and St Mary’s High Schools 1959-62, where he was the Boys’ Basketball Coach. He returned to RI with Dillia in 1962 and obtained his MEd. from RI College in 1971. As the WW Director of Athletics 1967-96, Dan expanded the program from only 4 boys’ teams to 11 boys’ and 9 girls’ Varsity, 10 JV, 4 Freshman, and 10 Middle School Teams. His enthusiasm, ingenuity, administrative skills and dedication were paramount in sustaining the athletic program through years of budget cuts that threatened to terminate sports in WW schools. He also played an integral role in the proposal for new facilities, which culminated in the athletic complex in WW. He established the WW Wizards Awards Assoc. and was honored as RI and Eastern Regional Athletic Director of the Year and received Bert Summer Memorial ‘Service to Sports’ award 1976-77.
Dan Sylvester will best be remembered for his excellence when coaching basketball as evidenced by his record of 652 wins and 391 losses, while coaching at WWHS 1965-95 and Westerly HS 1996-2006 and was recognized by USA today as the winningest high school basketball coach in RI. His teams won 6 state championships, were state runner up 4 times, had 9 league championships, 9 league 2nd place finishes, 12 Christmas tournament championships and were in the playoffs 27 times. He was named Coach of the Year 6 times and was selected to coach the all-star games 3 seasons. He founded and directed the summer basketball camps in WW 1973-94 and Westerly 1997-2005.
In addition to teaching Phys. Ed. at WW 1962-90, he was an active member of the RI Interscholastic Administrators Assoc. 1967-95 and RI Basketball Coaches Assoc. 1965-2006, where he was a member of the Executive Boards and held various offices throughout his tenure. He served as the Athletic Directors liaison to the Principals Committee on Athletics and participated as a member of the RI Interscholastic League (RIIL) Sub-Committee on Girls’ Athletics 1988-96; He was the director of Girls’ basketball and was a member of the RIIL Jr High committee on athletics 1990-96.
He was inducted into the WWHS Hall of Fame 1993 and was honored with the RI Principals Committee Recognition Award as well as the Dedicated Service Award in 1996. He was inducted into the RI Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Assoc. and N.E. Basketball Halls of Fame in 2008 and 2009 respectively. In 2014 the WW High School Gymnasium was named in his honor and RIIL Legends Award was presented to him in 2016.
He was a member of the Warwick Umpires Association 1963-85 and the RI Baseball Umpires Association 1962-2012; he was also the commissioner of the SE New England Collegiate Umpires Association 1975-2010 and the Ocean State League Umpires 1985-2008. He received the Pard Pearce and the Sportsmanship Awards in 2001 and 1984 respectively. He was also an assistant coach for the RI Braves, an AAU team 1997-99 and was the general manager of the Riverpoint Royals 2001-03. His career was a labor of love and he was the epitome of “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”.
After retiring he became the president of the WW Assistance Agency, Society of St. Vincent de Paul & Social Committee at SS John & James parish. He was also Eucharistic minister, lector, altar server and worked at RI College Rec. Center up until a few months ago.
Dan’s contributions went beyond the committees, positions and championships to the impact he had on his family, thousands of student athletes, and everyone he came in contact with throughout his life. He was thrilled to have had the privilege to cultivate individual talents and raw potential while promoting the power of the group dynamic through fostering team work, responsibility, discipline, and self-confidence which provided a foundation that gave them tools to meet the challenges of life and inspired them to embark on their own journey towards fulfilling their dreams.
His funeral will be held Monday, January 13, 2020 at 9:30 am from the PRATA-GALLOGLY Funeral Home, 78 Providence St., West Warwick followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 at SS John & James Church, 20 Washington St., West Warwick. Interment with military honors will be in RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter. Visiting hours will be held Sunday from 3:00-6:00 pm. In lieu of flowers please donate to the West Warwick Assistance Agency, 1293 Main Street West Warwick, RI 02893 or the SS John & James Chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 20 Washington Street, West Warwick, RI 02893. Information and condolences please visit: www.PrataGallogly.com
West Warwick Assistance Agency
1293 Main Street, West Warwick RI 02893
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, SS. John & James Chapter
20 Washington Street, West Warwick, RI 02893