Baltimore Sun’s BEST party in 2 weeks

‘Tooch’ Time: New book chronicles former basketball coach Mark Amatucci’s career, including at Calvert Hall in Towson

Mark Amatucci’s recently released book about his life and long career as a basketball coach is not an autobiography.

It’s not a memoir either, although both of those two descriptions could be used to describe “No Limits, one coach’s remarkable journey of athletic, social and cultural success on and beyond the court.”

Amatucci, 66, whose nickname is “Tooch,” said that he prefers using a simpler term.

“It’s a story,” he said. “A family story.”

And one that was long overdue, according to several of his former players, Amatucci said.

“A lot of them asked me when I was going to do something,” he said. “I got calls from the players and they said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ That’s when I decided it was time to tell our story.”

The book, written with fellow Calvert Hall College High School grads Joe Baker and Todd Karpovich, chronicles Amatucci’s beginnings as a tough-minded baseball player while attending St. Joseph School in Cockeysville to a 32-year career coaching hoops, most notably in two highly successful stints — 1978 to 1982 and 1993 to 2012 — at his high school alma mater, where won 389 games, three Baltimore Catholic League tournament championships and two MIAA A Conference titles.

Fans who were unable to interact with the authors at a book signing at Greetings & Reading in Hunt Valley last month will get an opportunity to do so on Dec. 7 at the Crack Pot restaurant in Towson.

Karpovich, who graduated from Calvert Hall after Amatucci left to coach in college and before he returned to coach the Cardinals, said that the school’s basketball program was, and still is, a tight-knit group.

“The Calvert Hall basketball community is truly a family,” Karpovich said. “The players formed lifelong bonds. In addition, many of these players were able to use the values they learned as student/athletes at Calvert Hall to become successful in their overall lives. The players at Loyola College were much the same way.”

Karpovich and Baker, the latter of whom assisted Amatucci before taking over the Calvert Hall basketball program for nine years and winning 139 games, were integral parts of making the book happen.

The first thing they had to do was find someone who had taken on a project of similar magnitude to help fashion the narrative, and Karpovich fit the bill perfectly.

The Wiltondale resident, 46, has written for a slew of publications and media outlets, including the Associated Press, the Washington Post, ABC News, Business Insider and the Chicago Tribune, and has co-authored books about the local professional sports teams in “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline” and “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.”

Once Karpovich was on board, it was time for Amatucci and Baker to combine their resources as well.

“Joe and I sat down and wrote an outline,” said Amatucci, a Parkville resident. “And then Karp would interview us, write a chapter and send it back to us for fact checking.”

Recalling all of the the good times made the process easier, said Amatucci, who has a son and two daughters with his wife, Pat.

Amatucci’s 1979-80, 1980-81 and 1981-82 Calvert Hall teams were as good as it gets in terms of accomplishments, winning 91 of 96 games and claiming the mythical 1982 national championship after going 34-0.

The Cardinals had proved their supremacy in Baltimore by beating Dunbar, 94-91, in triple overtime in March 1981 in front of a packed house at the Towson Center, which was a prelude to perfection the following season.

The game is still considered by many local basketball fans as the greatest high school game ever played between two Baltimore powerhouse programs.

The blueprint for Amatucci’s success in taking over the program included a seismic cultural shift when he brought in talented inner city black players to the Towson-based Catholic school that was 98 percent white.

In fact, the Cardinals set a precedent by having five black players in the starting lineup in the opening game of the 1979-80 campaign.

Amatucci said that race was never a factor in deciding who would log the most playing time. Work ethic, ability and talent caught his eye more than skin color.

“We had to change the culture,” he said. “And that’s really what the book is about.”

The book is also not shy about describing Amatucci’s ultra-competitive nature, which sometimes rankled opponents and their fans.

The basketball coach of archival Loyola Blakefield, Josh Davalli, said that Amatucci’s intensity was evident to everybody in the gym.

“He was able to effectively motivate his players to perform at their best and expected that they would do so,” Davalli said. “He was also able to make sure the players on the floor were doing as he instructed.

“I remember when he had Braxton Dupree as a senior, who was a big man who was tough to stop inside [and then went on to play at Towson U]. Coach Amatucci would yell, ‘Brax’ as his instruction for the kids on the floor to give Braxton the basketball. I can still hear that in my head and I can visualize it happening because Braxton was a good player and because it was an example of Coach Amatucci’s ability to have the kids on the floor do as he instructed.”

Amatucci went on to coach at what is now Loyola University Maryland for a sometimes tumultuous seven years, compiling an 85-116 record.

He also coached at Anne Arundel Community College for a couple of years and was an assistant at Washington College before returning to Calvert Hall.

And while Amatucci remains fond of both collegiate programs, Calvert Hall has been the place where he made the greatest impact and is the book's main focal point.

“Mark does a great job chronicling his time as basketball coach," said Brother John Kane, the school's current president. "It is an amazing success story. More importantly, it tells the story of Calvert Hall and the young men in the program.

“Calvert Hall is about people and Mark captures the stories of so many of his players and coaches who brought honor and distinction to The Hall. It is about far more than basketball — it is about who we are. The great news is that Mark is still here in our counseling office impacting our young men today.”

Karpovich said that he learned several new things about Amatucci while interacting with him on the book.

“Tooch has a wry sense of humor,” he said. “He delved into this project the same way he coached —100 percent. Tooch is also man of strong faith, which played a huge part of his success and ability to overcome adversity. Finally, he loves Calvert Hall. Tooch still gets goose bumps on the first days of school when he walks down the halls and is greeted by the students. Calvert Hall is in his blood.”

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad