Rob Libroia passed away two days ago from this awful COVID. We all loved Rob so much. He was a fixture at Island Garden for well over 20 years..
Bruce Eiber captured our feelings in a remarkable way about Big Rob. I urge everyone to take the time to read about this tremendous man and unique personality.
With great sadness Island Garden Basketball, Lightning Basketball and New York Metropolitan AAU reports the passing of Robert Libroia, Sr. Big Rob as he was known, was a long time specialist with the Otis Elevator Company. When Otis had a problem repairing out of order elevators, Mr. Libroia headed a team that was the last line of defense. The elevator and particularly the elevator stop mechanism is arguable the world’s greatest invention since the wheel. It is unimaginable to picture the world as we know it without elevators. Rob was Otis’s go to guy. He had an encyclopediac knowledge of the industry and could have made a more than comfortable living as an expert witness in elevator cases.
Big Rob’s real love was his family and grass roots basketball. A well known figure in the New York Metro area basketball scene for the past 25 plus years, Rob was welcomed in any gym from Island Garden, IS8, Guachos Gym, Africa Park, Dyckman and dozens more. He knew the kids, their coaches, the refs and the spectators, too!
Rob really only cared about the kids. He was the father figure and confidant to hundreds of less fortunate young men. While the late and legendary New York based basketball guru, Tom Konchalski could give a young man high marks leading to a scholarship, it was often Big Rob, who only survived Mr. Konchaski by a few days who often transported, fed and clothed the same youth players. Mr. Libroia was an integral part of two New York area youth programs; Lightning Basketball and the Panthers Club based out of Queens where he coached and assisted Craig (Kat) Keyes for many years. At Lightning, when a team he coached aged out, he founded new teams. Following tryouts with other coaches eager to draft the best players, Rob would wait until the co-coaches filled their roster needs. Then he would form a team of other young players, all “undrafted”. That was his model. As long as the youngsters were willing to practice, he was eager to develop them and many went on the play on their high school teams. If the families couldn’t afford team fees….Rob paid the costs out of his own pocket.
With a Queens church gymnasium as his base, Big Rob developed dozens of high school, college and professional players. There was never a fee. Everyone was welcomed. There were the latest training technological equipment in the small gym. The first shooting machine…paid for by Rob.
Big Rob’s oldest son Anthony was one of the most outstanding youth players in the New York area. He was an all league player at Holy Cross High School and a four year scholarship player at Adelphi University where he was all North East Conference and the Division Two under six foot player of the year. Anthony is now playing as a professional in Spain. Big Rob’s other two children, Rob Jr., and Alexa were fixtures at the same venues with their parents. The real love of Big Rob’s life was his wife, Jackie. Always by his side and fiercely loyal to her family and…well known to the referee community!! I recall coaching against Rob in a Super League game many years ago when Jackie spotted me walking to the court. “There’s Bruce Almighty, (which only she called me by) I’m rooting against you today but give my best to your lovely wife!” Jackie was Rob’s co-pilot. Nothing made them happier than piling the family into their big SUV, with license plates “LIL Hoops” of course, and traveling to a basketball tournament. I fondly remember a few years after the turn of the century Big Rob pulling into the hotel parking lot in Springfield, Missouri site of the ten and under AAU Nationals, after the long drive from New York. With that big roaring smile of his Rob stated, “Hey Bruce, it doesn’t get better than this!”
Words cannot come close to describing the positive effect Big Rob Libroia had on the youth and young adults of the Metro area. The New York Basketball community offers our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to Mr. Libroia’s family. Personally, I don’t think we’ll see another like him. Rob, we’re sure gunna miss you!
Lightning Basketball Board of Directors
NY Metro AAU Board of Review, Chairperson