Passarella still enjoys sharing knowledge of basketball

GLENDALE — At 6 years old, Giacomo Mencarelli can already speak three languages fluently.

The New York-born Mencarelli, who recently moved to Glendale, can speak English, Italian and French, as his father, Riccardo, is from Italy and his mother, Anne, hails from France.


Now, Mencarelli is looking to learn the fundamentals pertaining to basketball.

Mencarelli, who attends Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School in Glendale, is one of around 20 participants attending the annual Basketball, Training and Fitness Camp that’s conducted by Glendale resident Tony Passarella at the Pacific Park Community Center gymnasium.


“It makes you keep learning when you come to the camp,” Mencarelli said. “You get to learn different things from Tony and you get better.

“You learn about passing, shooting, dribbling and how to play with a team.”

Passarella, who turns 67 on Aug. 3, offers a class geared for ages 5-7, followed by a session for ages 8-10. The summer session, which attracted participants from Glendale and neighboring cities, will wrap up Aug. 13.

Most of the time, Passarella will take the opening 15-20 minutes of a session and have it geared toward stretching and exercising. Then Passarella will cover several basketball drills before the campers partake in a full-court scrimmage that lasts about 10 minutes.


Passarella, a grandfather of five who graduated from Marshall High in Los Angeles, will speak to the campers in between drills and evaluate how they are faring.

“The game of basketball has always been a big part of my life,” Passarella said. “Not only do I enjoy playing it, but I love to teach the sport to the kids and it keeps me young.

“No matter where you go, there’s always going to be a basket around somewhere.

“What’s most rewarding about teaching the game is seeing people come back to the camp who want to keep learning different things. I had one former student who came to my camp years ago come back and I didn’t even recognize him. He told me he played varsity basketball at his high school. That’s where it can be rewarding.”

Perhaps Passarella, who serves as the basketball coach at Pacific Park Community Center, will encounter future meetings with former participants. Right now, he’s busy teaching his current crop of talent about exercising properly, leadership and an assortment of drills.

Passarella, whose two daughters graduated from Hoover, closely watched the campers work on their shooting drills. He arranged for them to shoot from just inside the free-throw line before shifting them to the right of the basket to practice bank shots.

Francisco Luna Paz, 9, seemed to soak up the shooting exercise rather quickly.

“That’s my favorite drill,” said Luna Paz Jr., a Burbank resident who previously lived in Glendale. “It’s my third time coming to the camp and I’m always learning something new. I’m just going to keep practicing and playing basketball with my dad.”


Fellow camper Audrey Reynoso, 8, chose to come to the event for the second straight summer after her older brother had previously attended.

“There’s a lot of things I can take from here and work on them at home,” said Reynoso, an Atwater Village resident. “It’s great to be able to learn so much.”

The next 10-week class will begin Sept. 10 at the same venue. For more information, contact Passarella at

. Passarella also holds similar camps in the winter and spring. All sessions are held Thursdays.