Former basketball great remembered

By Jim Lane,

POSTED: April 27, 2008

Teammates remember Pat Nicodemus as an outstanding basketball player and as a guy who could make friends laugh anytime.

Nicodemus, who helped lead Altoona High School to three straight District 6 basketball championships in the mid-1960s, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday in Seneca. He was 58.

“I’m shocked, just shocked,” said former teammate and close friend Jim Means, who now lives in the Columbus, Ohio area. “He was a very good basketball player, and a very, very good friend.

“I will miss him dearly.”

Nicodemus (38) and Means (31) combined for 69 points as Altoona upended Johnstown, 99-91, in overtime in the 1967 D6 championship game at the Jaffa Mosque.

“That was a great game,” Means said. “I’ll never forget that game and I’ll never forget the Mosque.

“Pat was 6-foot-5 and was one of the better players in Pennsylvania for three years,” Means noted. “A lot of big-time scouts came to see him, and that gave exposure to the entire team.”

Nicodemus went on to play at Virginia Tech, and graduated from Nasson College in 1973. He was a 30-year employee of Conrail/Norfolk Southern and retired in 2003.

“Pat was a very good athlete, very big when there weren’t a lot of big guys,” recalled Art Taneyhill, who was the assistant coach to Frank Mastrocola at the time.

“That was a really good team (1966-67),” Taneyhill said, noting the Mountain Lions finished with an 18-8 record and lost to eventual state champion Ambridge in inter-district play.

That also was the first year of the Altoona-Bishop Guilfoyle series, and the Lions won the game in overtime, 68-62, although BG went on to win a state title.

“Pat was a very personable guy, very enjoyable to be around,” said Taneyhill, who coached Nicodemus’ son, Josh, several years later. “Pat was real easy-going, maybe too easy-going sometimes.”

“He was great, a wonderful person,” Means said. “He could make you laugh anytime.”

Means said that five of the eight senior members of that 1966-67 team have died. In addition to Nicodemus, Means noted that Dave McGrath, Fred Hatfield, Phil Witherspoon and Dick Fay are also deceased.