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Larry Gallo Jr. built a legacy as a ‘friend to all’

Larry Gallo Jr. was an only child whose parents early on laid down the law about what his childhood would be like.

Larry Gallo, Jr., executive associate athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Larry Gallo, Jr., executive associate athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


“My Dad said to me, ‘As the only child, we can make it so that you don’t have to do anything, or we can make it so you have to do everything. Which do you think it is going to be?’

“I said, ‘Dad, I think I know…’”

They sent him to Classical High School in Providence, Rhode Island, one of the most academically rigorous high schools in the country where the three foreign languages taught were French, Greek and Latin.

He took four years of Latin.

“I had a teacher in Latin III who, gosh almighty, would speak to us in Latin,” Gallo said. “I was an altar boy, and back then the Catholic Mass was said in Latin so I was actually able to pick up a few things.”

As it turns out, he could have used a few years of Spanish as well, considering he was chosen after high school to play catcher and first base on a team that toured and played against pro baseball teams in a league in Central America.

For a time, Gallo dreamed of making it to the major leagues, but it did not take him long to abandon that idea for what seemed like a safer bet: enrolling at the University of Rhode Island with the idea of becoming a doctor. That plan lasted until his sophomore year when he struck out in two prerequisite courses: physics and organic chemistry.

Baseball, in the end, would provide a career path after all. It led to a career in coaching, including eight years as the head baseball coach at Notre Dame, coupled with nine summers in the Cape Cod League, then as a college athletics administrator at Indiana State University and Wake Forest.

In 1997, it also led Gallo and his family to Chapel Hill. This past year, Gallo was recognized with a C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award for doing everything that was needed – just as his parents had once demanded.


During 16 years at Carolina, he has supervised a variety of areas, including human resources, strength and conditioning, sports medicine, technology services, the grant-in-aid program, and compliance and eligibility for NCAA and ACC guidelines. For many years, he also was in charge of the daily administration of the men’s basketball and football teams as the senior associate athletic director.

Since stepping away from that position in 2012 to become executive associate athletic director, Gallo has worked to advance partnerships with units across campus, and to advise and mentor coaches in Carolina’s non-revenue sports.

“Larry is an outstanding administrator and one of the most dedicated Tar Heels you will find,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Martina Ballen.

“Larry Gallo cares about people,” Ballen said, and goes to great lengths to show it. “You can look in the stands at most home games, regardless of the sport or the score, and find him there.”

Whether a co-worker is celebrating a birthday or winning a big game or dealing with a personal tragedy, Ballen added, Gallo reaches out with a phone call, consoling text message or handwritten note.

That quality of making sure people know they matter to him came from his father, Gallo insisted.

“Dad taught physics and chemistry in high school for a long time and then taught night classes at a small college to students who wanted to become engineers,” he said.

When Gallo went into education, his father told him never to forget that the students are always more important than the subject matter. “Without the students, you won’t be needed,” the senior Gallo said.

Gallo continues to think of himself as old school, especially in the way he communicates with people.

“This is a people business. That means you have to communicate,” he said. “I always tell people, ‘Don’t you ever feel like you can’t come into my office and look me in the eye and tell me what you think I need to know.’”

That is the kind of communication that builds trust, and over time, makes a relationship stronger, Gallo said.

Ballen also credits Gallo with being a steady, calming force in recent years during the turmoil amid a series of revelations about NCAA violations and academic fraud.

Women's field hockey Coach Karen Shelton, 2011 Massey Award winner, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Women’s field hockey Coach Karen Shelton, 2011 Massey Award winner, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Gallo said it has been important to keep the events of the past few years in perspective.

“It’s been a real, real tough time around here lately,” he said.

“I think that anybody who is associated with this place really feels a deep sadness over what has happened. But as serious as it is, no one has died. We are not at war. We are not getting shot at.

“I just think you just can’t wallow in all of this because it will bury you if you let it. We are not here to bury Caesar. We can’t let it define us.”

His greater involvement with the non-revenue sports reminds him that there is more to Carolina athletics than the most recent newspaper headlines might suggest.

“Let me tell you something,” Gallo said. “It is an honor to be around a person like Anson Dorrance when it is tournament time and he is getting his team ready to win yet another national championship. To see and hear how he talks to his team, watch how they listen to him, and see how they feel about him, there is no one better.”

Then, Gallo rattles off the names of other Carolina coaches who are special in their own way, from women’s field hockey coach Karen Shelton to gymnastics coach Derek Galvin to baseball coach Mike Fox.


Fox knew Gallo even before he came to Carolina, when Gallo was the baseball coach at Notre Dame, spending his summers coaching the Cotuit Kettleers in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

“He is one of a kind,” Fox said. “Larry is a coach’s dream: an administrator who understands, knows what you are going through, knows the stress, the highs and lows, and most importantly, has your back.”

At 63, Gallo knows that retirement looms in his future, but he is still enjoying the work – and the people – too much to quit. “You know, I’ve been grinding for a long time and that’s OK. As I tell people, I’d rather be grinding than grounded.”

Life, in many ways, has come full circle, and Gallo feels a deep sense of pride knowing he followed in his father’s footsteps in the field of education.

“Ironically, the three guys I hung around in high school,” he said, “are all doctors.”

By Gary Moss, Gazette
Originally published by University Gazette: December 16, 2014 – 12:30 pm
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