Remembering Bob Canavan, a standout coach

A leader who influenced the lives of his players in Glen Cove and Sea Cliff


Coaches often leave a lasting impact on their athletes, beyond the wins and losses. For 17-year-old Jolie Waiksnis, a former softball player for the Gold Coast Pirates, one coach stood out among the rest: Bob Canavan.
“He wouldn’t care if we won or lost,” Waiksnis recalled. “He wouldn’t care if he made a mistake. He would only care about what happened next, and having fun. That helped with my perspective of the sport. He made me realize you can still have fun when you’re trying.”
Canavan, who died on March 30 of a blood clot at age 61, was revered for his unwavering support and inclusive leadership, and influenced the lives of players like Waiksnis during his tenure as coach of the Pirates.
When she initially joined the team, Waiksnis was its youngest member, but from the moment she stepped onto the field at her first practice, Canavan made her feel like she belonged. The next day, Canavan was the announcer for a Glen Cove Little League All-Star game in which Waiksnis was playing. When she stepped up to the plate for her first at-bat, Canavan introduced her using the nickname he had given her the day before, Zucc, after the hockey player Mats Zuccarello, when they first met. In that moment, she felt truly special.
“I don’t know if I would still be playing if I never had him as a coach,” Waiksnis said. “He made our team a family.”

Originally from Sea Cliff, Canavan, lived in Glen Cove for 26 years. Known for his warm smile and eagerness to help others, he leaves a legacy of kindness, generosity and vibrant connections with those he encountered.
“He liked people so much, and he was so happy and outgoing and friendly,” his father, Thomas Canavan, said. “He always had a smile on his face, and he was always willing to help if he saw somebody struggling with something. He would pitch right in. He would just go out of his way to help people.”
Canavan’s altruism extended to regular blood donations: He made a total of 180 over the years.
“He’s the kind of person that would be donating blood and getting to know the nurse,” his sister, Teresa Sullivan, said. “He would get to know the person next to him, and that’s the thing about him, like, he just thrives in community spaces.”
Beyond his love for literature and his stint as a bartender in Sea Cliff, Canavan found joy in photography, often capturing the beauty of nature on his walks. He eventually became business partners with Tony Gallego, of Gil Associates photography in Glen Cove, for 20 years. Canavan evolved into more than a partner to Gallego, an indispensable part of his professional life whom Gallego described as his “left-hand man.”
The pair were as close as two colleagues could be. Gallego recalls moments during weddings when he focused on taking traditional photos, while Canavan looked for unconventional angles. Gallego admired Canavan’s unique vision, and appreciated his innate sense of beauty and composition.
“I considered him my springboard for advice. He added another dimension to my work,” Gallego said. “He was egoless. He wasn’t the person who worked for the applause or the approval of anybody else. He was pure in that sense — art for art’s sake — and he really didn’t care if you liked it or didn’t like it. He enjoyed it. He enjoyed his photography. And he did it just for the love of it.”
Canavan’s commitment to the community extended to his role as commodore of the Hampstead Harbor Club, where he earned praise for his exceptional leadership. Pete Budraitis Jr., the club’s general manager, said that Canavan wasn’t just a boss to him; he was also a close friend who was always willing to lend a helping hand, even at the most inconvenient times.
“After learning of Bob’s passing, I was heartbroken,” Budraitis said. “My first thought was, ‘It’s not going to be the same without him. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ But it has since occurred to me to that Bob would have said, ‘What are you, nuts?’”
Budraitis knew he could count on Canavan to help with any last-minute tasks. “I could call him up 8 p.m. on a Thursday night and say, ‘Hey Bob, I hate to do this to you, but I’m short on my hauling crew tomorrow, 6 a.m. start.’ He would sigh and say, ‘If you need me, I’ll be there,’ and he would be, with coffee in hand and cracking jokes the whole time. I’ll admit I called him a few times just because I knew it would be more fun if he was there.”
Budraitis said that honoring Canavan’s memory means emulating his spirit of kindness and integrity in all aspects of life.
“I think we all owe it to Bob to take a piece of his spirit with us, and simply do the right thing for the right reason,” Budraitis said. “He was one of the many reasons I love doing this job.”