The IWBF’s Malik Abes is reporting that Canada’s Jerry Tonello died yesterday following a battle with brain cancer that caused him to step down as the coach of the Canada men’s national wheelchair basketball team in May of last year. He was 59 years old.
A Toronto native, Tonello had been involved with wheelchair basketball for over 25 years, taking up the sport as an able-bodied player because of a friendship he had with a wheelchair basketball player. He started as a player, competing in the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1989. He would go on to become the first able-bodied player to participate in Canada’s national wheelchair basketball championships in 1992.
His coaching career at the international level began a few years after he became involved in the sport. He was an assistant coach for the men’s national team starting in 1991 and he continued on in this role until 2007. He accompanied the Canadians to the 1991 International Games where the game won gold, to the 2000 Paralympic Games where the team won gold, to 2004 Paralympic Games where the team took home silver, and the 2007 Parapan American Games where his team also won silver.
In 2008, he started a two year stint as associate head coach, helping the team win silver at the 2008 Summer Paralympics. He than became the national team coach in 2009. He guided the team to gold at the 2011 BT Paralympic World Cup, bronze at the 2011 Parapan American Games, and gold at the 2009 Rollers World Challenge. In 2012, he demonstrated he was one of the best ever wheelchair basketball coaches in the world by leading his team to gold at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, having been part of the coaching staff of three Paralympic gold medal winning teams.
As a coach, he received a number of awards recognizing his efforts. In 2013, he recieved the Tim Frick Paralympic Coach Excellence Award at the 2013 Canadian Paralympic Committee Sport Awards. In 2002, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and followed this up by being award the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. That year, he was also awarded the Canadian Wheelchair Sport Association (CWSA) Stephan Dubuc Memorial Award for Coach of the Year.
Tonello began his able-bodied basketball coaching career in 1982, and was well known for his use of video playback to study the opposition.