The depth of Larry Veronica’s qualifications for induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame is overwhelming. A successful high school head coach in five sports is certainly noteworthy, three All-Americans in three different sports raises one’s eyebrows and a 150-4 record as a head track coach gets your attention.
Through it all he remained humble while keeping the best interests of his student-athletes as his top priority. Case in point, in 1994 when the Buffalo School District couldn’t afford to purchase varsity letters, Coach Veronica used his own funds to make sure his athletes were justly rewarded for their efforts.
A star athlete at Cleveland Hill, Larry competed in track and field, cross country and wrestling at the University at Buffalo. Larry was one of the final three-sport athletes in UB history.
He began his coaching career at Bennett High School in 1971 and 25 years later had cemented his position among the legends of Western New York high school coaching.
As the basketball coach for the Tigers, Larry posted 303 victories over 25 years, winning eight Section VI championships and appearing in three state title games, with two public school trophies and one federation first-place finish. His prize pupils included fellow GBSHOF inductee and All-American Curtis Aiken, Trevor Ruffin, who advanced to play in the NBA and Vory Billups, a preseason All-American. Larry twice earned WNY basketball Coach of the Year kudos.
Larry was part of the Bennett football program from 1971 to 1996, both as an assistant and the head mentor. His 1985 Tigers squad were co-champions of the Harvard Cup. That team went undefeated and allowed only 20 points in nine games.
In addition to the sterling record with the men’s track team, he also guided the women’s team to a 30-1-1 mark over four years. The Bennett men’s teams went undefeated over an 18-year span and set several Section VI records, many of which still stand today. All-American Lamar Smith owns a pair of those standards. Three of Veronica’s runners, including Smith, hurdler Dharta Harris and high jumper Arthur McClinton, were invited to the US Olympic trials.
Larry also coached tennis for 11 years where he tutored All-American Ross Nwachukwu. He became the first WNY player to ever win a medal at the New York State intersectional championships.
Larry currently resides in Tonawanda with his wife of 49 years, Jo.