Nobody has more pride for Hofstra than Eddie Dello Stritto. For over two decades “Fast Eddie” has been the school’s beloved bus driver. But he’s more than someone who drives everyone around — he’s a super-fan that has become a fabric of the Long Island school’s athletic department.
“I’m just happy to be alive and doing it, and doing it this long,” the Stanhope, N.J., native said. “I have met so many nice people. They come in as young kids and leave as grown men.”
Dello Stritto, 75, has been driving Hofstra teams since 1998 and has become a fixture there, as the Coach USA bus driver. He’s been with the basketball team since he started. He’s driven Craig “Speedy” Claxton as a player and now an assistant coach. He was there for coaches Jay Wright and Tom Pecora and the “Three Amigos,” as he called them — Antoine Agudio, Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera.
He saw the school’s only two back-to-back CAA Players of the Year, Charles Jenkins, who would rub Dello Stritto’s silver locks for good luck before games, and now Justin Wright-Foreman, the nation’s second-leading scorer with whom he shares a special handshake before and after games. Dello Stritto is hoping to get to see this year’s team, which won the CAA regular season title, cut down the nets in the league’s postseason tournament, which begins for the Pride on Sunday in North Charleston, S.C.
“There’s not a person that doesn’t have an actual Hofstra connection who cares more deeply about Hofstra and its athletic teams than him,” said Stephen Gorchov, the school’s sports information director.
Players and coaches describe Dello Stritto as a grandfatherly figure who is more than just a fan or a bus driver. He takes an interest in them, getting to know their families and them as people. Just ask former Hofstra coaches about him, men who haven’t been around him or the school in years. Nobody forgets “Fast Eddie.”
“A lot of personality. A real character, always upbeat,” said Wright, now the Villanova coach. “Just a guy you loved to be around. He always had stories for you.”
“He’s the best,” former Fordham coach, and current Quinnipiac assistant, Pecora raved. “Eddie would take dry runs, know the area before we got there. Class guy. He knew everyone’s name, everybody loved to see Eddie. In the spring he would come in my office, we had coffee and talked.”
It was Pecora who gave Dello Stritto the nickname “Fast Eddie,” during a radio interview on WFAN with Mike Francesa about playing three road games in eight days.
“We had ‘Fast Eddie,’ ” Pecora told Francesa, when asked about all the travel.
Dello Stritto, who served three years in the Army before becoming a truck driver, likes the nickname, though he is quick to note his bus only goes 68 mph.
“I just hope my bosses don’t get mad,” he joked. “Everybody knows me by that name, and it’s fun.”
They know his voice, too. Dello Stritto won’t just sit quietly in the stands. He’ll be court-side letting his opinion be known and rooting on Hofstra.
“He’s tough on the refs, I’ll tell you that,” sophomore Eli Pemberton said.
“I’m tickled pink after a win,” Dello Stritto said.
One of his children, Stacy Weinstein, attended a few Hofstra games in February and was stunned by the experience. Not only did everyone seem to known her father, they loved him. She met people who her dad drove for when they were students, and now they’re back as coaches or working for the school. The moment she told anyone she was his daughter, Weinstein immediately became part of the Hofstra family, too.
“Every person said, ‘Oh my God, your dad is simply the best,’ ” she recalled. “To hear them talk about him this way, I was like, ‘Wow.’
“Now I get it,” Weinstein added.
There are times Dello Stritto’s devotion to Hofstra has interfered with family life. He won’t take vacation if there is a conflict. He’ll cut out of family functions early to make sure he has enough rest to get up in the morning to get to the Long Island school on time. A few years back, his granddaughter had a cheerleading competition in South Carolina and figured he could drive her team down there after their flight was canceled. But he had to drive Hofstra, so another bus driver took them.
When he was sick a few years ago and out of work, a day didn’t go by someone from Hofstra didn’t reach out to Dello Stritto or the family. They sent letters or care packages. They stayed in constant contact with the family. It was clear then this was more about a bus driver and an athletic department in need of transportation.
“He will drop anything for Hofstra,” Weinstein said. “They’re his family as much as we are, and he does it because he loves it, not because it’s a job. To him, it’s family and he knows he’s going to get these people to and from somewhere safe. He loves them, and they love him, and he has that bond.”
It’s why Dello Stritto made the trek to Charleston on his own this week as the team flew. He wanted to be there for Hofstra, to see up close if the Pride could get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years, and make sure they were taken care of.
If Hofstra can win the CAA Tournament, coach Joe Mihalich has a plan for “Fast Eddie.” He’ll invite him onto a ladder to cut down a strand of net, a tradition usually only reserved for players and coaches.
“He definitely deserves to be up there with us,” Pemberton said.
If that does happen, Hofstra could end up being sent out as far as San Jose or close as Hartford in the NCAA Tournament. If asked, “Fast Eddie” will be ready.
“I’ll go anywhere with them,” he said.