Tigers News · In Memoriam – legendary Heights coach Jim Cappelletti passes away at 85

Cleveland Heights and the entire high school basketball community is mourning the loss of a legend.

Former Tigers coach Jim Cappelletti has passed away at the age of 85.

Cappelletti was married for more than 50 years. He and his wife, Nancy, had three children, Sharon, Kathy and James Jr. Services are pending, according to an online obituary by DeJohn Funeral Homes and Crematory.

Cappelletti won 539 basketball games, but also coached baseball, football and track. His teaching career began in 1959 at Wiley Middle School. He taught physical education there and at Cleveland Heights for five decades.

His basketball teams reached the state final four six times, including three championship game appearances and that 1997 state title. As a result, he is a member of the Ohio Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

“Heights High School and the basketball community are saddened by the loss of Coach Jim Cappelletti,” Heights athletic director Joe D’Amato said.

“Coach Cap dedicated his life to molding countless young men. In the process he built a powerhouse of a basketball program and galvanized a community. His programs success is something that the Heights community identifies with to this very day. Quite simply at Heights, basketball and Coach Cap go hand-in-hand. Without question Coach Cap and his players set the standard to which we strive to uphold. We will draw inspiration from this and will work even harder to live up to those expectations. We are forever grateful for what Coach Cap did for our community. Thank you to a legend.”

Cappelletti returned last year to Cleveland Heights for a re-dedication of its basketball court in the rebuilt high school. The gym is named after him with “Cappelletti Court” inscribed on the baseline.

“Personally, one of the highlights in my short time at Heights was re-dedicating the basketball court in Coach Cap’s name.  The joy that evening brought to Coach Cap, his former players and our community was special,” D’Amato said.

“There was always an excitement when Cap came to a practice or game. You were excited to talk shop with a legend. Somehow and I’m sure not coincidentally as the conversation would wrap up, he’d always ask me how he could help. Cap knew the game of basketball and helping people.”

Many of the area coaches Cappelletti faced off against and influenced expressed their condolences and admiration for the Heights legend.

Bob Krizancic, Mentor – “Cap was a very good friend.  In 1993, our two teams (Heights and Girard) were staying at the same hotel. That’s where we met. We exchanged phone numbers. Seven weeks later I took the Mentor job and Cap was the first person I called. He said, “bring your team down to the ice arena in with us, Shaker and Bedford. It was every Tues/Thur in June and July. Best thing we ever did and that set the tone for our program. We had a great rivalry over the next 14 years and remained very good friends. He was a great coach, but an even greater person. Just a class act. I will miss him.”

Eric Flannery, St. Edward – “”Coach Cap was the coach and program I measured my teams with when I began coaching. His teams were great and his presence was what I wanted to have someday in my career. He was the icon I tried to aspire St. Ed’s basketball to be. I always enjoyed our conversations especially after he retired, always gave me good advice, not about coaching but about life- being a father, etc.  He loved being a grandfather and would follow his grandson around at tournament and we would just sit and talk when we ran into each other.  His presence around our game will be missed.”

Sean O’Toole, Gilmour AD/former Euclid and St. Ignatius coach – “Heights is sacred ground for high school basketball in the state of Ohio. Capp built that culture & it has truly sustained. Truly a better man than a coach -loyal, genuine & sincere, but still as competitive as any coach I ever competed against.”

Tedd Kwasniak, former VASJ coach – “Coach Cap was a great rival for the Vikes, we had some classic games in the 80s and 90s. Win or lose, Cap was a perfect gentleman. He was adored by his players. When you played the Tigers you better score a lot because they would. High school basketball was a better game because of Coach Cap. I will miss my rival and friend.”