The Paraclete refers to the third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
It may be tougher to depict the Holy Spirit than it is to explain the Blessed Trinity.
But if there was ever a holy spirit at Paraclete High School, it was Andy Gavel.
Gavel epitomized the Spirit at Paraclete.
He was a metaphor for it.
It is the cruelest of ironies that a heart attack took Coach Gav from us far too soon last Thursday.
There are very few people who ever drew breath in this Valley who had bigger, deeper and warmer hearts than Andy Gavel.
Gavel spent 36 years in Catholic education at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, at Crespi Carmelite high in Encino, and of course, at Paraclete.
Andy loooooooooooved basketball.
But he loved kids even more.
And he loved the Lord most of all.
He arrived in the Valley the same year I did, in 1982.
Those were the times when Catholic institutions dotted the power structure of College Basketball — Georgetown, St. John’s. Notre Dame, Providence, Villanova, Seton Hall.
Andy aspired to follow in the footsteps of Lou Carnesecca at St. John’s, Rick Pitino at Providence and Digger Phelps at Notre Dame, among others.
But he could never quite bring himself to put himself ahead of others.
He didn’t have the all-too-often ego toxic gene that marks so many familiar names in College Basketball.
There was something the greatest basketball coach/athletic director of them all said that stuck with Andy Gavel from the time he heard it as a young boy.
It was the gospel of service to others. Not self-indulgence.
Andy Gavel’s footsteps were often the last ones out of Paraclete Gym, or the Brent Carder Marauder Stadium, the home of Paraclete football.
The folks at Crespi discrerned Gav’s gifts for organization, dedication and inspiration.
For two years he part of the high-profile landscape of interscholastic sports.
But his heart never left Paraclete.
Coach Gav wasn’t the coolest guy on the PHS campus. Most certainly, he wasn’t the hippest.
What he was, was an unshakeable Gibraltar of the creed and faith that every bit as much the foundation of the Catholic Church as the day Jesus Christ handed to keys to the kingdom to his right-hand man, St. Peter.
Andy Gavel never bought the popular modern nonsense that they’re the Ten Suggestions, not the Ten Commandments.
The kids who played for Gavel way back when, the ones who are now parents and in some cases grandparents themselves, live lives that testify to the blessings of the discipline Andy Gavel preached unrelentingly.
Funny thing about hip and trendy types.
When crunch time comes, they’re mostly nowhere to be found.
But when someone needed a ride to practice, or extra time on the practice field or basketball court, it was always Andy Gavel who had the time that was needed.
To be sure, Andy found it easier to frown than smile. The glass was always half-empty, not half-full.
But when the temptation came to put his own comfort and convenience ahead of those of his students, that’s when the smile fought its way across his face.
That’s when he poured from a seemingly bottomless goblet of caring.
Paraclete’s spirit left this life on his own terms.
He’d had a stent inserted to aid his heart.
Coach Gavel had just obtained permission from his doctor to go back to work.
To resume blessing the current generation of Paraclete students.
“I’m going back to work!” we can envision him declaring aloud as headed for the elevator that ended up taking him to Heaven.
Back at work is where we’ll always remember Andy Gavel.
In our broken hearts.