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Sitting at the table, the grizzled old man obviously was enjoying himself. People are surprised at his firm handshake and spirit. He doesn't seem handicapped, but when he was 14, an attack of spinal meningitis left him without speech or hearing. He held up another note. "When I was little," it said, "I was just like Danny."
It was Danny's admiration for his father that prompted him to enroll at Seton Hall in nearby South Orange. Michael was thrilled. Many of the school's students are the kids of working stiffs, and Danny and his father liked the coach at the time, Bill Raftery, an Irishman Michael called "Corned Beef and Cabbage." Best of all, Seton Hall is a Catholic school, and thus as good as a Ford.
Seton Hall doesn't have a high-powered program. The team plays in an antiquated gym (capacity 3,200) built in 1939. The school sold 725 season tickets this year, and the student radio station is the only one broadcasting games on a regular basis. But Danny never complains. Says teammate Kevin Boyle, "He doesn't act like a star, except on the court." Last Wednesday night, after he scored 22 points in an 82-65 loss at St. John's, the team bus dropped him alongside the highway. Danny waited awhile for a neighborhood bus, then he walked the two miles to his house.
Around the campus this kind of behavior encourages everyone to treat Callandrillo as if he were part of the family instead of a two-time Big East scoring champion, Seton Hall's third leading point producer and one of the best-looking guys in the history of the school. Sorry, Rick Cerone. Recently Danny was kidding acting Coach Hoddy Mahon that he was going to join the long list of applicants for the vacant Seton Hall job. "If they hire him," said Mahon, "I'll be his assistant." Says Raftery, who left in November to go into banking and television work, "He came in here as a street kid, sort of a Fonz without the grease. Now everybody loves him."
Every day, usually in the evenings after practice, Danny spends two hours shooting in a gym near his home. During the summer he works out twice a day. His dream is to make it in the pros. "Give me $30,000 a year and I'll pass off every time," he says. "I'd play in the NBA for new sneakers and a meal."
Last Saturday night Seton Hall said goodby to Danny and his family at the team's final regular-season game, a matchup with Boston College. The old gym was jammed, for it was a night on which the outcome—a 92-74 loss that dropped the team's record to 11-15—meant less than the farewell. Callandrillo was honored before and after the game, and at halftime, too. The band played Danny Boy. His parents were given another plate to put on the wall. They sat at courtside, surrounded by what seemed a regiment of relatives. Michael kept giving his benediction to Danny's shots.
His boy scored 36 points, made four steals and once even blocked the jump shot of BC's 6'9" Center Jay Murphy. At the game's end, Danny was replaced so he could be given an ovation. Sitting down, he could look across at his father and the rest of his relatives. Earlier, his parents had been introduced and Michael Callandrillo had raised his arms as the fans cheered. Later, Danny was asked what he was thinking as the clock ticked down. He answered, speaking of the Seton Hall fans as well as his kin, "It was the last time the family would all be together."