Memorable Mondays: Top 5 Coaches
Welcome to MSGVarsity.com's Memorable Mondays, a summer-long series that looks back on the top players, games and moments from the past season and gazes ahead to 2012-13. As the summer goes on, we'll compile all the lists and post them here: www.msgvarsity.com/mondays. New lists will be posted every Monday.
In Week 7 of Memorable Mondays, we look at five of the best New Jersey coaches from the 2011-12 school year:
Brian Boyce, Manalapan baseball: The toll graduation took on Manalapan cast a pre-season perception that a successful defense of its Group 4 state title might not be in the cards. What the Braves proved, under the guidance of Brian Boyce, is that nothing is unattainable.
In his seventh season guiding the baseball program at Manalapan, Boyce masterfully got a read on his squad over the course of the season and made all the right moves during the state tournament. Boyce navigated the Braves (18-11) through some treacherous waters. They eliminated Brick Memorial before springing upsets on Jackson, Middletown South and Steinert on their way to the Central Jersey sectional title.
A triumph over Cherokee in the state semifinals carried with it not only a return engagement in the Group 4 final but the added reward of Boyce’s 200th career win.
The unforeseen run closed triumphantly as senior right-hander Joe Serrapica spun a three-hit shutout and Vito Gadaleta delivered a clutch two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to stamp a 2-0 victory over Hillsborough, another darkhorse, for a second straight Group 4 championship.
Joe Roman, St. Rose girls basketball: Joe Roman always possessed clarity when it came to keeping things in perspective.
In basketball, defense took priority. For nine seasons at St. Rose, he demanded his basketball charges play it with passion. In the process, Roman built one of the most respected girls programs in New Jersey. The attention to execution was held to the highest standards and the end result this season was a bounty of rewards.
St. Rose avenged a regular-season loss with a 65-56 victory over Manasquan for its first Shore Conference Tournament title since 1993. When the state tournament commenced, the Purple Roses were primed, outlasting St. John Vianney, 34-33, in the South Jersey sectional final before defeating Immaculate Heart, 42-38, in the Non-Public A state final. St. Rose bowed to Manasquan in their rubber match, 56-50, in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions.
Away from the court, Roman maintained that value for perspective. At the completion of this past season, after compiling a career mark of 194-46, he resigned from his post, sighting a higher calling – to spend more time with his young family.
Tara Madigan, Northern Highlands girls soccer: By honing an offense that thrived off its diversity and constructing a defense that took pride in its rigid shape, Tara Madigan devised the ideal scheme for perfection.
Over her eight seasons at Northern Highlands, Madigan has annually steered the Highlanders into the upper echelon of girls soccer but this past fall, no team was higher. Behind a stingy defense the recorded 17 shutouts and was touched for just 11 goals, Northern Highlands stormed to a 24-0 mark.
While the defense frustrated opponents, an offense that featured 14 different scorers gave way to a goal sum of 115. Madigan’s squad maintained a high level of play from start to finish and had no other choice considering the stiff competition it faced. Northern Highlands defeated rival Ramapo four times, including 3-1 in the Bergen County Tournament championship and 5-4 in the final of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 title.
Northern Highlands capped its campaign by blanking Moorestown, 2-0, in the Group 3 state final, marking its second state crown in three years, fourth overall but first outright championship.
By directing Northern Highlands on its undefeated run, Madigan ran her career mark to 167-27-9.
Jeff Lubreski, Plainfield boys basketball: To many outside observers, Plainfield's 67-65 loss to St. Benedict's in the second game of last season was nothing short a noble fight against a star-studded private school; an excellent early test for the public school Cardinals.
Plainfield head coach Jeff Lubreski saw it as a missed opportunity and a slight unraveling of discipline and heart down the stretch. This Plainfield team--with talented veterans likeSekou Harris, Justin Sears, Jahmal Lane and Diijon Allen-Jordan all on hand--would have to do more than merely play gallantly if it was truly going to flourish.
Two things worth knowing about Lubreski: One, he is classy and humble; truly one of the nicest guys in the business. Two, he is extremely competitive, tough-minded and meticulously prepared. In other words, don't mistaken his cordial off-courtdemeanor as a lack of fire.
Lubreski's Cardinals lost only three more times after that St. Benedict's game, including twice to St. Anthony and once to St. Patrick. The second loss to the Friars was a 66-62 decision in Plainfield's second straight trip to the Tournament of Champions final, which followed a second consecutive Group 3 title.
Lubreski was blessed with exceptional athletic talent these past two years, but his club was also limited in size and depth when it came to addressing the parochial powerhouses. To compete consistently, his teams had to be unselfish, flexible and also tirelessly devoted to the acts of defense and rebounding.
Lubreski became only the fourth public school coach to qualify for consecutive T of C finals, joining Ben Candelino of Elizabeth (1989-90), Joe Kessler of Shawnee ('95-96) and Milt Gaylord of Newark Science ('08-09).
Dan Higgins, Piscataway football: Yes, New Jersey gridiron buffs generally recognize Piscataway as a public school hotbed of tremendous football talent. Three current NFL players--Malcolm Jenkins, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wilson--are former Chiefs, and many other more recent graduates grace college rosters around the country. Rising senior Nadir Barnwell is considered one of the top pure athletes in the region and has in excess of 15 scholarship offers to prove it.
But those stellar players don't always come to head coach Dan Higgins fully refined. There's a lot of work to do and a lot of mistakes to overcome. Like last season, for example, when Higgins had to replace his entire linebacker corps from the 2010 season, or in that '10 campaign when the Chiefs began the year with a new front line due to graduation losses.
Piscataway definitely looked like a team in need of answers last September when it began at 1-2 and allowed a combined 56 points in the two losses. Higgins made subtle adjustments,demanded more, not less, of his players and quickly restored confidence. The Chiefs gave up only 13 points over the next five games and posted four shutouts over seven. They spun off nine straight wins after those back-to-back losses to snap up a second straight North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 championship.
Higgins was a Piscataway star himself and his coaching staff is almost entirely comprised of loyal former Chiefs. He constantly draws upon the program's proud legacy (eight sectional titles), though he never assumes its motivational power or allows his players to accept it complacently. Tradition is a constant quest.
Piscataway's reward for its bumpy start in 2011 was a No. 8 seed for the playoffs. But Higgins' guys had improved dramatically by that time and proceeded through a dizzying string of upsets over No. 1 Hunterdon Central, No. 4 East Orange Campus and No. 3 Elizabeth for the sectional crown.
Join us throughout the summer as "Memorable Mondays" brings you more top 5 lists:
Aug. 13: Top five most memorable games from 2011-12
Aug. 20: Top five teams from 2011-12
Aug. 27: Top five teams to watch in 2012-13
Find them all at www.msgvarsity.com/mondays.