March 10, 2004
Four hoop coaches who met the challenge
By TOM WILLIAMS
There is no doubt that the Cape-Atlantic League has been successful in basketball through the years
because of its coaching.
The list is nearly endless - Ken Leary, Bernie McCracken, Dixie Howell, Bill Deibert, Pat Dougherty, Bill
Swain, Steve Ottenberg, Frank MacAlarnen, Sam Botta, Jim Mogan, Joe Fussner, Bill Swain, Jack Boyd,
Dave Troiano, Nuncie Sacco, Gary Barber and Champ McGaffney are some of the most successful.
Among current CAL coaches, Paul Rodio and Tom Feraco are obviously the tops. They entered this week
with 99 NJSIAA tournament wins between them. There is Karl Geisinger at Mainland and Fran St. John at
Wildwood Catholic, both with well over 300 career victories. Dave Lewis, Steve DiPatri and Larry
DiGiovanni have made strong impacts over the past few years.
Eight teams from the CAL moved into the second week of this year’s NJSIAA tournament. That’s a pretty
impressive number. And coaching is a big reason.
But there were four basketball coaches this season who faced challenges. Different challenges, but
challenges just the same. And all four came through.
Let’s start with Greg Goodwin at Absegami. A former boys coach at St. James, Millville and Absegami,
Goodwin’s girls have dominated the CAL and are looking for a second straight South Jersey championship.
He decided last year that this was a very talented team, talented enough to really be challenged. So he
put together one of the toughest girls schedules in league history. And, with the exception of a loss to the
second best team in the country, his Gami girls proved him right during the regular season. Despite being
upset in their final tournament game, they are a better team because of their coach’s challenge.
Gene Allen has a different story at Atlantic City. He took over a team with only one starter returning. And
his selection was loaded with controversy. (When’s the last time an ACHS coaching change in boys
basketball wasn’t controversial?) Some worried that his lack of head coaching experience would be a big
negative. Still, his team was undefeated in the American Conference and reached the South Jersey final. It
was a good start for a coach under a lot of pressure.
Then there is Whitey Haak. This guy is no newcomer. He was coaching before three-pointers and
knee-length shorts. His Mainland club might have been the favorite in this year’s American Conference
race but two of the key players – all-conference forward Mike Bradway and forward Eric Smallwood – were
injured during football season and never played. Haak had a blue-collar worker inside in Chris Sindoni and
a determined athlete in Dan Cappelluti. Others, like Billy Care, stepped up. Haak’s team had possibly the
biggest non-league win of any CAL team when they beat Woodrow Wilson. This coaching veteran faced
the challenge of losing two important players and still produced a good season.
Finally, we bring you Dave DeWeese. He took over this season for McGaffney at Wildwood Catholic and
kept right on going. His team started the season with a challenging schedule, fell into a hole and then
stormed down the stretch to win another division championship and reach the South Jersey final for the
third consecutive year by winning a pair of games on the road. (Has any team won more road games in the
tournament the past four years than Wildwood Catholic?)
Four coaches. Four different sets of challenges. Four success stories. Greg Goodwin, Gene Allen, Whitey
Haak and Dave DeWeese are good examples of why the Cape-Atlantic League continues to be successful
on the basketball court.
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