Hall of Fame honor for Nolan Retired Secaucus volleyball coach and long-time teacher inducted

When Maria Nolan retired last year as the volleyball coach at Secaucus High School, ending a brilliant career that featured a record 17 state championships, she figured that her days of receiving honors and accolades had come to an end.

“I wasn’t in coaching to receive awards,” Nolan said. “I just felt good coaching. I loved the camaraderie and the togetherness. That’s what kept you going, as well as the love of the sport. When it was over, I figured it was over. I never thought about getting anything else.”

Nolan, the most successful volleyball coach in New Jersey State history with an amazing record of 544-69, received prestigious honors such as the national Disney Coach of the Year, the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Last Monday, Nolan was bestowed with another impressive accolade when she was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame at the annual induction luncheon at the Pines Manor in Edison.

“I was extremely honored and flattered by getting the honor,” said Nolan, who is still a physical education teacher at Secaucus High. “It came as a shock to me. It really was exciting. I never thought that I would get considered. I’m always aware of the great accomplishments that New Jersey’s coaches have achieved over the years. I knew that there haven’t been that many people who have been inducted. I felt so honored that someone thought that much of me to nominate me.”

Nolan was one of two Hudson County natives to receive induction into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame Class of 2003, joining the late Lester Purvere, the legendary three-sport coach at Weehawken High School.

Other honorees included former Bergen Catholic basketball coach Chris Donfield, former Rancocas Valley football coach William Gordon, long-time Columbia High School track and field coach Lenny Klepack, legendary football coach Gary Kehler from Westfield High School, and the late John Fitzpatrick, who was a baseball coach for 48 years at South River High School.

Nolan was the only female honoree and the first woman to receive induction since 2000. She is also only the 11th woman to ever receive induction to the Hall of Fame and the first honoree from the sport of volleyball.

Nolan, a native of Guttenberg, joins five other past inductees from Hudson County, including the late Joe Coviello, the legendary Memorial and North Bergen football coach, Warren Wolf, the West New York native who became the state’s all-time coaching victory leader at Brick Township, Union City native Robert Kanaby, who was a long-time executive with the NJSIAA, and Jersey City native Leon Bailey, who had a brilliant career in track and field.

“I’m very proud of this, because it’s not just coaches,” Nolan said. “It includes athletes and athletic directors and administrators. I feel so honored to be with them.”

Nolan mentioned that NFL superstars Joe Theismann and Franco Harris were also past inductees and she feels blessed to be in the same category with those greats.

“When I think about receiving an award like this, it’s almost too unreal to believe,” said Nolan. “When I stop to think of all the experiences I’ve had, I realize how fortunate I’ve been. I’m really happy that my name will be there [at the NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville] forever. I’ve always enjoyed seeing others get the honor, so when I got it, I was very humbled by it all.”


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group