Stinson not gone from Hoboken just yet

Legendary coach’s new deal with Paramus Catholic not completed

It had all the makings of a celebratory press conference. The marquee outside the school had a bright welcome message. Refreshments, like cookies, coffee, punch and snacks were in a row on a back table. A podium, complete with a banner and microphone, was in the center of an auditorium, a room that had several rows of eager football players, awaiting to meet and greet their new coach.

Paramus Catholic High School called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce that legendary Hoboken grid coach Ed Stinson was being hired as the school’s new football coach and athletic director. The deal was done, the school’s officials said. One even said that “a contract was signed.”

Or so we were led to believe.

However, when the architect of six NJSIAA state championships during his tenure in his native Mile Square City began to read the terms of the contract he most definitely did not sign the day before, Stinson flinched.

He wasn’t signing the contract in front of him. He wasn’t agreeing to the terms that the school wanted, like a full commitment as an athletic director.

So for an hour, the school’s officials met behind closed doors with Stinson and his wife, Marie, while the excited football players, other members of the school’s athletic staff and administration, and members of the media waited in the auditorium for the anticipated announcement.

By 3:30 p.m., the football players began to get a little antsy. They started throwing a football around, talking louder and louder, filling up on punch and cookies.

“It’s very exciting,” said junior tight end/defensive end Joe Magro, the best returning player at the school. “Coach Stinson has such a great winning record. He’s someone who can bring prestige to this program. We needed to bring someone in who could bring prestige. I know he can bring the winning tradition he had at Hoboken here to Paramus Catholic.”

The courting of Stinson began a week earlier, when the school reached out to contact him and invited him to visit the campus, which Stinson did last Friday.

However, the administration actually had started to think last November of ways of upgrading the football program and believed that the only way PC could truly compete with the state’s megapowers like Don Bosco Prep, Bergen Catholic and St. Joseph of Montvale was to have a high-profile coach.

Where the idea came from

Back then, the administration believed that there were only two candidates possible who could achieve that goal – former Ramapo coach and current Rutgers assistant Mike Miello, and Stinson. When Miello told the school administrators that he was staying put in Piscataway, the focus was turned to Miello’s best friend, namely Stinson.

In fact, some school administrators called me and floated questions like, “What would it take for us to get Stinson?”

So that was the first idea I had that the school was indeed interested in trying to lure Stinson away from the place, the program that he cemented its place on the map.

Needless to say, it had to be the toughest decision Stinson has ever made in the 57 years he’s been on the planet. Leaving Hoboken – his home, the place where he grew up, where he starred as an athlete, where he coached, left, then came back again to lift the Red Wings to unfathomable heights – that couldn’t have been an easy choice.

After Paramus Catholic met with Stinson last Friday, then offered him the position, the long-time architect of the Red Wings spent the entire weekend belaboring the idea, over and over. He called friends. He called opposing coaches. He asked everyone and anyone to see if he was making the right decision.

It had to have been an emotional tug-of-war. Does Stinson leave the place where he was comfortably entrenched as one of the premier coaches to ever grace a New Jersey sideline? Does he want to take on the challenge of recruiting, the task of knocking heads with the state’s best coaches in the toughest league in New Jersey? What about the kids of Hoboken, who he grew to love and nurture over the years?

So Stinson wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing – and asked advice from practically everyone he knew and respected.

Stinson knew that things in Hoboken weren’t exactly rosy. The Red Wings were 5-6 last year – the first losing season in Stinson’s prestigious 27-year coaching career. The enrollment numbers at the school continue to plummet. The talent pool of players, most of whom came from the projects, had just about dried up. Prospects were not going to get better.

So the decision remained: Does Stinson stay in Hoboken and accept a program in decline or does he take on a new challenge?

Late Tuesday night, Stinson made his mind up. He was taking the job. He called the administrators at Paramus Catholic and they called for the 3 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Stinson still had not been introduced. The kids were getting worried.

Tension builds

At 4:10 p.m., an assistant coach informed all the players who needed transportation home to leave. Most of the 45 players who were waiting to meet Stinson decided to take off.

Ten minutes later, one of the players who were outside the auditorium ran back in, yelling, “He’s leaving, he’s leaving.”

Sure enough, Stinson and his wife walked out of the school, past the administrators, past the players waiting to meet him, and out the front door to their car. There wasn’t going to be a press conference. No pomp and circumstance.

There wasn’t a deal.

Stinson was apparently uncomfortable with the terms of the contract, unhappy with the fact that the school had leaked word that he had signed a contract a day earlier, and displeased with the duties that the school was expecting him to assume above the responsibility of being a football coach.

Stinson, who respectfully refused to comment for this report, apparently didn’t rule out the possibility that a deal could be struck in the near future. But it wasn’t going to be the deal presented to him an hour before the press conference. He simply couldn’t do it.

“There were some things that came up that needed more time to reflect upon,” said Paramus Catholic principal James Vail. “There was no reason to force things. There were some things that needed to be thought about, which arose literally at the last moment.”

Vail said that he believed an agreement could be reached.

“Ed Stinson is a great educator and a great coach,” Vail said. “I think we’re still pretty close to getting something done.”

But why were the press conference called and the kids brought in if the deal wasn’t officially in place?

“Things can always arise unexpectedly,” Vail said. “Maybe things should have been concluded before we made the announcement. It was wrong to have everyone detained here, waiting. But people needed to have everything perfectly clear. It wasn’t hostile at all. There was nothing argumentative. It was a friendly conversation and we decided that more time was needed.”

Vail was asked about the perception.

“Well, having the unknown is never a positive thing,” Vail said.

After Stinson departed, the players were completely befuddled.

“I feel really confused right now,” Magro said. “During the day, we were called in for a meeting and Mr. Vail said that Coach Stinson was all but hired. Now, things are in turmoil.”

“It’s very confusing,” said fellow junior John Malone, a wide receiver. “They tell you one thing and then another one happens. Then they make us sit there and nothing happens. I just wish things were a little different.”

So for now, Stinson remains in Hoboken, and Paramus Catholic remains without a coach and athletic director. The emotional struggle continues within Stinson’s heart and mind. Nothing was official at press time. But anything can change at any minute.

Meanwhile, there is one sure thing that won’t happen over the next few days. There won’t be another press conference.


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