After spending nine seasons as the head boys’ basketball coach at Bloomfield Tech, leading that program to storied, never-before-reached heights, Nick Mariniello decided to step down last year, feeling that he just needed a break from the grind of coaching high school basketball.
“It really can become a grind,” said Mariniello, a Hoboken resident. “But I definitely knew that I was going to coach again. I just needed a break and the year off did me wonders. I got to see some other high school games and I got to see some of my former players play in college. I started to see things in a little different perspective and I knew that I was chomping at the bit a little. I knew it wasn’t going to be a long hiatus.”
When Hudson Catholic athletic director Rob Stern contacted Mariniello and asked him if he would be interested in taking over the Hawks’ program, there was very little hesitation. After all, Mariniello’s coaching roots were formed in Hudson County, having served three years as an assistant at Marist High School and then spending two years as an assistant at St. Peter’s College.
“I’m very comfortable in Hudson County,” Mariniello said. “I know a lot of the other coaches and I played a lot of the teams when I was coaching at Bloomfield Tech. I’m very familiar with the brand of basketball that is played in Hudson County. It’s always been a hotbed of talent.”
Last week, the school welcomed their new head coach, one who comes to the school having won four NJSIAA Group I state championships (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007), having won both the New Jersey and MSG Network Coach of the Year awards and led his team to a national ranking. Many of Mariniello’s former players, like DeSean Butler (West Virginia) and Wesley Jenkins (St. Peter’s), are standouts in the NCAA Division I college ranks.
Mariniello is excited about tackling the challenge of coaching at Hudson Catholic, trying to turn the program that has not been successful in quite a long time into a winning power once again.
“This happened so fast, but I’m really excited about it,” Mariniello said. “The school has a rich tradition in athletics and academics and that interested me. To be honest, I felt very comfortable with Father Hall and Rob Stern. They made me feel very comfortable from the start. Those are things that are very important to me. I feel like I was speaking the same language as they were.”
The administrators are pleased to have Mariniello aboard.
“Hudson Catholic Rising has been our school theme this year,” Father Hall said. “Raising our basketball program to the next level is a part of this and I know Nick Mariniello is the guy who will make it happen.”
“Nick is a tremendous basketball coach,” Stern said. “His record speaks for itself. He has won many state titles, but he is also an educator of men. Nick has molded them into great players and great leaders.”
Mariniello knows that he has his work cut out for him. The Hawks have not had a winning team in over a decade. He would love to bring the program back to the days of the mid-1970s, when players like Jim Spanarkel and Mike O’Koren graced the floors of the school before they went on to become NCAA All-Americans and NBA players.
“Guys like that should be involved in this program and I’m going to reach out and see if they can help,” Mariniello said. “They are the tradition of this program. I remember seeing them play in college and the NBA. They need to be a part of this and I’m going to do anything I can to get them involved.”
Added Mariniello, “I’m not apprehensive about this at all. I’m jumping in with two feet. If I didn’t believe in them and the mission of the school, I wouldn’t be here. I know we’re going to be successful.”
Mariniello believes that his success at Bloomfield Tech will help the transition period at Hudson Catholic.
“What I have this time is a track record,” Mariniello said. “I had no credibility when I went to Bloomfield Tech. Now, I come here with some level of success and doing things the right way. It is a challenge and it’s difficult, but I really feel that I’m in the right place at the right time. I am not going to gauge my success on wins and losses. I just want the players to be respectable young men, respectful of the school and the community. I want them to be able to aspire to get to the next level. Sure, I want to win, but I want to win the right way. It’s going to take some time and we have to build a foundation first. We’re going to build from the bottom up.”
No question, this is a move that will eventually catapult the Hudson Catholic basketball program back into the big time. Mariniello has many connections in the game of basketball, and kids are going to want to come to McGinley Square to play for him and play for Hudson Catholic. It is an instant dose of credibility and proves that Hudson Catholic is definitely alive, well and going nowhere any time soon…
While Mariniello takes over at Hudson Catholic, his predecessor has landed on his feet as a coach. Damel Ling, the former Hawk head coach for the last two seasons, has been named to take over the girls’ program at Marist, replacing Bill DeFazio, who retired last week. Ling has been a fixture at Marist and is familiar with the program, so it should be a good fit for him there…
Congrats to Jersey City native Ahmad Nivins of St. Joseph University, who was named Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America last week. Nivins was the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year for the Hawks this season, averaging nearly 18 points and 10 rebounds per game…
Condolences to the family of Joseph Kealy, Jr., the respected local attorney who passed away after a battle with cancer last week. Kealy was the father of two local standout athletes, St. Peter’s Prep Hall of Fame tennis player Joe and former Marist two-sport standout Justin.
Joe Kealy was an effervescent, big-hearted guy who cared deeply about everyone he ever came across, but more importantly, he cared deeply about both of his talented sons. Kealy will be sorely missed. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.