TASTY TIDBITS 07-19-2009 Stern out as Hudson Catholic AD, grid coachSad news about former Friar Rooney

On the surface, if Hudson Catholic High School was replacing Rob Stern strictly as a football coach, the move would look completely asinine.
After all, Stern is the school’s most successful football coach ever, leading the Hawks to their only NJSIAA state playoff appearances. Just last December, he was literally three inches away from giving the school its first-ever state championship.
The Hawks were less than a yard away from defeating Holy Cross of Absecon in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 state championship game at Rutgers Stadium last December, but didn’t score the necessary touchdown to win the game and eventually lost in a 7-0 heartbreaker.
Stern is the only grid coach in Hudson Catholic history to have a winning record, compiling a mark of 48-32 over his nine seasons at the helm in two stints. He guided the Hawks to a 9-2 record in 2007, the school’s best grid mark ever, and was twice named The Hudson Reporter High School Football Coach of the Year. That indeed is an impressive resume and ledger.
But when Stern was told last week by the Hudson Catholic President and Principal Rev. Warren Hall that his contract was not being renewed, it was more as an athletic director than a football coach.
According to Hall, his decision to remove Stern from the school’s athletic program had nothing to do with his football coaching prowess.
“It was strictly an administrative decision,” Hall said. “It had nothing to do with Rob’s ability as a coach. Rob and I didn’t agree on a lot of things. We just felt it was wise to go in another direction with an athletic director and it would have been hard for Rob to remain on as just the football coach.”
Hall said that when he came on as president and principal, he came to an agreement with Stern to work together “for a year” and then Hall would re-evaluate Stern’s position after a year. That re-evaluation took place last week and Stern was let go.
“We were looking at Rob strictly as an athletic director,” Hall said. “Obviously, Rob is an outstanding football coach. This has nothing to do with football. It has nothing to do with money. We just needed someone who can put it all together as an athletic director. We have big challenges ahead, especially as we become a co-ed school this fall. We felt that there was a lack of proper attention given to the other sports. We’re sorry that it had to happen this way. Rob has a lot of good connections and his reputation is good. But we needed someone who was committed to the entire program. We need someone who has better care of our athletic program. Our differences about the position of athletic director were many. We’re going to proceed and move ahead.”

Hall said that the school will begin an immediate search for a new football coach and a new athletic director, but assured that there will no longer be a dual role at the school. The two positions will be separated.
“We feel that the athletic director should not coach a sport,” Hall said. “It’s too demanding. It’s unfortunate that the two positions [head football coach and athletic director] were linked. It’s better to have two people handling the two positions.”
Stern did not return calls at press time. A statement was released by the school which expressed Stern’s gratitude, but you can be rest assured that he was not pleased with the decision, especially the timeliness of it. It’s going to be very hard for Stern to land another position in time for the coming football season.
Hudson Catholic already conducted a handful of interviews regarding the coaching position. Apparently, none of Stern’s assistants, who were among the hardest working coaching staff around, are interested in replacing their mentor…
On a sad note, former St. Anthony basketball standout Sean Rooney died last week at the age of 38. Rooney was a fine player during the Friars’ glory days of the late 1980s and was one of the best passing big men around.
But his life was always littered with off-the-court scrapes with the law. He was dismissed from Duquesne University for stealing video equipment and later ended up at New Jersey City University. He had a few run-ins with Bayonne police during his days, but then seemed to stay out of harm’s way for the longest time, working as the manager for “Beetlejuice,” the diminutive Jersey City native who was always featured on The Howard Stern Show.
If we could just remember Rooney the basketball player, it would be one thing. But Rooney the man was always a poor, tortured soul and he’s also gone way too soon, gone at 38… — Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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