By Jim Hague
After spending the last four years as the boys’ head basketball coach at Becton Regional High School, Bill Schoener was looking for a new challenge in his coaching career.
Enter Kearny High School.
It’s definitely a huge challenge, going from a successful program at Becton to a struggling program like Kearny. After all, the Kardinals have won only seven games over the last two seasons and it’s been several years since the Kards were even a .500 squad.
“There were a couple of things involved,” said Schoener, who was officially appointed as the new Kearny boys’ basketball coach by the Board of Education last week. “It’s a school close to where I live (Rutherford). It’s a larger school that has had success in other sports. They play in a better league, a very good basketball league (the HCIAL). The facilities are great. It’s everything you can want. Plus, there are a lot of pieces in place.”
The 45-year-old Shoener was also the head coach at Queen of Peace for two years. His final year at the North Arlington school, the Golden Griffi ns were 19-9 and won games in both the Bergen County Jamboree and the NJSIAA state playoffs.
Schoener then went 64-47 over the four years with Becton, including a 21-9 record in 2008, taking the Bulldogs to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group I title game.
“I really liked being at Becton,” Schoener said. “I was fortunate to have some success there. But I felt it was time to get a new challenge. It’s a bigger program. We have 35 kids in the program. I like the numbers game. I like having more kids to work with.”
Schoener isn’t concerned about taking over the downtrodden program.
“I guess we can only go up from here,” Schoener said. “That’s the way I look at it. When I took over at Queen of Peace, we hadn’t had a .500 record in a decade. I took over at Becton and they won eight games in four years. So it’s another chance to turn things around.”
Schoener has already met the returning players and began informal workouts to get to know the players a little better.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Schoener said. “I have been just waiting to see what happened. I went through three interviews and had no idea what was going to happen. It was a little stressful, but I’m glad it’s over now.”
Schoener knows the summer is when most development is done, so he has some work to do.
“The summer is usually so big for me in terms of working with the kids,” Schoener said. “We always put such a big emphasis in the offseason. I met the kids for the first time and I’m anxious to get started. I hope we can get a few things done in the summer, like a camp or something.”
Schoener replaces Bill Mullins, who resigned at the end of the season.
Schoener was asked if he thought he could turn around the Kearny program.
“Absolutely,” Schoener said. “I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t think we can win games. I went to Becton and people said I couldn’t win there. I loved my team in Becton and I am sure I’ll love this team as well. It was time to move on. I’m excited about this challenge. I’m going to like playing the Hudson County schools. It’s great to have a bigger program. Let’s see what happens.”