By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Rich Corsetto began his basketball coaching career 43 years ago, he never thought he would still be at it, coaching the game he loved.
“At the time, I was 22, 23 years old,” Corsetto said. “I never thought I’d be coaching for five years, never mind this long. Back then, I didn’t know how long I would be in coaching.”
Corsetto began coaching at Passaic County Tech in 1972 and remains active in the game today as the head boys’ coach at North Arlington, where he’s been for the past two seasons.
And last Thursday night, when Corsetto’s Vikings defeated Becton Regional, the coach was able to reach an impressive milestone. Corsetto collected the 700th win of his coaching career.
Most of his wins have come at the college ranks, first at Hudson County Community College and later at Passaic County Community College, but after a three-year hiatus, Corsetto came back last year and led the Vikings to a 22-win season.
“My father told me a long time ago that I should never give up and always go for what I want,” Corsetto said. “When I was away for those three years, they were the toughest three years of my life. I knew I had to get back to coaching.”
With the support of his wife, Doreen, who is a professor at William Paterson University, Corsetto decided to pursue any and all coaching opportunities.
“I still had that drive and desire to coach,” Corsetto said. “I wanted to keep coaching. Doreen, who was my scorekeeper at Hudson and Passaic County colleges and loves to come to all the games, was very supportive. She knew what I wanted to do.”
So Corsetto looked around and found the opening at North Arlington, after long-time coach and NA alum David Walsh stepped down.
“I appreciate North Arlington for giving me the opportunity.” Corsetto said. “It’s a beautiful place with a great administration and great community. The Board of Education and the staff are so helpful and supportive. They all love the kids, their players. It’s a very close-knit town. There are a lot of different cultures here. It really is a great place. And it’s a great sports town. The parents love their sports and I get texts from them all the time.”
North Arlington athletic director David Hutchinson realizes how fortunate his school was to get a coach of Corsetto’s stature.
“It has been a pleasure to have him,” Hutchinson said. “He’s a legendary figure in New Jersey basketball. He’s revitalized our program. He’s been to the recreation league games and been all over. Everyone is excited about basketball in the town again. Last year was an exciting year for us and everything has been a positive for us since Coach Corsetto arrived. He had a good track record before he came here and he’s been successful everywhere he’s been. We were lucky to get someone who has such a real passion for the game. He wanted to get back into coaching and he hit the ground running.”
Corsetto said that he never fathomed the idea of becoming a member of the 700 Club _ the hardwood variety, not the evangelical television show.
“I never thought I’d get 100 wins, never mind 700,” Corsetto said. “For me, it wasn’t about the wins. It was about the kids. I just helped them along. That was my goal, to help the kids, through teaching and coaching.”
Given his longevity in the coaching ranks, Corsetto looked back on some of the great teams and players he had the fortune to mentor over the years.
“There were so many good teams, good players, good memories,” Corsetto said. “It makes you sit back a little and reflect.”
Corsetto coached Eric Riggins at Passaic Tech, before Riggins became a 1,000-point scorer at Rutgers and a draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1987 NBA Draft. The 6-foot- 10 center Jim Lampley played for Corsetto at PCT before heading on to Vanderbilt, then Arkansas-Little Rock, eventually becoming a 5th round pick of the Dallas Mavericks and then getting a cup of coffee in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“We had a lot of good wins, but I suffered through a lot of tough losses, too,” Corsetto said. “If I reflect back, I know that I wouldn’t have made it without the great players and great coaches who helped me. They deserve the credit. The kids are the ones who play hard.”
Corsetto likes the make-up of his current team, which now owns an 11-6 record after defeating Lyndhurst Friday night. Before the game, the North Arlington administration presented Corsetto with a basketball highlighting his 700th win.
“It’s an honor for me,” Corsetto said. “The kids are playing hard and doing a great job. We might need a little help to get to 20 (wins) again this season, but we still may get there.”
As for the milestone?
“Well, I’m 68 years old now,” Corsetto said. “I don’t take the losses as hard anymore. But I still have a lot of fire in me. When I don’t like coming to the gym or don’t have the passion anymore, then I’ll quit. Or when I just can’t get there anymore. My wife is so supportive. A lot of other wives might have told their husbands to stop coaching. But she loves it, too. She comes to every game. She was the cheerleader when I was a player.”
Corsetto said that he gives credit to his assistant coaches George Rotondo and Marcello D’Andrea.
“They’ve been a big help,” Corsetto said.
But both were just toddlers when Corsetto began coaching.
“I remember my first loss,” Corsetto said. “I took it pretty bad. But I took our last loss just as bad.”
Yeah, the fire still burns inside Rich Corsetto. It looks like he’s going to manning the North Arlington sideline for quite a few more years to come _ and with that, quite a few more wins as well.
“I don’t know about 800,” Corsetto said of the next milestone. “We’ll have to see about that one.”