By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – State officials are still pondering what to do about the century-old DeJessa Bridge which links Lyndhurst and Nutley across the Passaic River but, in the meantime, Bergen County has done its part to try and relieve congestion there. At the urging […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The town is preparing to let the dogs out but first it wants the owners in. For a public meeting, that is, on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the second floor Town Council chambers at Town Hall […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – By the time you read this, we all may be trapped inside by a blizzard — if the current weather forecasts are correct. But it doesn’t necessarily take heavy snow to create havoc. Sometimes, a coating of ice is sufficient. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For the past 37 years, the Kearny nonprofit Pathways to Independence Inc. has helped those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently in their communities. Currently, from its 3-level, 18,000 square foot headquarters at Kingsland and Bergen Aves., it offers on-site […]
Tim Bixler, of The Bixler Group Real Estate and Insurance and his wife, Charissa Bixler, welcomed their daughter, Addison Paige Bixler, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 1:20 p.m. Big brother Brayden is beyond excited. Only a few more years until […]
On March 2, Jeff Bahr and I conducted easily one of the hardest interviews we’ve ever had to conduct. Scheduled to write a tribute piece on the late Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca for the March 7 paper, Jeff and I had the challenge of talking to the mother of the man, just two years my junior.
After conducting the interview, which was made easier by Osbrany’s mother Miriam having the most composure of any person I’ve ever met, I couldn’t help but think how happy I was to have the opportunity to do that interview.
As I continued thinking, however, I couldn’t help but think of the response we got at the Observer for not writing the article the minute we found out Osbrany had passed. Many readers called, e-mailed, and reached out via our website to ask us why we hadn’t done anything. One even said that we had, “a lack of journalistic spirit.”
I couldn’t believe what we had been accused of. A lack of journalistic spirit? Looking at our writing staff, which besides me, has many years in the business, a lack of journalistic spirit is certainly not something that we have.
I would like to say that maybe we just have a sense of compassion.
When I was in college, we were trained for many situations that we could be in as reporters. Whether it be as simple as covering a town hall meeting or as complex as asking about President Obama’s election, we had many different experiences, but not once did we have to ask a family member, a mother especially, about her young son’s passing.
I know about all about the shady side of journalism, where breaking information means money and the ruthless aggression it takes to succeed in this business, but personally, take a minute to think about your own mother.
Osbrany was only 20 years-old. Jeff, Ron, or myself, would have had to interview a mother the day of her son’s burial to get a word with her? I can’t speak about anyone else’s life experience, but I couldn’t imagine thinking about the death of friends of mine in the military, let alone elevating that to being personally related to them and trying to do the same thing.
Sure, its easy to sit back and watch as other papers got the who, what, where, when, why, and how of Osbrany’s sad passing, but did we need to be the gloom and doom added to this family’s already tough situation? I don’t think so.
The Observer did sit back, but only to give the mother time to heal, and ultimately, leading to a great article written by Jeff, giving great honor and personal touch to a story which needed to be told. A story that no other paper even bothered to try and obtain.
So for those of you who look at us and expect us to be the heartless “journalists” that you see in other places, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s not the kind of people we were, are, or ever will be.
On another note, Jeff and I wanted to make sure that we properly thanked Anthony Baez, a former Marine and close confidant to the Montes De Oca family for all his help in obtaining and conducting the interview with Miriam, Franklin, and Rosa Matos and translating two of the interviews for us. Without your help, we would not have been able to fully honor the life of one of our fallen Marines.
-Anthony J. Machcinski
To the Publisher:
I was christened by Father John Washington at St. Stephen’s Church in May of 1939. As you are well aware, he was one of the four chaplains who gave their life jackets to others. They perished as the ship, Dorchester, sunk due to German torpedo in February 1943. I feel blessed and honored to have been christened by this good man who both lived and died his faith.
James J. Capobianco Sr.
By Jeff Bahr
Kearny High School will be staging the “Little Shop of Horrors” musical in the school’s auditorium beginning March 22. The first “Horrors” musical of 1986, written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, was based on its first incarnation, a black comedy of the same name that debuted in 1960.
The musical has proven itself immensely popular since its first curtain raising, a fact evidenced by the countless theater companies that continue to perform it.
The plot is nothing short of fantastical. It looks at a down-and-out floral assistant who becomes an overnight sensation after discovering an exotic plant with a craving for fresh blood. Dubbed “Audrey II,” the ill-tempered, foul-mouthed R&B-singing carnivore offers the man fame and fortune in exchange for regular feedings. To his great dismay, however, the man soon learns that Audrey II is in fact an alien creature (do you suppose?) with one overriding objective: It’s greatest thirst is for global domination.
The idea to perform this particular show came about much as it always does, explained Brian Toal, the play’s director. “We always try to choose a show that we think the students will enjoy performing in, as well as one that will be perceived well by the potential audience. We wanted to find one that was a little upbeat and humorous this year, and felt that ‘Little Shop’ really fit everything we were looking for.”
John Bednarczyk serves as the scene and lighting director, Ed Garguilo as the music director, and Kathy Astrella ties up loose ends as the business manager.
“The ticket sales go directly to supporting the show,” said Toal. “We are completely self-funded, so all the money we make goes into securing the rights for next year’s show, buying the costumes, paying the orchestra, etc.”
All performances will be held in the Kearny High School Auditorium on March 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and senior citizens.
By Jeff Bahr
To love someone and to somehow lose that love is a sad circumstance nearly as common to the human existence as our very need to breathe. This divine heartache, as it has often been described by romantics, can attack without warning and it cares not whom it thrashes in the process. Left lying in the vast heap of love’s debris are members of every race, religion, creed, nationality, social stratum; the list goes on. The wrenching heartache that comes after Cupid’s arrow snaps knows no boundaries. And the residual effects of a love unrequited can last for a lifetime.
So, it stands to reason, it is that rare and lucky person who has managed to make it through life without being taken in by this beguiling force. For who really wants to be just another loser in the love sweepstakes; just another fallen warrior in love’s pathetic army? Would it be you, you, or you perhaps? What sort of masochist wishes to spend every waking day mourning a love that just couldn’t be?
It turns out the answer is a great many of us because reasoning has precious little to do with the pursuit of love. In fact this make-it-throughlife- unscathed theory, as reassuring as it may sound, holds about as much water as a kitchen strainer. Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson understood love’s contradictions at a level like no other. In his celebrated 1850 sonnet, In Memoriam, one now famous verse is as noted for its depth as it is for its lyrical beauty.
I hold it true, whate’er befall/I feel it when I sorrow most/ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.
Here, Tennyson’s meaning is simple yet profound: Despite the indescribable pain and emptiness that gush forth like a geyser when a love held dear suddenly ceases to be, it is within the former condition that we have truly lived to the highest; that we have transcended, if only for a spell, the mundane, the ordinary, the mortal.
In “Love Letters”, a play written by A.R. Gurney and performed at the Arlington Players Club by members of the West Hudson Arts and Theater Company (W.H.A.T.), childhood friends Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner sample such fl eeting love. And lucky members of the audience get to watch their story unfold while nibbling on truffles and sipping on wine. W.H.A.T.’s not to like?
In the two-person play directed by Mark Morchel and produced by Gerald Ficeto, Ladd, played with aplomb by The Observer’s own sportswriter Jim Hague, is a wealthy young man with high ambitions and a sense of charitable purpose. Living happily under his father’s controlling thumb, he believes he can change the world if given half a chance. Gardner, played just as masterfully by Hague’s reallife partner Mary Costello (who functions as a Hudson County Superior Court Judge when not acting) isn’t nearly as rigid or uptight. A freespirited girl of even greater means, she has money to burn and a family life she’d just as soon forget. Brought together by their families as youngsters, Love Letters follows the two for a 50-year span as their love blossoms, wilts, retreats and blooms once again, with each step of the saga recorded in pen and mailed back and forth to each other in the form of – you guessed it.
A natural wit, Hague, as Ladd, is at his finest whenever a line calls for humor and precise timing. But he’s equally impressive when he works his way through the play’s more subtle passages. In the acting business this is commonly referred to as “range” and it’s something that Hague has in spades. Costello, as Melissa, provides the perfect counter balance to Ladd’s booming presence, particularly when he gets up on his high horse. It is then that her rapier-like wit cuts him to ribbons and brings him back to earth.
As the play progresses it becomes obvious to the audience that these pen-pals love each other, even if it’s something that they themselves aren’t always aware of. When the stars align and they become one for the very first time, the audience is on board with their budding romance and cheering them on from the sidelines. Unrealistic expectations and the force of gravity, however, conspire to make this first physical “outing” a disaster. Luckily, there will be a second act.
The chemistry between Hague and Costello is undeniable and infectious. A good chunk of this must be attributed to the duo’s acting prowess, but the ease that comes from their real-world relationship probably factors in as well. It’s a best-of-bothworlds scenario that adds even more validity to the crisp dialogue.
When the play moves into its final moments and Hague’s voice begins to crack with sadness, only the strongest souls will be able to force the rising lump back down into their throats. In all honesty, it was a feat that this reviewer couldn’t quite manage. Love letters is a beautifully written play that’s brimming with wit, irony, happiness, sadness, and a few unanticipated plot twists. Hague and Costello are wonderfully entertaining actors who – working in tandem as a skilled team – pull spectators in. By show’s end one can almost hear a collective “if only” coming from audience members who, along with the star-crossed lovers are betting against the odds. As plays go, it doesn’t get much better than that.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Years of decay and decomposition plagued one former Portuguese watering hole on on Ferry St. in Newark. The once glorious Ironbound icon Roque and Rebelo had become a shell of its former self, with the building showing more years than it had been in existence. Since May 2011, Carlos Pinto has taken that dried up watering hole and created an oasis in Newark.
“It was one of the oldest restaurants in the area,” explained Pinto. “Basically, when the Portuguese immigrated into the area, this was one of their stomping grounds and it became a focal point of the community.”
For Pinto, the restaurant has some history. As a teen, Pinto worked at the restaurant and grew to love the place.
“There is definitely a kinship with the establishment,” Pinto said of the restaurant he would eventually own. He promised himself that one day, if he had the wherewithal, he would make the place something special.
Despite his years of working in the restaurant in various positions, becoming a member of the restaurant business was not something he’d planned on doing.
“I like design and architecture,” said Pinto, who now works as a power plant builder in Latin America and the United States. “This was my opportunity to do something special (for the restaurant).”
While the restaurant had become a fi xture in the area, Pinto wanted to add his own touch to the menu, creating the unique Tapas and Sushi combination that Manu’s currently uses.
“I’ve toured the world quite a bit and I took little ideas of different parts of the world to create a soft fusion,” Pinto said. “Believe it or not, there is a lot in the sushi kitchen that is in the tapas kitchen. I just wanted to create a new experience for the community.”
Manu’s and its unique menu has created a restaurant that has something for anyone, even if you’re not in love with tapas or sushi.
“(Manu’s) is Mediterranean with a soft Asian touch,” Pinto explained. “However, we have traditional dishes as well. The idea was not to own a restaurant – it was to make something special.”
Even the eatery’s name highlights this restaurant’s diversity.
“In Portuguese, Many is a slang term for brother,” Pinto said, referring back to his own history. “My sister used to call me that. It’s short, simple, and not very Portuguese, but I’ve been told people think it seems Spanish or even Asian, so it seemed like the appropriate title.”
While the restaurant has been revamped, Pinto and Manu’s has fought a social taboo familiar to others in his neighborhood.
“There’s a certain stigma that sushi in Newark can’t be good,” Pinto explained. “We can’t buy better fi sh and created our own reputation for good fish. We had to do it right.”
Keeping with the traditions that distinguished the old restaurant, Pinto wanted to keep the comfortable, family environment that had existed with the previous establishment.
“It’s a very family feel type of environment,” Pinto explained. “I wanted to create a cozy, comfortable, and familiar feel to the place.”
The unique challenge for Pinto is carrying the responsibilities of both the restaurant he owns, and his day-to-day job.
“The establishment is operated by my sister and other people who have been here since the beginning,” explained Pinto. “I wish I could have opened it earlier, but it was just a timing thing.”
The recently refurbished Manu’s, with its unique cuisine and comfortable environment, is located at 90 Ferry St. in Newark and is open until late seven days a week. It has a full bar and serves lunch on weekdays.
Registrations are being accepted by St. Peter’s School, in Belleville, for the upcoming school year, from pre-k 3 to 8th grade. Pre-care and after-care are available, as well as fullday kindergarten. Please contact the school office (973-759-3143), between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. for more information and to arrange for a tour of the school, located at 149 William St., in Belleville. You can also visit www.stpeter-school.org.
Presbyterian Boys-Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., will hold its annual St. Patrick’s dance on Friday, March 16, from 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are encouraged to wear green and get into the Irish spirit! Guests are restricted to teenagers only. The dance will be supervised by Thomas Fraser, Lincoln School guidance counselor and members of the Board of Directors.
The Presbyterian Boys- Girls Club will hold a Tricky Tray on Saturday, April 14. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and admission is $10. Please purchase tickets in advance, by calling Vanessa Vieira at 201-334-8336 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Newark Museum representative will be the guest speaker at the Evening Membership Department of the Woman’s Club of Arlington’s regular meeting on Wednesday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Henrietta Benstead Center.
The Kearny Public Library Children’s Room announces free events for children in March: At the Main library, 318 Kearny Ave., Preschool Play/Story Times will continue on Tuesday mornings from 11 a.m. – noon and on Thursday mornings from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
At the Branch library, 759 Kearny Ave., Preschool Play/Story Times will continue on Thursday mornings from 10:15 – 11 a.m.
The Children’s Room invites children ages 4 and older to an art class from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. Children will paint watercolor pictures while listening to different types of music. The library will provide the art supplies.
Can you imagine a flying house? Enjoy a showing of the movie “Up” on Wed., Mar. 21 from 4 – 5:30 p.m. at the Main Library. Registration is not needed for any program. For more information, visit the library on the web at www.kearnylibrary.org or call 201-998-2666.
Calvary United Methodist church, 342 Elm St., Kearny, will host its 120th anniversary celebration on Sunday, March 25, beginning with a church service at 11 a.m., followed by a buffet luncheon.
The Humane Society of Bergen County, 221-223 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst has a supply of both canned and dry dog food, free of charge, available to anyone due to unemployment, disability or any other financial situation that can not afford to feed their dog, Many brands are available, plus treats. Just stop by or call 201-896-9300. Open seven days a week.
American Legion Barringer. Walker, Lopinto Post 139, Lyndhurst, will host its annual St. Patty’s corned beef dinner on Thursday, March 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. Cost is $15 to eat in or $10 to take out. All tickets should be purchased at door. Dinner includes corrned beef, cabbage, potato and rye bread. Beer, wine, soda, dessert, coffee and tea will be included with in-meals only. For further info, please call the post at 201-933-4120,
Coping with a gastrointestinal disorder can present a number of daily challenges. Join Annette Cozzarelli, M.D., Medical Director of the Women’s Health Center, located within the Health and Wellness Center at Clara Maass Medical Center, along with a GI specialist on Wednesday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at Lyndhurst Health Department, 253 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst. They will discuss and answer your questions about debilitating chronic illnesses, as they relate to stress and diet.
The Lyndhurst Health Department will hold a Food for Thought Forum hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center. Annette Cozzarelli, M.D., Medical Director of Women’s Health at CMMC, along with a Gastro intestinal specialist, will be available to discuss and answer questions related to gastro intestinal illness, upset stomach, and the importance of regular cancer screenings. The forum takes places Wednesday, March 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Lyndhurst Health Department. Dinner will be served. Please call 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.
To register, please call 1-888-724-7123, prompt 4 or visit www.barnabashealthcalendar.org. Walk-ins are welcome.
The Lyndhurst Health Department will hold its bi-annual Women’s Health Clinic on Thursday, April 5, at 5:30 p.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination and a pelvic exam. The clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents aged 18 years and over. Please call 201-804-2500 to make an appointment.
H2Olympics!, a family festival of games, activities and projects all about water for ages 6-12, will be held on Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst. Admission is $5/ person; $4/ MEC members. For more information, call 201-460- 8300 or visit www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec.
The Meadowlands Environment Center will host “Water on Other Planets” on March 22 at 2 p.m. Join astronomer John Sloan as he explores the existence of water around our solar system, and the possibilities of it supporting life forms in space during Water on Other Planets. Admission is $5/person; $4/members of the Meadowlands Environment Center. For more information, call 201-460- 8300 or www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec
The Lyndhurst Girls’ Association will host its annual Palm Sunday pancake breakfast on Sunday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Lyndhurst Senior Center on Cleveland Avenue in Lyndhurst. Monies raised are used to maintain and operate the Libbie Lindsay Little House as a meeting place for the Girl Scouts of Lyndhurst and their leaders. Donation is $5.00 and tickets can be purchased at the door.
Mary Lou Mullins’ monthly bus trip to Atlantic City is scheduled for Sunday, March 25, going to Resorts. This month’s trip will feature a special Easter party bus. The cost is $25 with $25 cash return. The bus will leave St. Michael’s Church parking lot at 10:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served and Bingo will be played on the bus. Call Mary Lou at 201-933-2186 for more information.
The Lyndhurst High School Class of 2013 and the LHS World Language Honor Society are sponsoring a children’s Tricky Tray for grades pre-k through 4. This event will be held at the Senior Citizen Building on Cleveland Ave. in Lyndhurst on Saturday, March 31, beginning at noon. Numbers will be called starting promptly at 1 p.m.
The cost of admission is $5 per person. Children as well as their parents will require an admission ticket. This price will include a full sheet of tickets for the small prize category. Food and drinks will also be served. Therefore, outside food will not be allowed.
Please call Janet Ricigliano at (201) 935-1208 for further information.
The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst announces its annual fundraiser, “Spring Into Fashion” Sunday brunch and fashion show, on Sunday, April 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at The Graycliff, 122 Moonachie Ave., Moonachie. There will also be a tricky tray and a 50/50 raffle. Tickets are $35. For tickets, please call Rosemary at 201-935-4836 or Marge at 201-694-5976. No tickets will be sold at the door.
The Lyndhurst Health Department will hold a free eye screening on Wednesday, April 4, at 1 p.m. This exam will screen for vision acuity, visual field, and glaucoma. Please call 201-804-2500 to make an appointment.
VFW Post #3549 of Lyndhurst, 527 Valley Brook Ave., Lyndhurst, will host a “Vegas for Veterans Casino Night” on Saturday, April 14, from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $50. For more information, call 201-939- 3080 or email vfw3549@ aol.com. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
North Arlington Elks Lodge #199, 129 Ridge Rd., will have a corned beef and cabbage dinner on Friday, March 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. Cost of a dinner is $10 and a sandwich is $7.
The Queen of Peace Knights of Columbus is running a bus trip on Tuesday, April 10, to the Mt. Airy Casino. The initial cost is $32. Upon arrival at the casino, you will receive $25 in Slot Play and $10food voucher. The bus will leave the Knights of Columbus Council Hall parking lot, 194 River Rd., North Arlington, at 10:30am and arrive at the casino by noon. Departure from Mt. Airy will be at 6 p.m. and arrival back to North Arlington by 7:30 p.m.
Please bring Photo ID, which is needed to get the Slot Play money. For tickets, please contact Nicholas Cerchio at (201) 230-3428.
The Senior Harmony Club of North Arlington has scheduled a trip to the Taj Mahal on Tuesday, April 10 and a trip to Mt. Airy on Tuesday, May 15. Call Florence at 201-991- 3173 for information. Membership in the club is not necessary to attend.
Good Shepherd Academy, Nutley, is hosting lunch with the Easter Bunny on Sunday, March 18, at 11:30 a.m. Bring cameras to take pictures with the Easter Bunny. Admission is $10. Adults will be admitted free. The luncheon will begin after the 10 a.m. children’s liturgy Mass.
The Pen to Prose Writers’ Group will meet on Monday, March 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Nutley Public Library. The group was formed to read works-in- progress, share accomplishments, critique works, give writing instruction, and provide encouragement and inspiration to aspiring authors. The group is free and open to the public.
BabyGarten for infants and toddlers, from birth to 22 months and their caregivers is held at Nutley Public Library every Monday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The program includes books, nursery rhymes, playtime. Registration is required.
The library’s Monday Night Book Club will meet on Monday, April 2, at 7 p.m. to discuss “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. The group meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Newcomers are welcome.
Author Brian Haggerty will lead a discussion on his new book, “Professional and Life Skills” on Marcy 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Lyndhurst Public Library. Haggerty will offer a one-hour PowerPoint lecture to explain the basis of valuable skills to help make the best impression on others as well as a demonstration of modern dining etiquette. The lecture is open for people of all ages. Copies of his new book will be available for purchase as well as a Q & A and book signing at the end. To register, please call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7 or email romeo@bccls. org.
By Jim Hague
Before the 2011-2012 high school swimming season began, Kearny High School head coach Scott Fuchs set a goal for his boys’ team.
“We made 13 wins our goal,” said Fuchs, who recently completed his 10th year as the coach of the swim team. “We predicted that from the first day. I knew that this team overall had our best swimmers, our fastest swimmers. The whole team is made of standouts.”
True to form, the Kardinals posted a 13-3 record, the best mark in the program’s history. The only matches that the Kardinals lost this season were to teams that have club swimmers, competitors who swim all year long.
“It’s a credit to our three captains who provided great leadership,” Fuchs said of seniors Luke Miller, John Stahl and Wesley Rivera. “They had such good work ethic and it carried over to the rest of the team. They’ve been the dominant forces for the last four years and everyone had the desire to be like them. We developed a winning swim program because of them.”
Fuchs spoke of how difficult it is to have a competitive team facing squads that are able to swim all year long.
“We start racing right as the season starts and we had a bunch of new kids,” Fuchs said. “So a lot of the kids started working on their own, going to the pool on their own in the fall. It’s definitely not easy.”
But Fuchs had a sense it was going to be a fine season, when the Kardinals started to shatter school records from the outset.
“In the first meet, we broke a school record,” Fuchs said. “That showed me how ready they were and how determined they were. The first day they were competitively in the water, they set a record. It showed me how much work they put in on their own.”
The Kardinals went on to finish second in the Hudson County Public School championships to Union City and fourth overall. They won the Urban Relays and the Kearny Carnival Invitational team titles. They defeated teams like Union, Plainfield and Elizabeth that the Kardinals were never able to compete with in the past.
And when the smoke cleared, the Kardinals broke a total of eight records this season, an almost unconscionable thought.
Junior Matt Amar shattered four records – the 500-meter freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle and was part of both the 200 and 400-meter freestyle relays.
“He has a very bright future and college coaches are going to want to come and see him,” Fuchs said.
It was only the second year that Amar has been swimming. He joined the team after his older brother, Samy, a former Kearny standout, encouraged him to try the sport.
“Samy was the one who pushed me,” Amar said. “He broke a lot of school records, so when I joined, I wanted to be able to be better than him. He’s one of the best swimmers ever at Kearny, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to beat him. But I’ve already broken four records and that’s amazing. I’m really happy about that. I’m also happy with the way I’ve improved. I wasn’t that good of a swimmer last year. I think my teammates helped to push me through to get better.”
Amar knows that his future is very bright.
“I now know that I can be a very good swimmer,” Amar said. “I want to get better. I’m going to continue to work. Now that we have a good swimming program in Kearny, I want to keep it going.”
Miller was part of both the 200 and 400-meter freestyle relays that set new records.
“He’s definitely the most determined and the most disciplined swimmer we have,” Fuchs said. “He was always able to pull the others through everything.”
Miller was pleased with his performance and the rest of the team as well.
“This was the best season I’ve ever had,” Miller said. “We’ve all grown together and the depth of the team now is really great. We never had that when I started. It’s a great lasting memory to have that we did so well. It’s always good to have those memories. It’s something that’s always there. But I hope someone comes along and takes those records away from me.”
Stahl set records in the 200-meter medley relay and the 200-meter intermediate, breaking the records of Samy Amar.
“In all my years swimming, I just wanted to make it a better team,” Stahl said. “We were able to get others to push themselves this year and that’s very rewarding. It feels good to know that this was just the beginning to make this program bigger and better.”
Others to break new school records this season include Adam Coppolla, who broke the 100-meter backstroke; Mateo Caceres, who broke the 100-meter freestyle and was part of both freestyle relays; Gabriel Zanandrea, who was also part of both freestyle relays, as well as Patrick Carbajal and Sid Naik.
Fuchs knows that this team was a trailblazer for future Kearny swim teams to follow.
“They raised the bar, no question,” Fuchs said. “They set the standards that will make Kearny stronger and better in the future. We’re a team, a force to be reckoned with now. These kids helped to put Kearny swimming on the map.”
By Jim Hague
When Steve DiGregorio stepped down as the head football coach at Nutley High School at the end of the 2011 season, ending a sensational eight-year reign as the head coach at his alma mater, he made no bones about who he wanted to fill his shoes as head coach.
DiGregorio, who resigned to spend more time with his family, recommended his defensive coordinator and good friend, Tom Basile, to take over.
Last week, the Nutley Board of Education agreed with the former coach and appointed the 50-year-old Basile as the new head coach.
Basile has spent the last eight years as an assistant coach under DiGregorio and knows the kids, the program and the system.
“I’m just going to try to continue where Steve left off,” Basile said. “We want to keep the program going and keep all the hard work that Steve instilled into the program. He was the one who took the program to the next level.”
Basile, who has previous head coaching experience at Bergenfield, Boonton and Barringer, before coming to Nutley to join DiGregorio eight years ago, was happy to know that he had the backing of both DiGregorio and athletic director Joe Piro.
“It was very rewarding to know that they had that kind of confidence in me,” said Basile, who was the head coach at Barringer when they snapped a 56-game losing streak in the late 1990s, ironically defeating Nutley to snap the slide. “Just knowing that they were in my corner meant so much to me.”
Basile has enjoyed a rich coaching career that spans almost three decades. A native of Fort Lee and a graduate of Fort Lee High School, Basile started his coaching career at the now-defunct Paul IV High School in Clifton, then moved to Hoboken High.
From there, Basile went to become an assistant coach at Hasbrouck Heights, where he also became the head wrestling and baseball coach. As a wrestling coach, Basile had incredible success, winning four NJSIAA District and two state sectional championships.
Basile then started his head coaching career on the gridiron, leading Bergenfield for two years, Boonton for two and finally Barringer for four. Basile remains a teacher at Barringer.
“I was pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish at Barringer, having two 4-6 seasons my last two years,” Basile said. “I think that’s what prompted Steve to ask me to come to Nutley and join him.”
Basile was a major part of the rebuilding of the Nutley program, as the Maroon Raiders qualified for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs five times in eight years and advanced to the state championship game in 2010.
Now that the Maroon Raiders are established as a solid program, Basile wants to make sure it remains that way.
“We’ve virtually kept the same staff that we’ve had the last couple of years,” Basile said. “The kids are very happy about that. We’ve had kids who played a lot of playoff football in recent years, but we also have a lot of inexperienced players. A lot of them will play varsity football for the first time this season. But we have a good program and we’re fully capable to keep things going.”
Basile said that he never dreamed he would become a head coach ever again.
“I was happy being an assistant coach,” Basile said. “I didn’t think I’d ever be a head coach ever again. But I have to admit, it’s a little exciting. I’m enjoying a little bit of a rebirth. I really wanted this, but I probably wouldn’t want to coach anywhere else.”
Basile is not about to upset the cattle cart and institute new strategies for offense and defense. He knows that the Maroon Raiders, who finished 6-4 last season, have won 22 games and lost only 11 over the last three seasons. No need to change anything.
“Everything is going to continue to be the same,” Basile said. “We’re going to have the same spread look offensively, with the no-huddle look. I might infuse a little more option, but that’s about it. I don’t anticipate having many changes.”
Basile knows that this challenge will be different than his last three head coaching stops, where he had to rebuild entire programs.
“It’s the exact opposite now,” Basile said. “We have an established program here. We’re not starting from Ground Zero. I think we all have a feeling of confidence, because of where we’re starting from. It takes away a lot of the stresses and the interior pressure.”
Athletic director Piro is happy with the appointment of Basile.
“Tommy is a proven head coach and he’s been a big part of our success for a while,” Piro said. “He was a big part of turning this program around and a big part of the success. We interviewed some great candidates, but Tommy stood out. We’re excited about what he’s able to bring to the table. I think it was the right decision for a lot of reasons. Our program didn’t need to be rebuilt. It’s not like it had to be torn down and built up again. We expect Tommy to continue the success we’ve had. He’s a quality guy with good character. He’s the kind of guy we want to have around our kids.”
Basile definitely has a challenge ahead of him. Because of the Maroon Raiders’ success in recent years, they have been moved to a different division of the Super Essex Conference, as the lone Group III school facing Group IV powers like Livingston, East Orange, Montclair and parochial power Seton Hall Prep.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I told the kids up front that we’re going to be ready for it,” Basile said. “There are a lot of challenges coming up.”
Another challenge will be no longer facing Belleville on Thanksgiving Day. The rivalry will continue, but will kick off the season this season instead of being played on Turkey Day. So Basile’s head coaching career at Nutley will begin against the neighboring rival. Losing the Thanksgiving Day game might hurt the traditional football fanatics, but it’s more than likely better for the players involved.
That might be the only big change that will take place in Basile’s tenure as head coach. The rest, hopefully, will remain status quo. If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it. Basile knows that better than anyone.
Miss March Madness, will head to NIT in rare home game instead
By Jim Hague
Ever since the Seton Hall Pirates lost their last two regular season games to Rutgers at home, then a 28-point shellacking at the hands of DePaul on the road, there was all this speculation about the Pirates’ chances of earning a berth into March Madness, namely the NCAA Tournament.
The Pirates defeated Providence in the opening round of the Big East Tournament, then lost to eventual champion Louisville in the second round. The speculation continued. Are they in? Are they out? In? Out?
Two expert bracket predictors, Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, had the Pirates in all week. So that had to bring some hope to the Pirate faithful, who have not experienced the NCAA Tournament since 2006. It also had to bring hope to the Pirates themselves, especially seniors Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore, who never got a chance to experience March Madness during their time in South Orange.
So the Pirates waited and wondered. As the other leagues were holding their respective tournaments, the Pirates had to hope some of the other so-called “bubble” teams lost in order to secure a clear path to the Grand Dance known as March Madness.
Sunday night, the bubble burst.
The Pirates did not receive an invitation to the Dance. They were once again left on the outside looking in. They were not as secure in their place, even with a 20-12 record, as the bracket experts believed.
“Of course, I’m very disappointed that we’re not going to the NCAA Tournament,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Sunday night in a conference call. “We thought we had a legitimate chance. The (NCAA Tournament) committee has a very tough job. It’s hard to go through everything and make sure the right teams are in.”
Willard said that he felt especially bad for the Pirates’ seniors.
“They took it hard,” Willard said. “They took it really hard. And it was tough to console them. It was really an emotional time for them. Both of them gave so much to us and this program. Both overcame tremendous obstacles. I wanted it for them more than anything.”
It’s really not a consolation prize, but the Pirates will now move on to the National Invitation Tournament, where they will get a rare treat.
The Pirates will face Stony Brook in the opening round, but the game will be played at the historic Walsh Gym on the South Orange campus. Only the Seton Hall women regularly play at Walsh.
“We’re excited to still be playing basketball,” Willard said. “I’m really looking forward to playing in Walsh. I love the Prudential Center (in Newark). It’s one of the main reasons why I took the job here. It’s a great venue. But for us to get an on-campus game is tremendous. I love Walsh Gym and the history of it. I’m excited about being in Walsh.”
Willard was asked what he can do differently to prevent another NCAA Tournament snub.
“I seriously think we have to change the way we do scheduling,” Willard said. “We’re not going to play away games and stay at home until the conference (Big East) games begin. We put together a good non-conference schedule this year and I thought that would work out for us. But playing tough non-conference games hasn’t helped. We only lost one game out of conference to a good Northwestern team, but that competition didn’t help us. So I’m going to take a look at it to see if we don’t have to leave the state of New Jersey until the Big East schedule starts.”
There was another slice of irony. It appears as if the at-large bid that Seton Hall was battling to receive went to Iona instead. Willard left Iona to come to Seton Hall two years ago.
“I’m ecstatic for them,” Willard said. “It’s incredible for them to get an at-large bit. Four of those guys I recruited there, so for obvious reasons, I’m happy for them. It’s tremendous for their program.”
Willard was asked if he could determine why the Pirates were left out.
“Unfortunately, they looked at the last two games of the season (losses at home to Rutgers and on the road to DePaul) and not the whole season,” Willard said. “It’s tough to play on the road in this league. It’s almost impossible to win.”
However, losing and getting humiliated by the league’s worst team by 28 points are two totally different things.
“After struggling in the middle of the season, we came back and beat Pittsburgh and Georgetown,” Willard explained. “We went to the RAC and beat Rutgers, which isn’t easy. But I guess they looked at the last two games and decided that’s who we are, when obviously, it’s not who we are.”
The Pirates will now get a chance to prove the NCAA committee wrong with a solid performance in the NIT, but that won’t lessen the sting that players like Theodore and Pope are experiencing right now. There’s nothing like March Madness and they once again won’t get that chance.
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