Harrison’s Ferriero actions beyond belief

In today’s new-fangled world that is dominated by social media and the little catch-phrases and abbreviations that come with cell phone texting and I-Pad and I-Phone mania, there was one that was predominant last week, when word of former Harrison head football coach Tom Ferriero’s plight trickled out.

All one needed to text last week was the word, “Ferriero,” and you would have all received the same response.


If not that vulgar and graphic saying, then perhaps maybe a little softer text using the letters, “SMH.”

It means “shaking my head” or “scratching my head”_ as in disbelief and shock.

In any case, the events of Aug. 5 have everyone involved in Hudson and Bergen County sports _ and beyond _ doing the same thing, shaking their heads and offering that three-word vulgarity. There’s not enough Selsun Blue to halt the scratching.

Because no one _ including members of Ferriero’s close circle of friends and even his own family _ can believe what has transpired.

Before that fateful Friday, Ferriero was perhaps the hardest working man involved in Hudson County sports. Outsiders used to marvel at Ferriero’s endless energy. He would bounce from one practice to umpiring a baseball game, then back to another practice, time and time again.

It was unconscionable the way Ferriero worked. If he could go 26 hours in a 24-hour day, he would do it. That’s how dedicated and devoted of a man he seemed to be. His energy clock was timeless. He kicked the Energizer bunny’s ass in terms of going and going and going.

And it was all good, mind you. All good.

For the last few recent years, the 50-year-old Ferriero was an assistant football coach at Lincoln in Jersey City, helping mold that program from the dregs of the inner-city to one of the powerhouses in the state. He was the dedicated girls’ basketball coach at Snyder, watching that perennially moribund squad show signs of life after all this time.

And somehow through it all, Ferriero found the time to be a highly respected baseball umpire, working some of the best high school and college games in the northern New Jersey area.

Even after all that, Ferriero would find himself at high school and college games, supporting his players in other sports, monitoring their progress and making sure they did the right things.

There was a story about Ferriero spotting one of his basketball players out where she shouldn’t have been, then giving her five minutes before he tried to beat her back to her home where she was supposed to be.

That’s how dedicated Ferriero was. He wanted the best for his players. He wanted his football players to achieve academically and wanted his basketball players to improve in order to get a shot at college life. He was good for high school sports, so good.

But it all went away on that fateful afternoon, all thrown away, forcing everyone to utter the same phrase _ “WTF.” As in, what was Ferriero thinking? What was he doing?

Here are the facts, according to Harrison police reports:

At 7:54 p.m., Harrison police were dispatched to Hamilton Street and Kingsland Avenue on reports of a hit-and-run accident involving multiple cars.

A Harrison Board of Education van was crashed into five parked cars, the last being parked at Kingsland and Hamilton Street. When police arrived, they found coach Tom Ferriero, just six months into the tenure of the job he felt he always wanted and was finally able to handle, standing outside the damaged van.

According to the report, Ferriero was “unsteady on his feet and slurring his words.” When Ferriero was asked if he had been drinking, he admitted to police that he had “three beers.” The report also said that Ferriero smelled of an odor of an alcoholic beverage.

At that point, assisting Harrison police asked Ferriero to conduct field sobriety tests, which he could not do successfully.

Harrison police found out that Ferriero took the van without permission from his father, a Board of Education employee, who had been assigned permission to use the van.

A witness said that Ferriero was traveling westbound on Hamilton Street when it struck a vehicle parked at 752 Hamilton, a 2014 silver Honda. Ferriero continued to drive the van on Hamilton, when the van struck another parked vehicle at 736 Hamilton, this one being a 2010 Toyota. The suspect vehicle then apparently made a U-turn and proceeded east onto Kingsland Avenue.

From there, the van struck a third vehicle located in front of Harrison High School, a 2013 Jeep. After striking the third vehicle, the van veered across Kingsland Avenue striking the fourth vehicle head on, a 2007 black Ford. Ferriero then apparently got out of the van to retrieve the front right tire that had been ripped off during the accident.

Back at police headquarters, Ferriero submitted two samples of his breath for analysis. The test result was a 0.11.

Yes, “WTF” indeed.

Incredibly, Ferriero was reached via telephone a few days after his arrest. He was asked if he wanted his attorney, Brian Kernan, to speak on his behalf and he said that he would speak with me, considering we had known each other from my days at St. Peter’s College and the Hudson Dispatch.

In fact, Ferriero and I coached against each other on several occasions _ and I always ended up on the losing end of the stick.

Anyway, Ferriero said he would talk to me about this latest indiscretion that ended his coaching career.

So I asked the first question, the one that everyone is asking: “What were you thinking?”

“I honestly have no clue,” Ferriero said in an exclusive interview. “I took my father’s keys and then made a very egregious mistake. I remember everything. I remember crashing, but I don’t know why I crashed. I was just going to the store to get a sandwich. I didn’t think anything would happen. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe this is God’s way of telling me to stop.”

When I asked stop what, I followed it up with another question.

“Do you have a drinking problem?”

“I don’t have a drinking problem,” Ferriero said. “Look, I’m not going to sit here and shirk responsibility and hide underneath the ground after this. I made a big mistake. It’s really unfortunate. I put so much time into my career and threw it away. I tried to be a better man.”

Ferriero resigned as football coach at Harrison last week.

Calls to athletic director Kim McDonough Huaranga, asking about Ferriero’s replacement, were directed to Superintendent of Schools Frederick Confessor’s office.

The football team was slated to meet the new coach Monday. Again, the team trudges on with another coach. They’ve now had four different coaches over the last four years. The revolving door has to stop.

They thought they had one of their own in Ferriero, but he took the van and drove that job away for a sandwich.

“I have to take responsibility,” Ferriero said. “Other people in sports get chances. I have to move on with my life. I’m devastated about this. All the things, like coaching, that I just took for granted are gone. I really have to work hard now to become a better person because of this. I have to do the right thing. I have to make sure I make retribution. I’m just glad I didn’t hurt anybody.”

Retribution is repairing the five parked cars he hit _ plus the Harrison van, because Ferriero faces an assortment of charges, including driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended driver’s license. That’s going to be tough.

“I’m being brutally honest,” Ferriero said. “This is the one thing that blew up in my face.”

And for that, there will be no recovery _ and that’s a shame, because Ferriero is a good coach, but more importantly, a good man. Now, he has to forget about the former and concentrate on the latter.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”