Millar gains induction in NJSIAA Hall of Fame


He’s spent nearly the last 50 years in some capacity helping the kids of Kearny.

For 44-plus years, John Millar was a teacher, coach and administrator in the Kearny school system

And for the last few weeks, people have taken the time to acknowledge Millar’s incredible journey, his fantastic voyage as one of the most successful soccer coaches in New Jersey high school soccer history.

It’s all coming to an end this week. As the schools close for the Christmas holidays, Millar would have boxed up all his memories and achievements, taken down all the pictures that adorned the walls of his office. He’s retiring his position as the Kearny High School athletic director after serving in that capacity for the last 12 years.

Before that, Millar was the head boys’ soccer coach, winning an astounding 547 games, including nine NJSIAA overall Group IV state crowns, 13 state finals and 18 North Jersey Section 1, Group IV titles, etching his place in state and local history forever.

Millar is already a member of several different Halls of Fame, including the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame since 2010. Millar was also inducted into the Kearny High School Hall of Fame and the Kearny Soccer Hall of Fame, no easy feats in their own rights.

But last Monday, Millar added the NJSIAA Hall of Fame to his already overflowing resume of honors.

Millar received his award at the Pines Manor in Edison, right in the middle of the state governing body’s monthly meeting and annual awards presentation to athletic directors.

Millar was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with former New York Mets’ ace left-handed pitcher Al Leiter, former basketball great Milt Wagner, Olympic athlete Dr. David Sime (posthumously), basketball legend Ron “Itchy” Smith and football coaching legend Ed Stinson, who had a brief two-year stint as head coach at Queen of Peace in 2008 through 2010.

“I thought it was really nice,” said Millar, who shared the day with his wife, Barbara, daughter Meghan and sons Scott and Michael, as well as an assortment of players and assistant coaches that he worked with over the years. “It proved that I have a lot of nice friends. There were also a lot of former players there.”

Millar said that he was particularly pleased to meet Stinson, with whom he had very little contact prior to last Monday and of course, Leiter, who was an incredible high school pitcher at Central Regional High School in 1984, once striking out the ungodly total of 32 batters in one single game that of course went to extra innings.

Millar and Leiter seemed to strike up a kinship together and were joking and kidding with each other throughout the ceremony.

“It was nice to have the chance to talk to people like Eddie Stinson and Al Leiter,” Millar said. “I told Al that I would be able to hit his curveball. He just laughed. He is just a nice guy. I was able to just sit and talk with him, like he was a long-time friend. I know a lot of the guys from the NJSIAA who were there, like Steve Timko, Jack DuBois, Larry White, guys who have become good friends over the years.

Added Millar, “It was just a great day and just a tremendous honor. I only have a few days to go as athletic director, so this culminates everything for me. For me to be in the same vein with Al Leiter is truly remarkable.”

Millar said that he was particularly pleased to be able to share the award with his family in attendance.

“That was real important for me,” Millar said. “It was great that they all could make it. Meghan is now at Temple (in charge of all the tickets for athletic events). Michael has a job locally and Scott is in the district (as a teacher and coach). So it was great that they were all there.”

Bill Galka, Millar’s long-time assistant and current head coach, was in attendance, as were other coaches in the district. It was truly a Kearny celebration for one last time for a Kearny legend.

“When you throw in this luncheon, the retirement becomes a very humbling event,” Millar said. “You’re sitting on the dais with Al Leiter and people representing Milt Wagner. Those are guys I watched on television. I think the one thing we all had in common was that we all had successful high school careers inside the state of New Jersey. It’s a state that keeps producing great athletes and coaches. We have such a wealth of talent in our state in all sports. A day like today is proof.”

Another slice of proof is that Ian Harkes, the son of John Harkes, who was a player for Millar in his budding days, was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Tournament last week. John Harkes went on from Kearny to the United States National Team in 1990, helping to put Kearny on the map as “Soccertown, USA,” along with goaltender Tony Meola and midfielder Tab Ramos.

Meola, also a member of the NJSIAA Hall of Fame, played for Millar at Kearny, while Ramos went to St. Benedict’s Prep. But all three played on the same World Cup team together, representing Kearny in a gigantically huge way.

Millar’s involvement with Harkes and Meola as youngsters helped to nurture a day like the one Millar savored last week with his family.

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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.”