Confessore returns to take over Harrison boys’ hoops job

Over his storied and historic career working in the Harrison Board of Education, from teacher to administrator and finally assistant superintendent of the district, Fred Confessore has handled a variety of roles along the four decade journey, including a stint as the head boys’ basketball coach with the Blue Tide.

During his coaching days as head coach from 1980 through 1991, Confessore guided the Blue Tide to the old Bergen County Scholastic League divisional title and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group II state title in 1991.

That championship season featured a super talent in John Enright and an even better talent in Ray Lucas, who went on to play football at Rutgers and eventually the National Football League with the New York Jets.

But after that championship year, Confessore decided to step away from coaching basketball at the high school and went to work with the younger kids. Confessore was behind the development of the International Youth Basketball (IYB) program in Harrison Recreation _ the equivalent of the more recognized Biddy basketball for kids just learning about the sport.

Under Confessore’s guidance, tutelage and leadership, Harrison captured the IYB state tournament in 1994.

But after that win, Confessore walked away from coaching.

“I took a little time off,” said Confessore, who was serving as the assistant superintendent of schools at the time. “I needed to step away a little.”

That was, until two years ago, when former Harrison High School boys’ basketball coach Bill Mullins lured Confessore out of retirement.

“I just had retired from the Board of Education after 43 years,” Confessore said. “But when Billy took the job as head coach, he asked me if I could help out. So I volunteered coaching with him.”

For the last two seasons, Confessore worked as an assistant varsity coach as well as working with the freshmen and junior varsity programs.

“I’d rather be sitting on the bench than sitting in the stands,” Confessore said. “I was glad to help out.”

Confessore was also a dutiful assistant because his son, Charles, was a center on the team. Charles Confessore stood out as a major presence, considering he stands 6-foot-9. He has graduated from high school and will attend Penn State-Abington in the fall and might join the basketball program there.

Confessore has another son, William, who will be a junior on the basketball team at Harrison this upcoming season.

At the end of last season in March, Mullins called Confessore and told him that he would not be returning as the head coach for the 2018-2019 season.

“I told him that I didn’t know who was going to put in for the job, but I decided I would give it a shot,” Confessore said. “I didn’t even think twice. I was interested in it. I figured I had a shot.”

Sure enough, at age 66, Confessore is proving that you can go home again _ even though he really never left home.

Last week, the Harrison Board of Education officially approved the hiring of Confessore as the head coach, returning to the position 27 years after he last held it.

“I’m excited about it,” Confessore said. “I don’t know if things have changed a lot, but I’m excited about the opportunity and can’t wait to get started with the kids.”

Confessore feels like he truly never left Harrison and the athletic program. After all, he’s spent the last two seasons with the junior varsity, so the players are familiar with him as a person. Now, they’ll get to see what he’s like as the head coach.

“Being back with Billy, I felt comfortable with the kids,” Confessore said. “I think I have a lot left to offer. In the past, I found myself coming to games, sitting in the stands and coaching while I was just watching. Even watching college games on television, I was always coaching. I grew up in Harrison. I never had a day in 43 years where I didn’t go to work. I was retired, but I still found myself going to the school and helping out. I never felt like I left. I like being involved and I think that’s the main reason why I wanted to do it.”

Confessore and his wife own the Sub Station Grille and Café on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard, so he spends most of his days cooking and cleaning at the family business.

But once November rolls around, Confessore will find the time to be in the gym and working with the Blue Tide. Making sandwiches and scrambling eggs will have to take a backseat to making offensive sets and scrambling defenses.

“I really like this group of kids we have,” Confessore said. “We have a good group of juniors coming back. There are some really good athletes in Harrison. The kids all know me and that will make things easier.”

Confessore said that he doesn’t plan to change the style of play that the Blue Tide played under Mullins. The former coach liked to press and trap on defense and run the floor on offense. But the Blue Tide lost 1,000-point scorer Timothy Daniellan to graduation, so they have a little work cut out for them finding someone to put the ball in the basket during crunch time.

The Blue Tide posted an 8-18 record last season, so Confessore is up against the wall right away to improve the squad.

“I like to play that style, run and jump on defense and play a little fast on offense,” Confessore said. “Of course, we want to play under control. I don’t want them throwing the ball around and turning it over. We’ll figure things out. A lot of things depend upon the personnel that we have. We were young last year, but they gained a lot of experience, so that will help. We have to protect the ball better and try to score off steals and turnovers.”

Because of the timing of the hiring, Confessore didn’t get a chance to address the returning players and set up a frame for summer league play. For instance, the Kearny summer league begins play this week and Harrison has not been included in any scheduling because there wasn’t a head coach. Confessore will see whether there is time to get the Blue Tide involved in an organized summer league.

But Confessore is back in the position he once held more than 30 years ago.

“I’m excited about it,” Confessore said. “I really am. Right now, I’m thinking about running drills and designing plays. I don’t know if things have changed a whole lot since when I first started coaching. It’s still basketball. I always said that if I could find the time, I’d love to coach again. Well, I have the time.”

And the Blue Tide had an opening. In that respect, then welcome back Coach Confessore.

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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.”