Who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? Santa Hague knows

Well, believe it or not, it’s that time of year.

It’s time for the jingling of bells and the wishing of good cheer. It’s time for caroling and joyous celebrations. It’s time for Michael Buble to pretend like he has friends so he can have a special on television. It’s time for Ariana Grande to flash another engagement ring.

Yes, it’s once again Christmas time, boys and girls. Even in a pandemic year, it’s time to judge who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. It’s time for Santa Hague to reach into his giant bag and give presents to deserving local sports figures.

So without further ado, here’s the Santa Hague Gift Column for 2020. Ho, ho, hardy ho ho.

We will start geographically south and work our way with the sleigh northward.

In Harrison, athletic director Kim McDonough would like a football coach who stays around for longer than a cup of coffee. That school changes grid coaches more than I change my undawares.

For dedicated coach Nick Landy, a great team to coach once again. No one deserves success more than my man Nick.

For the first family of West Hudson soccer, the Ruseks, how about a striker that can score 30 goals – and then stick around long enough to celebrate the goals? Losing Mustapha Sowe this year set the Blue Tide back and they never really recovered.

While we’re on the subject of the Sowe family, Santa has older brother Omar receiving a call-up to the Red Bulls main squad in 2021 and scoring a few goals, becoming the first homegrown Harrisonian to play for the Red Bulls.

Harrison basketball coach Jose Camano will get a handful of wins more than last year and maybe get a hard-working, sharp-shooting, slick ball handler that plays a lot like Jose Camano.

Harrison’s native son Dustin Huseinovic will finally get a chance to shine on the football field with a spring football season, thanks to the pandemic. But Huseinovic will make the most of the switch to spring and flourish after all that time off. Huseinovic does so well that he starts to draw interest from the pro scouts.

For baseball coach Jairo Mendez, an actual season this spring. Having last spring off because of COVID-19 drove Mendez out of his mind.

For retired AD Jack Rodgers, one address in Seaside Park will suffice. Rodgers used to bounce around from place to place like a wicked Spaldeen.

For retired school official Alan Doffont, all the best in health. Alan always tweets and messages on Facebook about other people’s lives. How about taking care of the main one at home, namely yourself?

Let’s continue the trek north and stop at Kearny High: For girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill, some more talented players like Samantha Osorio. Last year’s team was fun to watch with Sam trolling the floor.

For boys’ basketball coach Bill Mullins, a sense of sanity after what was a trying season a year ago.

For boys’ soccer coach Bill Galka, more players to jump out of the woodwork like this year’s stud Juan Rojas. It’s not every day that a kid comes out of nowhere and scores 23 goals like Rojas did.

For girls’ soccer coach Mike Sylvia, continued success to build on his first year with the Kardinals. Sylvia did a great job with a depleted roster.

For football coach Stephen Andrews, some added doses of patience to go along with the pandemic vaccine. If Andrews can remain patient with the program, then good things will come. Santa Hague promises.

For my friends in North Arlington: For athletic director Josh Aranowicz, continued success in what has to be a mentally trying job. Josh has come in and done a very good job in his short time with the Vikings.

For boys’ basketball coach Marcello D’Andrea, a lifetime’s supply of Five-Hour Energy drink. The man is constantly working and he’s at every game, not even his own. Amazing.

For boys’ soccer coach Jesse Dembowski, more players like Tony Alho. That kid is not only a pleasure to watch, but he’s a joy to talk to.

Baseball coach Paul Marcantuono has to feel the same way about Alho. The kid is just incredible.

For football coach Paul Savage, the unveiling of a street named after him, because for Savage to win four games with that roster is like Annie Sullivan teaching Helen Keller to read and write.

For my friends in Lyndhurst: For athletic director Jeff Radigan, the reporter’s handbook for him to realize what “off the record” truly means. If someone says something to you “off the record,” it means “off the record.” Understand?

For football coach Rich Tuero, a return to the glory days and in a hurry.

For girls’ soccer coach Kim Hykey, a return to the World Series for the Yankees? Are you kidding me with that Santa?

For boys’ soccer coach Denis Jelcic, the book, “The Juggler’s Guide to Happiness,” because coach Jelcic juggles coaching soccer and coaching hockey. It’s really amazing how he does both with such ease.

For girls’ basketball coach Perrin Mosca, a return to dominance where Lyndhurst girls’ basketball belongs.

For boys’ basketball coach Tom McGuire, a heaping helping of patience through the pandemic.

Ditto for wrestling coach Scot Weaver. It seems like forever since the Golden Bears were on the mat.

For my baseball catcher Alexia Jorge, continued success and for one of the female college baseball programs to recognize Alexia’s talents and provide her with a scholarship.

For my friends in Nutley, to athletic director Joe Piro, nothing. Just realize that your hard work and dedication is appreciated in these parts. Who cares what the powers-that-be in the Nutley Board of Education believes? You are the man, Piro. Stick with it.

For baseball/basketball coach Bob Harbison, a chance to see son Matthew sign a scholarship letter next fall. That would make him the proudest papa in the land. That and the fact that he should have an excellent baseball team if the Maroon Raiders ever get a chance to play this spring.

For football coach Steve DiGregorio, continued remarkable health and success for your team. If there is proof that prayer certainly works, then all you have to do is look at Coach D, who beat cancer and returned to lead the Maroon Raiders to an undefeated season. That’s prayer for you. Pure prayer.

For girls’ basketball coach Larry Mitschow, about two more players like Blair Watson. OK, maybe three. The Maroon Raiders haven’t been the same since Blair left for Maryland.

For girls’ soccer/wrestling coach Mike DiPiano, a chance to coach his daughter Mia to glory in soccer and a chance to get one regional champ in wrestling.

For boys’ soccer coach Tom Tolve, a return to glory like the Maroon Raiders had when Tolve was a player. And that wasn’t so long ago.

For my friends in Belleville, for AD Marcellino Marra, nothing except good health and happiness. Marra and his boy Piro are doing great things at their respective schools.

For boys’ basketball coach Jim Catalano, a few more wins and a 25-point per game scorer. The Bucs were that close last year.

For football coach Jermain Johnson, just a handbook to keep notes on “How to become a solid winner every year.” It appears as if the Bucs have turned the corner toward respectability.

For boys’ soccer coach Gary Polewka, another state sectional championship to match the one the Bucs won last month.

For baseball coach Joe Sorce, a few more wins for the Los Angeles Rams. Santa Hague needs to keep all those in Ram Nation happy and healthy.

For volleyball coach John Spina, just keep doing a great job. Coaching both the boys and the girls will be more of a challenge this year than ever before. If there’s a man that can do it, it’s John.

Finally, for all of our great people at the Observer, especially Publisher Lisa Feorenzo and General Manager Bob Pezzolla and people like layout queen Michelle Rybeck and webmaster and editor supreme Kevin Canessa, thanks for another great year putting my words on your pages.

And for the readers of the Observer, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays and thanks for reading. We need you to keep us going, so thanks again. Santa Hague is off to spread his Christmas cheer on others. You all continue to be naughty or nice. Either one. Ho, ho, ho.




Harrison’s Dustin Huseinovic will get a football season at Pace University this spring and more recognition as being a standout football player. Photo courtesy of Pace University communications


Lyndhurst’s Alexia Jorge will get a college scholarship to play baseball. Santa Hague will see to it. Photo by Jim Hague


Nutley football will have more success thanks to Matt Harbison (18), Mitch Iaccarino (26) and Anthony Pinal (88). Photo by Jim Hague



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.”