North Arlington mourns the loss of their dear ‘Fergie’ — Bill Ferguson, long-time teacher, counselor and coach, dies at 85

To many outsiders, Bill Ferguson was a charismatic and energetic basketball coach, who would flamboyantly complain about officials calls by flailing his arms and stomping his feet. Ferguson gave the impression that he was a madman.

“He was crazy,” said Dave Walsh, one of Ferguson’s best players at North Arlington High School. “He was super energetic. He was a bigger than life coach. When the switch went on, he was ready to go.”

“He was very intense,” said Bill Ferguson, Jr., known as Billy during his playing days for his father. “He thought every possession was extremely critical. Whether you were down by 10 or up by 40, he coached the same way. It didn’t matter. He was very tough on his players.”

And in particular sometimes, his own son.

“There was one time when we were having practice and he came right up to me,” Bill Ferguson, Jr. said. “He said, ‘Get out of the gym. Your game is trash. And don’t go out the front door. That door is for Vikings. You go out the side door.’”

Well, that approach didn’t go well with Ruth An Ferguson, Bill’s wife for 62 years.

“When he came up for dinner, Mom took his dinner and threw it out,” Bill Ferguson, Jr. said. “That’s trash. Well, we laughed about it for the next 40 years.”

The laughter in the Ferguson home now in Ocean Grove on the Jersey shore came to an end last Wednesday, when Bill Ferguson, known in beloved terms in North Arlington as “Fergie” died after a battle with lymphoma. “Fergie” was 85 years old.

Bill Ferguson became North Arlington’s favorite son in the 1950s, when he was a three-sport standout, in particular baseball, for NA. He went on to Upsala College and graduated with a BA in Business Administration.

Fergie then left to serve his country as a captain in the United States Marine Corps. After his tour of duty serving as the officer to look after air traffic control in the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., Fergie began his ascent to be what he always wanted to be – a teacher and a coach.

Ferguson spent two years as a teacher in Kearny High for two years and returned home to North Arlington in 1963.

He coached all sports at North Arlington, but was known mostly for his basketball coaching prowess. He replaced the legendary Albert Ruckel as the head coach of the Vikings and remained as the head coach for 26 years, winning more than 300 games. The Bill Ferguson Christmas Tournament, held every year in North Arlington, is obviously named after him.

Larry “Skip” McKeown was perhaps Fergie’s closest friend in recent years. He played for Fergie at North Arlington and was his main assistant coach for many of those 26 years.

“He was an interesting study,” McKeown said of his friend. “He had more costumes than anyone. We had some great teams together. He would tell you that he won all the games and me and Joe Tosies (the other assistant) lost the games. He knew what the situation was and was able to handle it.”

Ferguson is survived by his wife, Ruth An, his sons William and John, and his daughters, Patricia, Lea An and Kristen.

Bill Ferguson will be waked at the Ely Funeral Home in Neptune Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the Funeral Mass will be Thursday at 10 a.m, at St. Paul R.C. Church in Ocean Grove.


We will have more about the life of Bill Ferguson and his impact on North Arlington in next week’s editions




North Arlington lost a legend last week with the passing of Bill Ferguson, a long-time teacher and coach in the high school. Photo courtesy of Bill Ferguson, Jr



Bill Ferguson (shown here center) was a life-long fan of the New York Mets, shown here by him wearing a bold Mets shirt. Photo courtesy of Bill Ferguson, Jr.






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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.”