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IN THE NEWS....
Jan 16 2013
ESPN High School Report
St. John's Foley notches 800th career win
By Brendan Hall | ESPNBoston.com
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- The seconds were still ticking, but with an 80-37 victory over Holy Name well in hand, teams began to lineup for handshakes. St. John's head coach Bob Foley brisked down the line, gave a quick handshake and quiet pat on the shoulder to Holy Name head coach Jason Chavoor, and made a swift bee-line for the locker room upstairs.
And that's how the state of Massachusetts' all-time winningest coach celebrated his 800th career victory. A subdued standing ovation from a three-quarters capacity crowd, and a brief nod of acknowledgement.
No photo ops, no banners, no streamers. In fact, the biggest photo op may have been from the student section itself, where several fans donned white shirts with "800" handwritten in marker across the front, and two others dressed up in Foley's signature attire -- short-sleeved dress shirt, tie, and pleated khakis.
Coaches are known to speak with humility in the aftermath of a milestone career victory, with cookie-cutter quotes like "It's about the kids" or "Onto the next one". But if that sequence of events right there tells us anything, it's that Foley truly walks the walk when it comes to these sorts of things.
Foley became the second coach in New England to reach 800 career wins, joining former St. Joseph (Conn.) coach Vito Montelli, who retired after 50 seasons last spring with 878 career victories and 11 state championships. Foley's career record headed into Friday now stands at 800-329, with 16 Divsion 1 Central titles and state championships in 2000 and 2009.
"You didn't have much of a reaction," a reporter told Foley outside the Pioneers' locker room.
"Reaction?" Foley said. "Well, when you coach this many games, a game's a game. This is somehwere around 1,125 games or something that I've coached. It's not that every game is a big one, but if you saw a picture of me when I win the state championship, you wouldn't see me...I think I went and sat over on the bench of something.
"I'm not a guy who's going to jump around and whatever. It's never been about me, it's about the kids. That's the way it should be."
Milestone? Forget it.
"Yeah, I guess it's a milestone so I guess it means alot," he began. "More important, we're 6-3 and we've got a good shot at districts now, that's what I'm looking at."
The biggest thing he takes away from this, Foley said, is the mark of longevity. He took his first head coaching job at Uxbridge High in 1963, almost immediately after graduating Holy Cross, then had an 11-year stint at St. Peter-Marian before taking over at St. John's in 1980, where he's been ever since.
And amidst this impressive run he's currently riding -- six straight Central Mass. titles, including four straight state final appearances (2008-11) -- he's quick to remind you of his not-so-invincible days of Uxbridge, and how he's been on the other side of the track.
Foley stepped from his social studies teacher and athletic director positions in 2010, and he's enjoying his semi-retirement. But the game still pulls him in for the same reasons he first got into if over half a century ago.
"I love it. Love the kids, love the sport of basketball," Foley said. "I guess, I spend so many hours a day now...When I taught full-time or was AD full-time, I didn't have the hours I have now. Now I have all day long, when I'm out for a three-mile walk, to think about what I'm going to do and whatever.
"I just love these kids, and to tell you the truth, one of these days I'm gonna retire. But I would really miss the kids, and miss the sport, the enthusiasm, everything you see at a game."
You can argue in turn, the young promise keeps refreshing him, too.
There is plenty of old school and plenty of unwavering routine with Foley. His patented dual-pivot offensive system is considered an artifact among this era of elaborate four-out, dribble drive-oriented schemes. His patented look -- the short-sleeve dress shirt, the tie, the khakis -- has become something of folklore.
But his core personnel belief -- the best players play, period -- has muted any conversation about retiring after a certain player's run is over. From Matt Labove to David White to Richard Rodgers, Foley has had a great streak in recent years of four-year starters giving way to four-year starters.
With this group, that promising core belongs to his backcourt of sophomore Davon Jones and freshman Adham Floyd. Typically vocal and commanding on the sidelines, Foley hasn't had to say much to the young duo, a perceived nod of confidence. Jones and Floyd combined for 17 points and seven rebounds in just over a half of action; Floyd also racked up four assists.
Coupled with a frontcourt nucleus of junior T.J. Kelley, junior Charlie Murray and sophomore and Drew Vittum, along with the expected return of senior point guard Ken Harrington from injury, can you blame Foley?
"You don't need a lot of players," Foley said. "If you can get two good players a year over four years, because I do have a history of playing young kids, freshmen, sophomores, if they're the best players they'll play...I know people will say 'Oh when he graduates, maybe it's time', and then someone else comes in, you know, so it has never become that time. And I don't see that, hopefully, for a while if I stay healthy."
So how did the state's all-time winngest coach celebrate his milestone tonight?
How do you think?
"Go home with my wife, I guess," he laughed out loud. "Like I do every game."
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Hometeam: St. John's Bob Foley two wins shy of No. 800
St. John's coach Bob Foley (T&G Staff/BETTY JENEWIN)
St. John's High basketball coach Bob Foley stored his championship and coach-of-the-year plaques, framed newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia in boxes until his wife Joan displayed them in a room in their basement a few years ago.
“He's not too happy when I bring people down here,” Joan said.
Foley, 71, would prefer to think of it as a playroom for his seven grandchildren, but the walls say otherwise. There are plaques commemorating his 200th, 400th, 500th, 600th and 660th coaching victories. The latter enabled him to pass Skip Karam, former coach at Durfee High in Fall River, as the winningest boys' basketball coach in Massachusetts high school history.
There are also plaques with photos of Foley's 12 St. John's teams that captured Central Mass. championships, plaques honoring his seven Central Mass. Coach of the Year awards, and his 1996 athletic director of the year award, posters of his two state championship teams with the names of the players, and even his football and basketball all-city plaques when he played at St. Peter's High in the late 1950s. There are also game balls and newspaper stories about his championship teams and milestone victories that friends and parents of players framed for him.
Not everything could fit, so a few of the plaques had to be hung in the adjacent bathroom. You accumulate a lot of mementos in 50 years of coaching. That's no misprint. This is Foley's 50th year as a high school basketball head coach.
Whether it makes him uncomfortable or not, Foley had better find wall space for another plaque. He's only two victories shy of his 800th, with the Pioneers' next games at St. Peter-Marian on Tuesday and St. Bernard's on Friday.
“It's nice, but it's not about 800 wins,” Foley said. “It's about 50 years of having fun coaching great kids.”
Foley's record is 798-330. He hasn't had a losing season since he went 6-16 in his first year at St. John's in 1980-81.
“People were wondering, 'Did we hire the right guy?' ” Foley said of his first year.
If anyone did, they quickly changed their minds. Foley coached the Pioneers to the Central Mass. final in each of the next two years and to the championship in his fourth season as head coach in 1984. Foley has coached St. John's to eight state championship games.
Foley was 35-86 in six years at Uxbridge High and 171-78 in 11 years at St. Peter-Marian and has gone 592-166 in 33 years at St. John's. The Pioneers, ranked No. 2 in the Hometeam media poll, are 4-2 this season after losing at Brockton, 59-51, on Friday.
“I don't feel coaching has changed at all,” Foley insisted. “The kids I had at Uxbridge were every bit as nice and as good as the kids I have at St. John's.”
One of Foley's players at Uxbridge in the 1960s, Carl Ashcraft, attends every St. John's game — freshman, junior varsity and varsity.
Foley grew 10 inches between his sophomore and junior years at St. Peter's, but was still only 6-foot-2. Nevertheless, he became an all-city center under coach Frank Oftring. Foley credits his aunt, Zita Foley, a secretary in the dean of students office, with helping him get a basketball scholarship at Holy Cross even though the basketball coaches had never seen him play.
But Oftring, who played on HC's 1947 NCAA championship team, probably played a role as well because he accompanied Foley to HC as an assistant coach. After playing little his sophomore year, Foley planned to give up basketball and play football, but Oftring was hired as head coach and promised Foley he'd give him a chance. Foley went on to start at center as a junior and senior.
Foley admitted he would have become a football or baseball coach if Oftring hadn't talked him into sticking with basketball. Crusaders assistant coach Bobby Curran taught Foley the tricks he used as an undersized center on HC's 1947 title team and Foley also learned a lot from clinics conducted by Buster Sheary, who had coached HC to the 1954 NIT championship.
Foley considers Sheary to be the most inspirational coach he ever has come across. During one clinic at the old South High, Sheary instructed Foley to play one-on-one against someone he brought with him. That someone turned out to be Celtics star Tommy Heinsohn, who had starred on Sheary's NIT title team. Heinsohn schooled Foley, but Foley took mental notes.
After graduating from HC in 1963, Foley coached varsity boys' basketball and taught math and social studies for six years at Uxbridge High. His first team finished only 3-15, but won three more games than the year before. By his last season, he mustered a winning record and reached the Clark Tournament final.
In 1969, he returned to St. Peter's as basketball coach and athletic director, and in his third year he coached the Guardians to the Division 2 state championship game where they lost to Rockland High. His Guardians won five Central Mass. titles.
In 1980, he moved on to St. John's as basketball coach and athletic director. He also taught a U.S. history class.
“It was time to make a move,” Foley said, “but it really bothered me to leave the kids I had at St. Peter's.”
Foley had spent 23 years at St. Peter's and St. Peter-Marian after it merged with Marian High, including 12 as a student. The year he left, his son Bob enrolled there.
While Foley went 6-16 in his first year at St. John's, his brother Buster replaced him at St. Peter-Marian and coached the Guardians to the Division 2 state championship game. But the following year, Foley's son Sean entered St. John's and the Pioneers began a streak of reaching the Central Mass. tournament for 30 consecutive seasons.
Foley retired as athletic director three years ago, but is in no hurry to stop coaching basketball.
“I don't coach for state championships,” he said. “I coach because I love the kids and love the sport of basketball. So how many more years? Some guy who has a seventh-grader asked me that the other day and I said, 'As long as the kids are going to listen to me and I have my health.' ”
“He can't sit still,” Joan said. “He has to be active.”
“The kids respect him,” St. John's assistant coach John Grochowalski said, “and believe me, all the other coaches in the area respect him, too, but the amazing thing for me is that at 71 years old, the amount of energy and passion he still has for the game.”
Grochowalski hates it when people think it should be easy to win at St. John's because the school attracts students from all over Central Mass.
“St. John's has a lot of good talent,” Grochowalski said, “but you still have to coach these guys. It's the same thing with Jim Calhoun at UConn and Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke. They get a lot of talent but you have to put it together. Bob Foley gets the most of his players.”
Foley watches a lot of video and still scouts opponents, taking notes longhand on offenses, defenses, inbounds plays and every player. He stores his notes on paper in folders, not on spreadsheets. He held onto every folder and videotape until Joan made him throw many of them out a few years ago.
“He'd still have them otherwise,” Joan said. “He'd say, 'You never know when you might need them,' but I was like, 'Bob, they're from 1965.' ”
On a scouting mission on a snowy night in Brockton two days before Christmas 1984, Foley suffered a broken leg and multiple facial fractures that required six hours of surgery when his car was hit by another one. Joan said one of their boys got sick when he saw his father's condition in the hospital.
Foley coached the next St. John's game from a wheelchair with the help of his assistant, Joan's brother, John Pepi. He has never missed a game as a coach in his 50 seasons.
As far as Joan can remember, she has missed only two since she began attending them in her husband's second year at Uxbridge — one when she was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat and another when her mother died.
One night in the early 1980s, Joan filled in for the official scorer and found it calmed her nerves, so she has been the official St. John's scorer ever since. The Foleys make a good team in more ways than one.
“He's very private,” Joan said of her husband. “A lot of people, when they first see him, think he's cocky and think he's full of himself, but if they only knew. He's very shy. I taught him how to talk to people. I'll talk to anybody.”
Bob Jr. has served an assistant coach under his father for more than 20 years. Joan believes her son could have become a head coach elsewhere, but is proud that he wants to remain with his father. Sean frequently attends St. John's games to watch his father coach even though he lives in Newburyport.
The Pioneers huddle at the end of each practice and say the Lord's Prayer.
“We don't pray to win,” junior center Charles Murray said. “We don't pray to play better. We pray to come together as a team. Our teammate chemistry is very high and we like to keep it that way.”
Senior captain Ken Harrington marvels at how Foley makes the necessary adjustments during timeouts.
“He's never yelling at us or anything,” Harrington said. “He's always trying to think of ways to try to help us win the game. A lot of coaches call timeouts when they're angry, but he's just making adjustments the whole time.”
On Foley's second date with Joan, he said he wanted her to meet his kids. Joan admitted she was taken aback — until he took her to the Uxbridge High gym to meet his players. Foley continues to think of his players as his kids, a second family — everyone from Uxbridge coach Mark Donahue, whom he coached at Uxbridge, to Tommy Moore, who coaches Quinnipiac University, to Rob Hennigan, a member of his 2000 state title team who is general manager of the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Joan sees no reason why her husband can't reach 900 victories someday. Just in case, the Foleys had better keep some wall space available.
All athletes and their parents, are required to take a free online concussion awareness course and return the Concussion Training Form (see below) to Saint John's High School. To access the course, visit www.nfhslearn.com. This course must be taken before a student trys out for a team. Once taken, this training is good for the remainder of the school year.
All Student-Athletes must also complete and submit the Pre-Participation form (see below for this form) in order to tryout and participate in our athletic program.
Lastly, all Student-Athletes must have a current physical examination on file in our Nurse's Office, in order to tryout and participate in our athletic program. The submitted physical exam must be current, meaning the most recent physical examination must have occurred within the last 13 months.
Concussion Training Form (submitted once a year)
Pre-Participation Form (submitted before the start of each season)