Jake McNish earns 400th career win
Weehawken boys basketball head coach Jake McNish talks to his players during a timeout during the boys basketball game against Secaucus in the Indian Classic Holiday Tournament in Weehawken on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. (Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal)Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey JournalBy

Jake McNish has been involved with coaching basketball at Weehawken High School for half of his life. Now, after 32 seasons, including the last 30 as head coach, McNish has announced his retirement.

According to McNish, he wasn’t initially sure if he was going to come back or not following the conclusion of this past season. After going away for a short period of time, he told athletic director Brian Fischer of his decision to step away.

”I’ve been coaching high school basketball since 1982 in different places. Weehawken was my only head job. So yeah, it was an emotional decision, but you know what? I’m comfortable with it,” the 64-year-old McNish said. “I’m comfortable with it and I didn’t rush into it.

”I agonized over this for a couple or three weeks and when I finally was comfortable with my decision, I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders.”

With 429 career victories, McNish retires as one of the winningest boys basketball coaches in Hudson County history. McNish’s Indians won four division titles (1997, 1998, 2003 and 2023). The 1998 team went 23-5 and won the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 1 title, defeating Cresskill, 34-32 on a buzzer beater.

To McNish, however, some of the teams he looks back most fondly on were some of his lesser ones because of the work ethic and character they showed.

”We had a lot of 20-win seasons and we had some years where we didn’t win a whole lot of games. But the one thing I’ll say is the kids were always coachable and worked very, very hard. They gave you everything they had all the time, which was nice,” said McNish. “It was not just the championship teams and elite teams. It’s been a pleasure coaching there and working with these kids.

”For me, some of the more satisfying things, seeing these kids develop into productive members of society, coming out (of high school) and staying out of trouble and getting good jobs and getting into school, whether it’s a trade school or college.”

These accomplishments, as well as several winning seasons, were done at a high school that is one of the smallest in the state. McNish didn’t view Weehawken’s small enrollment as a deterrent. Instead, the small student body in the building, which also holds the seventh and eighth grade middle school students, allowed McNish to develop a relationship with everyone as either a coach or educator for the 29 years he was a physical education teacher in the building.

“In the gym you get to see every kid, every day. So you get to see the kids in the seventh and eighth grade, you start to forge a relationship with them and get to know them. I have some great relationships with kids that I didn’t even coach. It is a unique community over there. They’re very supportive of the school and the athletics and I can’t say enough good things about the community. They were very good to me.”

McNish, a former standout at Kearny, spent several years as an assistant coach for football and softball in his younger years. There was even a year when he served as the tennis coach after the initial coach left in the middle of the season.

It was that tight community environment that led to McNish turning down bigger jobs over the course of his basketball career.

It was why the decision wasn’t an easy one for McNish, but ultimately, he knew it was time.

”I just felt like it’s time for me to do some other things that I like to do. I love to fish. I want to travel and see the United States,” McNish said. “I just felt like it was time for me to do some things for me and if, in a year or two, if I get the itch and somebody will have me, maybe I’ll coach. I don’t know. But for right now, I’m very comfortable with the decision I made.

”Am I going to miss it? I am going to miss it, but I also think it’s time for me to do some other things.”