Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Record

Everywhere Jeff Horohonich goes, winning seems to follow him.

Making a name for himself while at Immaculate Heart — where he won seven state softball championships from 1987-2003 — “H” as he’s better known, developed a reputation as one the best softball minds in the state.

Just as Horohonich turned IHA into a perennial county and state title contender, the sixth-year Immaculate Conception coach is doing the same with the Blue Wolves.

On Saturday, Horohonich reached another coaching milestone, picking up win No. 500 in his illustrious and record-setting career with a 4-0 win over Secaucus.

“I’ve been truly blessed with great talent and great girls who work hard,” said Horohonich, already the winningest softball coach in Bergen County history who also has 400-plus career coaching wins in basketball. “The thing we built up at IHA was because of all the hard work the kids and my assistant coaches put in. We brought it over here and it’s been the same thing. We have good assistants and the kids bought into what we believe in. It’s a family-type atmosphere.”

Immaculate Conception principal and long-time friend Joe Azzolino has known Horohonich for 20 years, dating back to 1993 when the two coached girls basketball together at IHA. Azzolino considers “H” family and knows him as well as anyone.

He hired Horohonich (also the school’s athletic director) because he was “someone I can trust” and had “full confidence in him to run our athletic programs the right way.”

“I think the bottom line is that he is, and always has been, in it for the kids,” Azzolino said. “He’s never been one to talk about his own accolades, or about how many championships he’s won. For him, it’s all about the relationships he’s built over that 500-win time. The girls he has coached, my sister being one of them, can call on him in a heartbeat and he’ll be there for them. And that’s from 20 years ago. He had some great years at IHA, and now he’s building the same thing here. That’s a big reason why we brought him here.”

Horohonich has guided his teams to 16 sectional titles, seven state championships and six Bergen County crowns. After going 7-7 in state finals during his tenure at IHA, he’s 0-2 at Immaculate Conception — something he’s hoping to change in the near future.

“I have to get back to .500 [in state finals],” Horohonich said with a smile. “But really, the philosophy we developed at both places is the same. Both places, the girls just want to succeed. They just want to win. At IHA, we won 12 sectional titles in a row and no one wanted to be known as the team that broke the streak. Here, once they got that feeling the first time, they wanted it again.”

Horohonich, 51, admits he has no idea how much longer he’ll continue to coach, but has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

“As long as it stays fun and we keep getting great kids and great parents, that’s the most important thing,” Horohonich said. “You never know how high this could go. Maybe I’ll be 70 and they can wheel me out to third.”