by Darren Cooper – Record Sports

Well, continuing with my list theme for the next couple of days. One thing I always thought would be interesting would be to make a list of the top most influential people involved in North Jersey athletics. This is totally subjective of course. But putting together something like this – remember, it’s the end of the year and all journalists are required to make lists – can be informative.


I guess first you have to explain how you define influence and power. Basically, who controls things in North Jersey HS athletics. I mean, there are a lot of great athletic directors out there, and great coaches, but there are also organizations: the Big North Conference, the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference. Both counties have coaches associations (Bergen has boys and girls). Don’t forget the media – we do count for something. In a way, this list was kind of easy. Legendary athletic directors usually trump legendary coaches, but then there are those people who are involved in more than one thing. For example….David Frazier is not just the AD at Rutherford, he is also the President of the NJIC and now, the President of the NJSIAA. He has the direct ear of NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko. That equals influence on a lot of levels. He’s pretty high on the list. Also, keep in mind, this is a list for Dec. 29, 2012. Its the end of the year, and people are still talking about football season, and basketball season has started. That certainly has influenced me today making this list. If I were to do this list at the end of the school year, it might be different. Hey, on my list, Nunzio is 10 (not to give anything away), had BC won the state championship….he might be higher, you know what I mean? I also thought it would be interesting to point out maybe a few people on the periphery, sure, you should know a lot of names on there, but maybe not all of them. There are probably a few more like that out there who I don’t know, or I misjudge what they really do.

Who missed the cut? I started with like a handwritten list of about 25…I posed the question on twitter and got a few very good responses. Then….I called someone pretty high on the list and he gave me a few other ideas. I also spoke to my boss, who gave me a few ideas. At the end, I came up with a list of 40.

Ok, who tied for 41st place? Mike Glynn – Ridgewood track coach Brian Rodak – track official/organizer Louie Lazzari – The one and only “Screwy Louie” is the authority on wrestling in New Jersey and proud Cliffside Park alum. Cheryl Gambuti – Maybe your first who is this? But she is a very important gymnastics power, and in gymnastics….judges have all the power. Sam Bruno – Tenafly BOE member, and a keeper of the Thanksgiving football flame. Tara Madigan – Northern Highlands girls soccer coach, won last 2 state titles…hey, she’s higher on the list if they win 3, you know what I mean? Darren White – Coach of everything at Saddle Brook (asst. football, girls hoops and softball) and also director of Bergen softball tournament Steve Silver – IHA girls soccer and basketball coach. Widely respected for his approach to game. Francesco Peta – Swimming coach for Wyckoff Sharks club team. Jay Mahoney – His voice is a North Jersey legend enough, but also extraordinarily successful cross country and boys bball coach at Bogota Jerry Emison – One guy I wanted to put on the list was Bert Ammerman, who just did everything up at Northern Valley and, while Bert is still involved, I think Jerry has more filled the Northern Valley AD emeritus role recently. He’s also Mickey Corcoran’s good friend and driver. Tony Gonzalez – Tony’s name came up on Twitter, and he deserves some recognition for what he has done at Ridgefield Park for years. Maryann Goodwin – The Pequannock softball coach has had incredible success the last three seasons.

Now, the Top 40, counting down. And yes, I will give a little opinion/explanation why. Again, this is all strictly my opinion.

40. Mickey Corcoran. Mickey will be 90 in May, but is still around the sports world that he loves. He is still called the Mentor by many. Remember, the line of coaching goes….Lombard-Corcoran-Parcells-Belichick. So yeah. He’s still got it. 39. Bob Reiss. He runs the Ice Vault, and in ice hockey, you need ice time. His place also hosts the Bergen County Tournament. 38. Joe Dziezawiec. He runs the Passaic County Coaches Association web site, which if you have never seen it….well, you should. Its an incredible resource of information past and present. Joe has done a great job of compiling it all. 37. Rich Smith. The Northern Highlands field hockey coach is Mr. Field Hockey in Bergen County. He keeps records, stats….more people should know what a good job he does. 36. Jason Schlereth. The AD at IHA, and also the head swim coach for the Blue Eagles, and he crosses over and coaches swimming at Bergen Catholic as well. IHA has a incredible roster of talented coaches and Schlereth is in charge. 35. Greg Bailey. Hmm, you may not know him, but you have seen him. Bailey is an assigner, he is a football/basketball ref in North Jersey and he’s also on the NJSIAA executive committee. 34. Karla Mixon. Ridgewood girls lax coach. The Ridgewood girls lax program has become the standard for North Jersey and New Jersey. 33. Chuck Johnson. Ridgewood football coach. I swear I didn’t do this intentionally, have these two back to back, but Chuck has been a coach in Bergen County forever and his opinion is taken very seriously. He has also mentored several other coaches/ADs that work in the area. 32. Drew Gibbs. Ramapo football coach. Just like Johnson, a well-respected, highly-regarded coach and person. I knew him when he coached wrestling too….Drew has a big job and has done a great job with it. 31. Beth Powell. Demarest/Don Bosco volleyball coach. I don’t know how to explain Bergen County’s dominance in NJ volleyball, but I do know that if I had 1 person to point to for being the reason, it would be Beth. She set the standard and still does. 30. Jabrill Peppers. Paramus Catholic junior. My only player on the list, and he could have been higher. He transfers from Bosco and helps make Paramus Catholic champions. He’d also be the first to deflect the credit to his coaches and teammates, but you’d have to be blind not to see Peppers’ impact. 29. Ed Kraumer. Former Tenafly AD, now on the Jambo committee. Still a very well-respected voice among coaches and current ADs. 28. Greg Butler. Demarest AD. One of the keepers of the baseball flame in Bergen County. Also a tremendously successful coach. 27. Jeff Horohonich. Immaculate Conception AD/head softball and basketball coach. I didn’t know where exactly to put H on this list, but I knew he belonged. In just a few years he has helped turn IC into a serious player for state and county titles. 26. Sharon Hughes. Passaic County Tech AD. Sharon also works for a bunch of NJSIAA committees and is an important leader in Passaic County. 25. Jacob Brown. Ridgewood girls track/cross country coach. He’s just a legend…I don’t know what else to say. He has won everything there is to win and his methods and coaching style are unquestionable. He’s a jewel. 24. Ron Anello. Ramapo AD. Maybe quietly, Anello has put his stamp on the Ramapo athletic program which remains one of the finest in NJ. This past fall, the Green Raiders won state titles in boys soccer, gymnastics and football. He also called me by the wrong name last time I saw him (more proof that I am like No. 756 on this list). 23. Scott Mahoney. Pompton Lakes football/wrestling coach. Has led the Cardinals to two sectional football titles, and is also an incredible wrestling coach. 22. Jerome Smart. Teaneck boys basketball coach. I mean, he takes over for Curtis March you know, and the Highwaymen just keep on trucking. 21. Frank Salvano. St. Joe’s baseball coach/referee. Salvano is one of a kind in North Jersey. He’s taken up the Joe Cervino role as a link to North Jersey’s wondrous past, but he’s also progressive and always struck me as someone who wasn’t afraid of the future. He’s adapted with the times….not every coach does. 20. Joe Lennon. DePaul AD, NJSIAA exec committee member. Joe is another one with plenty of credentials on the wall and he is an important voice down in Robbinsville. 19. Lou Fraulo. Track Official. I struggled where to put all the track officials on this list, track and XC are so big….and when Lou Molino passed away a lot of Molino’s responsibilities went everywhere. But Lou is maybe the most important of the bunch now. 18. Paul Heenehan. Ramapo girls soccer coach. I would put Paul and Salvano kind of in the same boat. They are part of the incredible history of Bergen County athletics, but  Heenehan has also gone with the flow. He is a wonderful speaker, tireless worker and completely a class act. 17. Jeff Jasper. Pascack Valley girls basketball coach. I don’t think any explanation is necessary. All I will say is every time I get a text from Jasper, I write back right away. He is the epitome of what HS kids should get from a coach. 16. Jack McGovern. Bergen Catholic AD. You know, some people are lucky in that they find jobs that just fit them perfectly. Jack is the perfect Bergen Catholic AD. He is a parent, a fan, an administrator, an ambassador for his school. He is not afraid to give his opinion (and be quoted)….he’s guiding one of the crown jewels of New Jersey athletics and pushing it farther and farther. 15. Brian McAleer. Don Bosco AD. Well, yeah, I did put Jack and Brian next to each other on purpose. Brian oversees an incredible sports program, and has been integral in pushing Bosco to new levels – not just in football – but all sports. He’s also helping shape the next decade at Bosco with stadium renovation plans. He’s got a lot of ideas, he loves his school and is energetic. 14. Paul Puglise, Jamboree Chairman. The Jamboree is unlike any other event on the North Jersey calendar, and Puglise has the final word. 13. Bob Williams. Northern Highlands AD. Boy, he has a tough job, but does it well. Remember, it was his idea for 5 classes for public school football in NJ. 12. Mike Miello. Wayne AD. What hasn’t Miello done in his career in athletic administration and coaching? Now he is tasked with the important job of finding a new football coach for Wayne Hills. 11. Stan Fryczynski. NJIC Executive Director. Stan is the former AD at Secaucus, and now runs the NJIC. He is incredibly media savvy, and has great connections all over with his track background. 10. Nunzio. Bergen Catholic football coach. Ok, now we are starting to get to the people you would expect. Nunzio really could be higher when you think of the impact he left at Bosco as AD and offensive coordinator. He’s found a new home at Bergen Catholic and has the Crusaders on the right path. 9. Melissa Landeck. Old Tappan volleyball/softball coach and BCWCA President. Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t expect Melissa to be so high, but being President of the BCWCA is a very big job. Throw in her success as volleyball coach and Melissa is one of the most important people in North Jersey. 8. Jim Vail. President of Paramus Catholic. Vail may be behind the scenes a bit at Paramus Catholic, but he obviously controls the direction of that school and the athletic program. When we talked recently, we discussed where PC football will go from here and he has some very clear ideas on the role of HS sports. He may be a bit of a contrarian, but right now PC is riding high and his voice and leadership is more important that ever. 7. Bill Vacca. Bill is one of those “hands in everything” guys in Passaic County, North Jersey and New Jersey. He’s the former AD at Don Bosco Tech and the way he has stayed involved in athletics is just amazing. He loves it. I’m not sure what official title he holds, facilities manager at Passaic Tech….he’s on the executive committee of the NJSIAA, he’s part of the Directors of Athletics Association of NJ, he might even make the beefsteak at the Brownstone. I dont know. Nothing big happens in Passaic County without his involvement. He’s also smart, tireless, and the person ADs and coaches in Passaic County look to more than anyone else. 6. Evan Baumgarten. I will be honest here, when I was discussing this list with one of my colleagues, they thought Evan should be No. 1. Maybe he should. As boys soccer coach at Ramapo, Baumgarten has created a model program that has been tremendously successful. He’s also helped grow the sport of soccer throughout North Jersey. He’s also now the President of the Bergen County Coaches Association and he has helped the BCCA expand some of its offerings for coaches and student-athletes. He’s very well spoken, calm and a very good leader for the BCCA. 5. Mike Quick. Hey there has to be room for some media on this list, right? MSG Varsity’s Mike Quick is synonymous with sports in the tri-state, not just New Jersey. Its a big deal for kids to be on his show (look no further than Darius Hamilton last year), its a big deal for coaches to talk to him. I think he knows all the secrets! And that’s coming from someone who knows a few. His presence alone gives events a big-game feel. 4. Denis Nelson. The AD at River Dell and the President of the Big North. How important is Denis? Well, in 2 weeks, Bergen, Bosco, Joes…and maybe Paramus Catholic will ask the NJSIAA to start football season a week early. Nelson will be their main spokesperson down there and throw the weight of the Big North behind the proposal, (which means it will likely pass). He was also integral in the NJSIAA passing the rule to allow the non-public schools more out of state games. He’s partly a politician, but he has to be. But he’s also found a way to bring together a lot of different schools and interests. Running the Big North isn’t easy (1 minor quibble is I wish the Big North web site was a little better – the NJIC is really good), but Denis is making it look like it is. 3. Tony Karcich. Just at the last minute here, I have reshuffled my top three, but I won’t say how. Karcich….I mean, what more do you have to say? He’s got the No. 1 football team in New Jersey and the respect of all of his peers. Heck, did you know Tom Coughlin texted him after Thanksgiving? That’s pretty cool. He is also the AD at St. Joes and oversees a pretty successful athletics program, although I’m sure he wishes it were better in some sports. He’s also on the football committee down at the NJSIAA, and that is a big deal. Tony has won a lot of games and made a million friends. I struggle to come up with a superlative that fits. But he’s one of the great ones….and I think he’s got a good 5-10 years left. 2. David Frazier. The Rutherford AD, and President of the NJIC and President of the NJSIAA. North Jersey sure doesn’t have to worry about being represented (and listened too) down at the NJSIAA any more. Frazier is the one involved now. Obviously, his word carries a lot of weight. He is thoughtful and smart. What I like about him is I believe he truly cares about student-athletes in NJ and the challenges they face. 1. Greg Toal. Well….I have to think about what to say here. You know, on the surface, maybe Greg Toal doesn’t have the sway he used to. Or maybe you just don’t think about it. And his team did not win a state championship this season. However. Toal can point to an incredible record of success. He’s the only person on this list with 2 national football titles. He get interviewed by Fordham last season, remember? That’s how big he has become. (I also think losing 3 games will motivate him tremendously for 2013). But I think where Toal has had the most influence is two-fold. 1. The work and demands he puts on his kids. Toal’s practice habits are now copied all over. His ability to motivate HS kids is unparalleled. 2. Also, when Toal and Bosco sought games outside of New Jersey to test themselves against the rest of the nation, it raised the bar for not just HS football in New Jersey, but, every single sport in this state. IHA sends its volleyball team to Chicago, the softball team plays in Syracuse, there are track and cross-country meets all over the nation with NJ athletes. Wrestling? NJ kids travel the country to do that as well, and its not just non-public schools doing this. And listen, I know that type of travel went on before, but not to the level it does now. To me, that can all be attributed to Greg Toal, who is Bergen County born and raised.