WHITPAIN >> When it comes to coaching greats, Montgomery County has been blessed with more than its fair share: from baseball icon, Tommy Lasorda to Olympian turned championship track coach Josh Culbreath to Geno Auriemma, who redefined the gold standard in women’s collegiate basketball.
These legends and many of their distinguished colleagues from a variety of sports are all members of an elite club, the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame, which celebrated its unveiling in the spiffy new confines of the Montgomery County Community College Health and Sciences Building, Oct. 3.
Through the concerted efforts of the hall’s advisory board, contractor Griff Finnegan and MCCC officials and staff, the monument to the county's greatest coaches was recently transplanted from its original home at the former Greater Norristown Police Athletic League.
The new, more accessible hall consists of rows of gleaming plaques featuring the likenesses of each member coach and a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.
It sits auspiciously across from the weight room at the state-of-the-art facility, providing inspiration through it’s “legacy of leadership” and plenty of wall space for the next generation of standard bearers for coaching excellence.
“What we saw here tonight is an incredible manifestation of hard work and volunteerism,” said advisory board member Geoff Brandon.
“What you have is an all-volunteer board, that for 17 years has honored the leadership in coaching that pervades Montgomery County. And during that span of time, we’ve had 65 legends of coaching enshrined in this hall of fame.”
“This doesn’t happen though, without the cooperation of Montgomery County Community College. We ’re especially grateful to (MCCC) President (Dr. Kevin) Pollock, the college’s board of trustees, to their amazing administration, faculty, and staff for getting this all together. This was a warm welcome and we’re incredibly grateful.”
“I also want to recognize the leadership of the coaches Hall of Fame, our President Dale Hood, his Vice Presidents Jim Serratore and Tom Brady, our Secretary-Treasurer, Tony Leodora. They put in countless hours to make all this happen for the coaching community because they love what coaches do. They love how they help kids in our community, and what they’ve done is special. And we’re very grateful as an organization, as a group of volunteers, to be able to call this our new home.”
Hall of fame members Bob Schaefer, who compiled a 757-163 record as head coach of Cheltenham High's girls basketball team, including league, district and state championships and renowned track coach Bob Shoudt, who is also a member of the Delco Athletes Hall of Fame and will soon be inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame were also in attendance along with Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, the MCCC basketball team and the school's Mustang mascot.
Gale thanked the advisory board and the college and talked about the positive impact participation in sports has on young lives — including his own — and “the coaches that make it all possible.”
“They take time out of their busy schedules to coach the teams, to coach the practices, and that’s a big commitment,” said Gale.
“But they do it because they’re passionate about all the positive attributes that come out of youth sports — developmental skills, organizational and time management, health and wellness, the importance of discipline and self-confidence. It’s a tremendous asset to the community.”
“This is kind of inspirational for everybody,” said Pollock, who thanked the basketball team for attending.
“This is something to aspire to. We’re proud of our athletes that are here and it means an awful lot to us,” he continued, noting the “teamwork that went into putting this together.”
Pollock said he looked forward to working with hall of fame’s board on future projects and made special mention of two inductees with direct connections to MCCC: 2007 lifetime achievement award recipient Jim Randolph, who led MCCC’s baseball team to two community college championship and also served as the college’s golf coach before becoming the director of athletics, and Auriemma, the 2012 lifetime achievement award inductee, who attended MCCC in the early 70s — and even met his wife there — before going on to a storied career that includes 11 national championships as head coach at the University of Connecticut and two Olympic gold medals.
This year not only marks a new venue for the hall but a new venue for the organization’s induction banquet, which will be held for the first time at Presidential Caterers in East Norriton Nov. 10.
In what’s sure to be a sell-out event, legendary Super Bowl winner and former Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil will be the guest speaker as North Penn High School Football Coach Dick Beck, retired Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Wrestling Coach Bob Lorence, Jenkintown High School Girls Basketball Coach Jim Romano and North Penn High School Track Coach Richard Swanker take their rightful places among Montgomery County’s coaching elites.
In addition, the newest members of the Community Coaches Honor Roll will be recognized for their tireless volunteer work in youth sports, and the Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Bruce Williams who spent 28 of his 44-year career as an NCAA football official, reffing some of the association’s marquee matchups.
“As far as the board goes, we do the easy part. These coaches have done the hard part all these years, we just put their name on a wall,” Leodora said in closing remarks directed at the MCCC cagers.
The other hard part, he said, is the “unbelievable ” dedication Dr. Pollack, the Montgomery County Commissioner's and others put into providing opportunities and making the county a better place to live, work and play.
“You’ve got a lot of people behind you," Leodora said. "There’s so much you can do. I hope that one day we see one of your names on this wall.”