Man, could Coach Mac tell stories.
Just like his dad.
On Thanksgiving, after beating Shawnee, Tim McAneney stood on the Lenape football field and talked about how much respect he held for coach Tim Gushue and his program. Coach Mac also explained how he could cleanly separate friendships, even family relationships, from football by telling a story.
He said when his older brothers, Vince and Gary, played football at Bishop Eustace and faced Pennsauken every Thanksgiving, how his father used an “over and under” double-team to cover his one son at wide receiver and “run right at him” when the other son was on defense.
McAneney laughed and then said his father ran “right at him, too” when he played for the Crusaders against his dad’s teams later as a linebacker for Clyde Folsom at Eustace.
However, McAneney didn’t have to add after each of those games, how his father gave his sons a big old handshake and pat on the back and told them how well they played and then basically picked up loving his sons following the two-and-a-half hour break to play a game.
You see, a young Timmy Mac learned early from his dad that you had to separate football from family - on game day … for a few hours.
And so he is.
McAneney decided to separate family from football, though, and not just on Friday nights but on every night. The popular McAneney resigned Tuesday a few weeks after leading the Indians to their inaugural South Jersey championship.
Yeah, Coach Mac could tell stories just like his famous father, Vince McAneney. And, the son also could draw up X’s and O’s and win football games like the legendary Pennsauken coach.
“For me,” McAneney said about the stories, “it is the connection to my dad.”
We talked for a swift and entertaining hour and forty-five minutes on Friday about football and life and his dad and both of their story telling. Their stories were both more like parables since you learned something from their words besides being amused.
McAneney said he could’ve spent another hour talking, telling stories of his dad, on Thanksgiving on the Lenape field after beating Shawnee. He couldn’t, though. He needed to rush to his family dinner. Dad duties called.
Now there won’t be any more rushing from game to home, from work to practice, from between his love of football and his love of his family.
Anyone that remotely knows McAneney just knows he couldn’t cut back and spend more time with his family and still coach. Winning is too hard in high school on any level, but multiply that degree of difficulty in the biggest school South Jersey Goup 5 and the unforgiving West Jersey Football League American Division.
But even if McAneney didn’t face one of the state’s toughest schedules each season, he still couldn’t coach without being all in. That’s how he saw his dad coach while sitting on the lap of Dwight Hicks during bus rides to games as a kid, growing up on the Pennsauken sideline, calling the newspaper for his father to get scores of Camden High and Woodrow Wilson and Camden Catholic games on late Saturday afternoons in the fall.
“I truly believe it is mind, body and soul,” McAneney said about coaching football.
“In a weird way, it just absorbs you,” McAneney continued. “It doesn’t have to, but if you want to do it right, it envelopes you.”
How to coach better, how to put his players in better position to win and how to gain an edge was always wrapped around his mind. He would think of the spreads for his punt team during conversations. He would rewind a live football game just to look at spacing. He would worry about who would be the long snapper during meals.
What really bugged him, though, was when someone close to him was telling a cool story – and he loved hearing stories as much as telling them – during the summer and his mind would drift to thinking about the opening game against Cherokee in a few months.
But McAneney couldn’t help where his mind would take him. His mind knew the price of winning never asked for a day off.
And McAneney won.
He won over 100 career games, short of his dad’s 200-plus wins, but young coach Mac had turned Lenape into a state power, which was truly a remarkable feat considering where the program had come from before he arrived after coaching at his alma mater Bishop Eustace and Holy Cross, where he also won a sectional crown.
Lenape finished 11-1 this season, having outscored their last eight opponents 320-53, including a climatic 10-7 victory over Rancocas Valley for the South Jersey Group 5 title and reversing the Indians’ only loss by the identical score.
“We had good players and good kids,” he said.
True. Running back JoJo Kellum, quarterback Matt Lajoie, two-way lineman Aaron Acosta, tight end/linebacker Mike Galaida, linebacker Zack Cole, lineman Jared Davenport and all-purpose athlete Jake Topolski were all terrific players.
But they were better as a team because they all bought in on cue from their coach.
After beating Shawnee, just a week before both teams would play for South Jersey championships, McAneney explained why his team played so hard, saying: “We talked about it, to come out and play a football game, we only get 12 of them.”
Nothing trumped a football game. Even if it meant covering a son “over and under” and “running right at them” on Thanksgiving Day.
After the Shawnee game, when asked about what it means to play for the South Jersey championship, he didn’t focus on winning the title, but instead on being with the team, saying: “We get another week to hang out with them. I’m excited for them and it’s good for us coaches.”
With McAneney spreading his unwavering love of the game - as well as his loyal and tightly-wooven coaching staff doing the same on beat - with his players, the Indians were a staggering 39-6 since 2014.
McAneney simply explained this success by saying: “We practice hard, these kids like to play football and they are fun to watch play. This group of kids play for each other. Even if they didn’t have a lot of talent, they would win because they play for each other, but you add the talent they have …”
And you add the coaching and …
McAneney is leaving Lenape in position to contend for South Jersey crowns for years. The three levels were a combined 30-1 this year.
And McAneney won his way – his dad’s way - unleashing a “pound and ground” game that beat down the will of opponents before the final score instead of yielding to the popular passing attacks.
McAneney is just 48-years-old, although his youthful appearance and his energy and exuberance makes him seem like the kid that tailed his father on the Pennsauken sideline, so he could return to the sidelines after his youngest two children – Fred and Tom, who are in fourth and eighth grades – are off to college, where his eldest two stepchildren, Shawna and Brett, are now. His wife, Tracy, enjoys him coaching, too.
But, until and if that day comes, he will be a fulltime Dad.
And, he will continue being a fulltime insurance broker for Kistler Tiffany Benefits and founder Bill Daggett, a long-time generous supporter of Ursinus College basketball.
“I’ve been fortunate that way,” McAneney said about the understanding Daggett. “He was extremely passionate with what he has done with his family business, but was also a very sports oriented guy who understood that happy workers are good workers,
“And he knew football is something that made me happy.”
Although he sells financial plans, McAneney understands the most valuable commodity in life is, simply, time. His beloved father passed away in 2016 and as much as he misses him and looked up and asked him to help, like when his team needed a first down deep in their own territory against Rancocas Valley last month – just a first down for space to punt is all young Mac asked his dad – he cherishes the time he took bus rides with his dad and followed him on the sideline at Pennsauken.
Now, he wants to give his own young sons that time.
Since he began coaching, McAneney preached to his players what their priorities in life should be: Faith, family, school, football – in that order.
And they weren’t just words for McAneney. No, words are too important to him. After all, words make up stories. And he loves hearing stories and telling them.
Faith, family, school, football. He coached those words. He lived those words.
Now he is living those words without football.
Like so many who will miss him, I will miss his stories.