By Kevin Callahan
His proud and loyal legion of former players call it the “Rose Factor,” believing they had an advantage over every team they played because of the preparation, knowledge and love of the game instilled in them by their coach Tim Lenahan.
And although the loveable Lenahan passed away over a decade ago, the “Rose Factor” is still alive.
Lenahan’s contagious passion for the game extends from the elementary school gym and outdoor basketball courts at St. Rose of Lima in Haddon Heights to coaching benches in the NBA, Division I college basketball and throughout South Jersey high schools.
The legendary Lenahan’s coaching tree spreads to Sixers assistant Billy Lange, La Salle assistant Matt Brady as well as scholastic head coaches Chuck Guittar at Lenape, Kevin Crawford at Eastern and his brother, Matt, at Camden Catholic.
“What Timmy did for all of us is share the love of the game and we all have that,” Brady said. “It’s a neat thing all of the coaches have that have come out of that program.”
The passionate and compassionate Lenahan was 47 when he died in February 2005, leaving behind his wife, Lisa, their sons, Taylor and Connor and their daughter Morgan as well as hundreds of former players who adored him.
Guittar, Brady and Brian Morehead, who was the Courier-Post Player of the Year in 1985 for Paul VI, were all pallbearers at his funeral. There is a unity among his players that is as tight as the laces they tied on their sneakers before games.
“I feel that way with all the guys who used to come up to St. Rose and play pickup – I feel like we have this special bond,” Guittar said. “We beat each other up, but at the same time we all became friends and pull for each other.”
Lenahan graduated from Paul VI in 1977 and started coaching St. Rose that winter. Remarkably, he won almost 800 games. He developed and coached some of South Jersey’s best players, including Paul VI’s Brady, Guittar and Morehead, Bishop Eustace’s Blaine Neal, Mike Sarubbi and Scott Hardy, and Camden Catholic’s with Kevin and Matt Crawford and Eric and Nick Cangelosi.
“We have a respect for the game, that was the way we were brought up, once you cross the line it’s competitive, it’s business, it’s what you do,” Guittar said. “Once you get off the line you’re friends. You’ re supposed to have a great time.
“All of my friends are from basketball – all of them.”
“I miss Timmy so much,” Guittar continued. “He was the best
man in my wedding and he passed away a year later. He never really got to see me as a head coach. I think he would be happy.”
Lenahan ignited the “Rose Factor” despite being cut at an eighth grader from the St. Rose team. He was only 19-years-old when he started changing the lives of kids, turning them into players and men.
“I think he would be happy with all the guys he has influenced who are coaching, whether they are head coaches or assistants, and even guys people don’t talk about who are coaching travel teams,” Guittar said. “It just goes on and on, like a domino effect of all the knowledge that Timmy has passed on and keep trying to pass it on to kids, to pay it forward.”
In early January, Kevin Crawford and Guittar coached against each other. They stood on the sidelines of the Lenape gym separated by the scorer’s bench but tied together by Lenahan.
“Every time I watch Chuckie Guittar coach I think of Timmy Lenahan,” Kevin said.
Crawford said he scouted Lenape against Cherokee and saw a former St. Rose kid who didn’t play basketball but was attending the game. He said the guy just loves basketball.
“Timmy was one of a kind and he is definitely missed,” Crawford said. “My two biggest influences were my dad (Jim, the former Camden Catholic coach) and Timmy Lenahan. It’s an honor to be in this business with guys like that that made such an impression.”
Jaime Decastro, the current coach of St. Rose, was a high school assistant at Bishop Eustace under Bill Lange, the father of Billy, and at Paul VI under John Innocenzo, who also played for Lenahan.
Decastro noted other former players under Lenahan who coached on the high school level include Jim Gannon (Paul VI), Bobby Fisicaro (Pitman), Jeff Slonis (Lenape girls) and Charlie Schrier (in California).
“I'm probably missing people, Decastro said.
Lenahan, who was inducted into the Paul VI High School Hall of Fame, spent his adult lifetime giving his energy, giving his time and giving his knowledge to kids.
“He talked about his players constantly, to say he would be proud of that would be a massive understatement,” Decastro said about the coaching tree.
His friends and family give back, running the Timothy P. Lenahan Memorial Golf Outing, which provides scholarships for students entering high school or college.
“Tim was way more a humanitarian than a great coach,” Decastro said. “He could’ve coached at any level if he wanted. But in the grand scheme of things, coaching is so small. That is what I think is his main legacy in my opinion, people just don’t forget the effect he had on them.”
And Lenahan’s goodness is now touching a new generation of players in the NBA, college and in high school.
The “Rose Factor” lives.
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