With the Final Four this weekend, former basketball players relive their own dreams and for many, their own accomplishments.
Rightfully, much of the intrigue and interest surrounding San Antonio burrows deep into the four surviving and thriving programs, and each of the team’s coaches.
Of course, only an elite few coaches step onto the stage of the Final Four, but that doesn’t mean the coaches who don’t enjoy the One Shining Moment shouldn’t feel the accolades and admiration.
And this is so true for the many high school coaches who choose not to pursue their craft in college.
Fittingly, two days after the national championship game Monday night, one of South Jersey’s great basketball coaches will be honored by his peers.
Former Camden Catholic coach Jim Crawford will be cited as a “Legend” by Coaches vs. Cancer on April 4.
Crawford, who coached the Irish for over three decades after starring at Bishop Eustace Prep and LaSalle University, will be recognized for his contributions to the game and mentoring players at the second annual Coaches vs. Cancer High School Legends Dinner Wednesday at the Great American Pub in Conshohocken.
Crawford, who retired as the head coach of Camden Catholic a few years ago, will be lauded along with three other Philadelphia area coaches: Lower Merion’s Gregg Downer, Downingtown East’s Bob Schnure and Simon Gratz’s Bill Ellerbee.
Also, the great Dick Jerardi, a friend to so many area college and high school coaches, will be honored for his contributions as a college basketball writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. Jerardi, an avid horseman, too, retired this year after three decades of entertaining and informing Philadelphia sports fans and readers.
The importance of honoring – and thanking – these legendary coaches can’t be overstated. Like Crawford retiring, even the great ones don’t coach forever.
Consider, just in the last month, three Philadelphia/South Jersey icons in coaching announced their resignation.
John Giannini, the former Rowan coach who led the Profs to the Division III national title in 1996, resigned as the head coach of LaSalle. Also, Fran Dunphy announced he will retire after next season as the head coach of Temple. And, Camden coach John Valore resigned after the season.
Surely, the resignations of Giannini, Dunphy and Valore touch all of us South Jersey basketball fans and followers. Truly, the connections with these respected and beloved coaches is tangible and familiar for so many.
And, perhaps that is why when a coach resigns or a coach like Crawford is honored, the moment and also the memories are so meaningful. The connections matter.
I mean, just consider with Crawford: His son Kevin (now the head coach of Eastern) played for Giannini at Rowan, he was an Explorers teammate with Dunphy and with the Cherry Hill Rookies of the old Eastern Basketball League and he coached against Valore for most of three decades when Camden Catholic and Cherry Hill East played – many years twice a season in the old South Jersey North Conference.
Remember, even the greatest high school coaches like Crawford, who won three Group A state championships, seven South Jersey crowns and 10 Olympic Conference titles in his 713 wins over 35 seasons, step aside, like he did for his son, Matt, to take over as head coach of the Irish.
Of course, Matt is following his father’s large footsteps as he won the Group A South Jersey title this year with four underclassmen starting.
So, you can help honor Crawford and the other coaches this week and also raise money for Coaches vs. Cancer by contacting Camden Catholic assistant coach Joe Murtin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also tickets, which are $75, can be bought at www.main.acsevents.org/legendsdinner or contact Alyssa Spiotta at Alyssa.Spiotta@cancer.org or 215-985-5356.