By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — St. Augustine Prep boys basketball coach Paul Rodio was all business on Monday night as his Hermits visited Egg Harbor Township for a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference showdown. And, in typical Rodio fashion, he let his team know after the game that he was none too happy about their execution, despite a 48-37 victory over the Eagles.
But, several minutes later, in front of a host of local sports reporters, the veteran coach got a little more introspective — and emotional — when talking about a win that put Rodio in rarified air. The victory was the 900th of the legendary coach’s career, and he took several moments to gather himself before starting to answer reporters’ questions.
“The whole day, I’ve gotten phone call after phone call from former players, and the emotion has caught up to me. I didn’t think we played very well tonight, but it’s a long time and a lot of things — it’s my family, my coaches, it’s the school. I’ve been lucky. Anybody who does any profession for 41 years, anybody who is doing that, and is successful doing that, for that period of times deserves a lot of credit because it’s hard to do anything for 41 years. I think it’s great, the fact that I’ve been able to touch a lot of lives and impact a lot of kids positively — the fact that I’ve been able to do that is great. Winning a couple games along the way is the gravy part of it. It feels good, the phone calls I got today and the things that some of the people said over the years, all the things, the good, the bad, the indifferent, it’s exciting,” Rodio said. “I have to give the credit to everybody. The school has been tremendous and has supported me since Day One. If you can get involved with a place that’s going to support you, it’s easier. I’ve got assistant coaches who are head coaches, and when you have that there’s enthusiasm in the gym. I’ve been lucky to be around great people and great situations.”
“We missed a lot of shots. I’m looking at my sheet, and in that third quarter we had seven missed defensive rebounds where we couldn’t just secure the rebound to get us a possession. But I’m proud of my guys, they played hard, they are learning, they’re buying in — but hats off to coach Rodio. Nine hundred wins is nine hundred wins — I don’t care where you are or where you coach, 900 wins is unbelievable. I honestly can’t (put it into perspective). I have 15 wins. Obviously, I didn’t want it to happen on our court, but much respect to him. He’s one of the most respected coaches,” said Eagles coach Cameron Bell. “When I got the job here, he was one of the first coaches to reach out to me. Coach Rodio reached out to me and brought me into the CAL family. And with 900 wins, you don’t need to do that for anybody, but it speaks to his character.
“He never gives up and his players are just like him. They never give up, they always stay in it,” Bell added. “They look to him for instruction, and they believe and listen to every word he says. He makes adjustments all the time. Whenever there is a timeout, I know they are going to make an adjustment, it’s just a question of what exactly it’s going to be. You never know with him.”
St. Augustine (12-2, 5-1)jumped out to an early lead, but EHT (4-9, 1-4) fought back to within 16-15 heading into the second quarter. But the Hermits built up their lead in the second quarter behind senior Marlon Hargis, who nailed a big 3-pointer, and forward Charles Solomon, who scored a late bucket in the paint to give the Hermits a 29-18 lead.
EHT, however, refused to go away, and cut the deficit to 37-31 on a putback by Amari Rex, but again Hargis was there for the response. His inside bucket made it 39-31, and early in the fourth quarter two straight putbacks by Solomon pushed St. Augustine’s lead to 48-37. Solomon led the way for the Hermits with 15 points, while Hargis and Jordan Kendrick each added 13. Jordan Sweeney paced EHT with 13 points, while Jovany Perdomo added six.
“It’s been amazing. Nine hundred wins is a great achievement for him, and I’m glad to be a part of it. When it’s a day like today, you just want to play hard for coach Rodio and try to execute what he wants. We didn’t do that completely today, but we got a win and we got it done,” Hargis said. “He’s one of the best coaches in South Jersey history. He’s helped me develop as a player. I’m just happy to be on this team and be a part of this. On a daily basis, off the court he’s a cool guy, he’s funny, but when we’re in the locker room he may switch up and he’s not as nice sometimes. But he’s a great guy. He knows so much. He has 900 wins, so just to try to pick his brain every day — not even in basketball, just in life, to be able to learn from someone with so much experience is great.”
“To be 41 years in and still have the same passion — I believe one of the quotes (in a story about him) was about him having the same relevancy and passion 41 years in, and that’s just an amazing testament to him,” Bell said.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays