Football coach honored Ascolese to be feted at NY Athletic Club gala
Oct 19, 2004
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When Vince Ascolese got involved with coaching high school football at what was then Demarest High School in Hoboken 43 years ago, he never realized that it would not only become a lifelong profession, but it would be a lifetime devotion.
It would evolve into a career that would lead to accolades, honors and prestige, one that would eventually place Ascolese among the all-time coaching legends in New Jersey state history.
For the last three decades, Ascolese has been the father figure atop the North Bergen High School football program, the mentor to hundreds of youngsters while leading the Bruins to six NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state championships. During his career, Ascolese has collected 307 coaching victories, placing him third all-time among New Jersey coaches in terms of victories.
Needless to say, it's been a storied and historic career, one that continues to grow and flourish with every passing day and every passing victory.
"Lou Gehrig said that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth," Ascolese said. "Well, I think I probably am the luckiest guy."
While Ascolese is approaching his 70th birthday, he's showing no signs of slowing down. His current team is undefeated, enjoying a 3-0 record thus far, with the Bruins well on their way to their 17th consecutive NJSIAA state playoff appearance and 28th in the 29 years of the state playoff system, all under Ascolese.
Last week, the Frank McGuire Foundation, which honors distinguished high school coaches throughout the New York Metropolitan area, decided that it was time to pay tribute to the most successful grid coach in Hudson County history.
The McGuire Foundation announced that it will honor Ascolese at its annual awards dinner, to be held at the New York Athletic Club on Oct. 28 in Manhattan.
As part of receiving the award, Ascolese will receive a grant of $10,000, which can go to the betterment of North Bergen athletics. Two other long-time New Jersey coaches will also receive that award: Vanessa Watson, the girls' basketball coach at Shabazz in Newark, and Harry Shatel, the baseball coach at Morristown.
Announced at press conference
The McGuire Foundation held a press conference at North Bergen High School last week to announce that Ascolese had been selected.
It marks the fourth time that a Hudson County coach had been selected as a McGuire Foundation award winner since its inception in 1999. Other local honorees include Bob Hurley of St. Anthony (basketball), Maria Nolan of Secaucus (volleyball) and Ed Stinson of Hoboken (football).
Warren Wolf, the West New York native who went on to become the all-time leader in New Jersey football coaching victories at Brick Township High School, has also been honored by the McGuire Foundation in the past.
Mike Quick, the host of MSG Network's popular High School Weekly show, serves on the selection committee for the McGuire Foundation awards. Quick, who appeared at the Ascolese press conference, was asked why Hudson County has been such a popular stop for selecting deserving coaches for the award.
"Some guys are no-brainers in receiving this award," Quick said. "Vinnie Ascolese is a no-brainer. I think it's because Hudson County coaches work. They're not faking out kids. They work hard. They coach the way they live. There's no nonsense. They're trying to educate kids first and coach sports second. It's definitely a special place, no question. I think Vinnie Ascolese was a natural to receive this kind of recognition long before there was a Frank McGuire award. He epitomizes what family and what sports are all about."
Robin Maffei, who is the director of development for the McGuire Foundation, said that she is always impressed when she meets the award winners from the area.
"Once the Board of Directors finds out about coaches like Coach Ascolese, how could you not want to come back?" Maffei said. "This award was a long time coming for Coach Ascolese. He's very deserving."
The Frank McGuire Foundation, named after the Hall of Fame college basketball coach who was the only basketball coach to win the National Coach of the Year at three different institutions (St. John's, North Carolina and South Carolina), was established in 1999 to honor distinguished high school coaches who exemplify integrity, achievement and continual quest for excellence for themselves and student/athletes.
Honoree coaches are nominated by their peers and school faculty and selected by a committee of respected sports journalists with experience covering high school sports in the New York Tri-State area.
In the selection process, weight is given to the amount of years served and the success on the respective field of play. The most important criteria are how well the coach upholds what high school sports can be; a teaching tool for the student/athletes, a foundation for fair and dignified competition and a way to establish discipline and building lasting friendships.
In that respect, Ascolese fits the criteria to a tee.
"I think I've been very fortunate to have been able to coach all three of my sons [Michael, Vincent, Jr. and Gregg] and to have all three of my sons coach with me," Ascolese said. "That's the ultimate. But I think of all the kids I've coached as being a part of my family. Through it all, my wife [Pat] has been there. Not only does she support me, but she lives it. I guess I'm proof that you can do anything you want in life. I love my wife, I love my family and I love North Bergen."
Ascolese was asked why he thought he was considered for the award.
"It's not so much about coaching," Ascolese said. "It's about all the other things. I've always been there for the kids. My whole career, I've had kids coming from tough lives and they've needed someone like me to be more than a coach. When I began coaching, I was a brother figure, then I became a father figure, and now, I'm like a grandfather. Those kids always needed someone to rely on. I have to be there for them and I've always understood that."
Ascolese said that when he was notified that he was receiving the award, he was floored.
"I really got chills," Ascolese said. "It's a huge honor."
North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was on hand for the ceremony as well.
"Vinnie has established a program that consistently wins," said Sacco, whose son, Nick, played for Ascolese seven years ago. "It's an award that he has earned. He's a credit to North Bergen and a credit to everyone."
North Bergen High School Principal Paschal "Pat" Tennaro called Ascolese "a true child advocate."
"Not only in teaching football, but teaching the work skills in the classroom and the discipline," Tennaro said. "He's a great father figure to everyone."
Ascolese said that he doesn't have any plans for what he wants to do with the $10,000 grant.
"I think we'll purchase things that would be a luxury for the team and not a burden to the school," Ascolese said. Ascolese realizes that this was an award that had to be shared.
"You don't get here alone," Ascolese said. "The players, the assistant coaches, my family. They deserve a piece of this."
Last week, everyone got a piece of Coach Ascolese, the true "Papa Bear" of the Bruins, who is finally getting his moment in the sun, some 43 years after it all started.
The sixth annual Frank McGuire Foundation Awards Dinner, honoring North Bergen coach Vince Ascolese, will take place on Thursday, Oct. 28, at the New York Athletic Club, with cocktails and dinner beginning at 6 p.m. For ticket information and sponsorship levels, contact Robin Maffei at (718) 762-7444. To learn more about the event, log on to www.mcguirefoundation.org.