Forenza attended Klein School, graduated from there, went to North Bergen High School and Montclair State College, then returned to Klein School to embark on a teaching and a coaching career.
His entire life has been dedicated to Guttenberg and to education.
But almost totally unknown to some, there was and is another side to the mild-mannered life of Joe Forenza.
At one time, he was a very talented basketball player, setting an assortment of records at North Bergen High School. He could have had a longer playing career, but an injury while attending Montclair State put a halt to all of that.
Forenza was also a highly successful basketball coach for many years, first at Klein School, where he built an elementary school powerhouse, then as a dutiful assistant at two Hudson County high schools, first Marist of Bayonne and later at Union Hill.
Last Thursday night, Forenza took his place among the all-time greats in Hudson County history, as he was inducted into the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame at the 17th annual induction dinner and ceremonies at the Casino-in-the-Park in Jersey City.
Forenza was one of 17 Hudson County sports greats to earn induction into the Hall of Fame this year. He was the lone representative from Guttenberg.
"This is an honor I will cherish forever, coming from a person I admire and have admired for a long time," Forenza said after receiving the Hall of Fame award from legendary North Bergen football coach Vince Ascolese, who served as the evening's Master of Ceremonies. "Coach Ascolese was someone to look up to when I was in North Bergen High School."
Forenza said that basketball was always in the family genes, that his father, Patrick, and his uncle were both standout players at St. Joseph of the Palisades and members of that school's Hall of Fame.
He also told the audience of nearly 500 in attendance that he also had coaching in his family lineage.
Between him and his cousin, Maria Nolan, the former volleyball coach at Secaucus who is now coaching at Immaculate Heart Academy in Bergen County, the family won a total of 18 state championships.
"But Maria won 17 [at Secaucus, a state record] and I've got one," Forenza said.
Forenza was an assistant coach at Marist when the Royal Knights won the 1992 NJSIAA Parochial B state title and played in the Tournament of Champions final.
Forenza recalled his playing days at North Bergen, where he was coached by one Hall of Famer in the late Matty Sabello and assisted by another Hall of Famer in Randy Chave. During his senior year, Forenza averaged 23.5 points per game, the second highest in Hudson County behind Memorial's legendary Jackie Gilloon. One game that season, Forenza lit up the scoreboard for 51 points in a win over Hoboken. Ironically, Forenza was in pursuit of the single-game county scoring record at the time, a record held by assistant coach Chave, when Chave was a player at Emerson.
"I had 31 points after three quarters and Coach Sabello took me out of the game," Forenza recalled. "In the fourth quarter, Coach Chave walked down the bench and told me that I was coming close to his record. He said, 'If anyone is going to break my record, it might as well be you.'"
Forenza finished the game with 51 points, two shy of Chave's record - a mark that fell a few years later when Danny Callandrillo entered North Bergen High School and scored 64 points in one game for the Bruins in 1978. Forenza finished that season with a new school record 516 points, another mark that Callandrillo eventually shattered.
One season in college
Forenza played one season at Montclair State College, but a shoulder injury ended his playing career. He returned to his native Guttenberg to begin his teaching and coaching career after graduating from Montclair State. He was the long-time head basketball coach at Anna L. Klein School, guiding the team there to some remarkable numbers. During his tenure, the team posted a 252-15 record, had a streak of 166 wins at home, and had four straight years from 1986 through 1989, where Klein was undefeated, winning 155 straight games overall.
Some of Forenza's best players during that stretch included John Giraldo, Randy Encarnacion, Alvaro Mejia and Pablo Carrasco, all of whom went on to play NCAA Division I college basketball.
Forenza spent nine years as an assistant coach at Marist and another three as the assistant coach at Union Hill. He was overjoyed to have the head coaches at each school [Mike Leonardo at Marist, Dave Settembre at Union Hill] at the induction ceremonies Thursday night, along with a host of dignitaries from Guttenberg, including Mayor David Delle Donna.
"I was fortunate to be able to work with Mike and Dave during my coaching career," Forenza said. "I am very happy that so many people from Guttenberg came to support me. Not many people realize all the good that people in Guttenberg do for the children of Guttenberg in terms of recreation and especially basketball."
Jim Hague can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.