After a 30-year journey coaching college basketball all over the country, North Bergen’s Greg Herenda is coming home.
The 52-year-old Herenda agreed to terms to become the new head men’s basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University and was slated to be officially introduced last Friday at a press conference.
Herenda spent the last five years as the head coach at Division II UMass-Lowell, but saw the opportunity at FDU too good to pass up.
“First and foremost, coming home is a dream come true for me,” said Herenda, who posted a 95-54 record in five years at UMass-Lowell. “To become a head coach at a Division I school just a few miles from where I grew up is incredible. It means a lot to me to come home.”
Herenda could have remained at UMass-Lowell, which is going Division I this year, competing in the America East Conference, but got a long-term deal from FDU.
“I was very impressed with the administration at FDU, especially athletic director David Langford,” Herenda said. “I’m impressed with their commitment to the program. I’m excited about taking on the challenge.”
Herenda knows that the job at FDU won’t be an easy one. The Knights were 7-24 last year and won just three games the year before.
“Winning has been done there before,” Herenda said. “The program has a great history and tradition, going back to coaches like Al LoBalbo and Tom Green. It’s been done there and I’m going to work my tail off to get it done again.”
Herenda, who grew up in North Bergen, playing basketball at St. Peter’s Prep and later Merrimack College, said that it was tough to leave Lowell. It’s where his younger brother, Bill, and former Prep great (and soon-to-be Prep Hall of Famer) Gavin Cummings played and won an NCAA Division II national championship.
“It was very difficult,” Herenda said. “It’s in my brother’s blood and my blood. I made some unbelievable contacts with players, friends, family. It’s very difficult and a tough decision. But this was an opportunity that was too hard to pass up. I have an opportunity to be a Division I head coach in my home state, with a university that wanted me. It’s a good fit. It all made sense. My family and I are excited about coming back down home.”...
When the high school baseball season started, Union City head baseball coach Chipper Benway found himself in a bit of a predicament.
“We had some seniors who didn’t have varsity experience and we had a group of sophomores who were talented,” Benway said. “So we made a commitment to playing the sophomores. We’re trying to see the bigger picture.”
The Soaring Eagles stumbled a bit in the early going, losing six of their first eight games.
“My assistant coach Nick Urbanovich and I both agreed that early April was going to be like a preseason for us,” Benway said. “We had to see what May would bring us. Would the sophomores be ready by the end of this year or did we have to wait for next year? I feel like we’re coming. I feel like we’re kicking the door in. Progress has been made.”
The Soaring Eagles currently own a 6-8 record, coming off tough losses to Bayonne and state-ranked St. Peter’s Prep.
“It’s all about whether we can get over the hump,” Benway said. “But we’re playing better now that we did early on.”
Senior Sergio Delgado has been a stalwart on the mound. Delgado threw a three-hit shutout last week against Kearny.
“He’s a two-year starter for us and this is his first year on the mound,” Benway said of Delgado. “We need him to be one of our top hitters as well.”
Senior Carlos Olivo and sophomore Noel Rojas are also quality pitchers.
Junior Kevin Perez is the catcher who, according to Benway, “has done a nice job defensively for us.”
The sophomores are in the middle of the infield, with second baseman Luis Solorazano and shortstop Danny Perez.
“We have to live through their growing pains and mistakes,” Benway said.
Senior Jose Tavarez is the third baseman and also pitches. Tavarez hit a monstrous homer last week against Kearny.
His younger brother, Josie Tavarez, is a freshman left fielder. Kevin Nunez, a senior, and Rojas have been sharing time in center field, with Adderlyn Vazquez in right.
Needless to say, Benway feels better about his team now than he did in April.
“We felt we had talent, but we just had to wait,” Benway said. “The ultimate question remains. Will this team come together in May or will it take a full year?”
It appears as if strides are being made up on the roof of Union City High…
Secaucus senior softball standout Lauren Guillen has decided to attend Montclair State in the fall. Guillen, who battled an early season illness, was weighing other offers, but decided to stay close to home…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Baseball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (12-2). 2. Bayonne (10-3). 3. North Bergen (10-4). 4. Marist (9-4). 5. Hudson Catholic (8-4).
Hudson Reporter H.S. Softball Top Five: 1. North Bergen (9-1). 2. Secaucus (9-3). 3. Ferris (7-4). 4. Hoboken (6-4). 5. McNair Academic (8-4)…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.