The situation surrounding the St. Peter’s Prep basketball program is not a good one right now.
Just a few months ago, the Marauders were one of the premier teams in the state, winning the NJSIAA Non-Public A North state sectional championship for the second straight year. The Marauders had a promising future, with top NCAA Division I products galore, many of them appeared to be returning for the Marauders to make another run at state glory in 2015.
Now, everything is in a state of flux.
Head coach Todd Decker resigned last week, citing family and work responsibilities.
However, it was learned that four of the players who were set to return next season have already transferred out of Grand and Warren and another is sitting on the fence, poised to depart.
It may be a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Did the players leave because they knew that Decker was stepping down? Or did Decker leave because the players had enough and decided to go?
In any case, Decker is gone.
So are the Hunter brothers, Najaa and Zaki, who have apparently gone with their family with a move to western Pennsylvania and a prep school there.
Promising big man Kaleb Bishop and superstar freshman point guard Nate Pierre-Louis have also received their transfer papers from the Marauders’ administration. Pierre-Louis, a third team selection this season on the Hudson Reporter All-Area team, is off to St. Benedict’s Prep, while Bishop has not announced his intentions for a new school.
Standout forward Veer Singh, a First Team member of the Hudson Reporter All-Area team last spring, has not officially left St. Peter’s as of press time, but is seriously considering a departure as well.
So what gives? Did Decker step down because he knew he was losing the majority of his returning squad, a host of talented big-time prospects? Or did the players leave because they had enough of Decker as a coach?
We’ll probably never know.
Decker maintains that he resigned because of his family and work commitments. His wife just gave birth to a baby boy a few months ago and his full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry just became too demanding to work as a basketball coach at the same time.
“It was a very tough decision obviously,” said Decker, who spent the last three seasons as the Marauders’ head coach and eight years together at Grand and Warren, the first five as Mike Kelly’s assistant. “Having a kid changed me and the way I viewed the time I put in as the head coach.”
Decker said that when he decided to step down, the Hunter brothers had already told him of their transfer plans and Bishop, a 6-foot-8 power forward, was undecided.
“Najaa and his brother left and Kaleb was on the fence,” Decker said. “I think it would have been a lot tougher to walk away if everyone came back. But I spoke to Coach [Rich] Hansen [the school’s football coach and athletic director] for a while about leaving.”
The 35-year-old Decker said that the demands of being a head coach of a top program got to be too demanding.
“Once I took over as head coach, I put a lot more into it,” Decker said. “It was like I had two full-time jobs. With everything that goes along with it, I thought it was unfair to my family to keep doing that consistently. I didn’t want to cheat the kids in our program, but I didn’t want to cheat my family either.”
Decker said that he leaves St. Peter’s Prep with a heavy heart.
“I loved everything about coaching there,” Decker said. “I loved every kid I coached. I spent eight years there. It was really tough to leave. But at the same time, I knew I had to prioritize my life. At this point it my life, it was nearly impossible to continue.”
Hansen issued a statement about Decker’s resignation.
“I know this was a very hard decision for Todd,” Hansen said in his statement. “We’ve spoken a lot about the future since the season ended. He has a great family with new commitments. I think he felt the stress and pressure wasn’t worth it anymore. I’m grateful for his time, passion and effort. Our team had a 3.2 GPA [grade point average], had no disciplinary issues and won games and titles. Our kids went to good schools and are prepared as students and players. I’m grateful to him.”
Hansen was then asked about where the program goes without Decker and most of his returning team.
“He was a good coach and did a great job,” Hansen said. “We just have to move on.”
Assistant coach Ken Teschlog has told Hansen he’s not interested in becoming the head coach. Fellow assistant Alex Mirabel is interested, but he’s also very young, just out of college a few years. It’s really cloudy and murky at the Prep.
“It’s been an amazing run,” Decker said. “I love everything about what we did and the guys we did it with. We had such high caliber kids and we won the Non-Public North A state title. It really has been amazing.”
It’s interesting to see where the basketball program at Grand and Warren goes now. One thing is for sure: The Marauders are not exactly the world beaters they appeared to be at the end of the season last March…
It’s time for the local prayer brigade to do their best work. Former Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep head basketball coach Bob Ryan, who is also the former owner of the popular Hamilton Park Ale House in downtown Jersey City, was seriously injured with his wife in a car accident in Myrtle Beach, S.C. last weekend.
Apparently, Ryan and his wife, Donna, were traveling with their dog, Jersey, in Myrtle Beach, when their car was struck by a drunk driver head on. The Ryans, who first moved to Louisiana and later Charlotte, N.C., were hurt in the crash. Donna Ryan suffered some broken bones and remains hospitalized at press time. She’s expected to recover.
However, Bob Ryan suffered serious head injuries in the crash. According to his daughter, Colleen, Bob is now in an induced coma after suffering bleeding on the brain.
Jersey, the dog, was thrown from the vehicle and was missing for a few days, but we’re happy to report that a young boy found Jersey, heard of the crash, and contacted Colleen, who was reunited with her dog.
Ryan was a very popular coach and bar owner and has a ton of friends in Hudson County. Let’s all say a prayer or two for Bob’s recovery. He’s a great man and has a lot of life left to live. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.