Oscar Guerrero was totally content coaching and teaching at Kearny High School. He just completed his second year as the head football coach there.
“I learned a lot about coaching in my time in Kearny,” Guerrero said. “I’ve made a lot of great relationships.”
But when his high school alma mater, Memorial in West New York, called him and asked if he would be interested in the head coaching position there that recently opened, Guerrero had to listen and consider.
“I wasn’t calling around and looking for anything,” Guerrero said. “I was perfectly happy in Kearny. But I think anyone who ever plays or coaches always dreams of the chance to go home. Everyone wants to go back to where they were as a player. I wasn’t expecting it, but when the call came, I was happy to receive it.”
Guerrero was contacted by the administration at Memorial, after former coach Brian Meeney decided to step down at the end of the 2009 season. Guerrero was offered both a teaching and coaching position at Memorial, so he resigned his position at Kearny last week to take the Memorial job.
Guerrero, who graduated from Memorial in 1999 and was a fine lineman during his playing days there, was getting the chance of a lifetime to go home again.
“I am from West New York and I still live there,” Guerrero said. “It’s a great opportunity. I told the kids in Kearny and they understood my position. It would be tough to turn that down. Kearny has been very good to me and I wasn’t looking to leave, but this is an opportunity that I can’t pass up.”
Guerrero is inheriting a tough situation at Memorial, a program that has not had a winning season in over a decade, with the best mark being 5-5 two seasons ago. The Tigers were 2-8 last year and one of those losses was a 40-21 drubbing by Kearny, the Kards’ lone win of the season.
“But I see the possibilities,” Guerrero said. “I grew up in this town and I know what can be done. We did it when I played here (in 1999). The first thing we need to do is make the kids believe that we can win, that we can be successful. As someone who went to Memorial and played, I know that success is possible. They just have to believe in that.”
Guerrero knows he has his work cut out for him.
“I know it’s definitely not getting any easier,” Guerrero said. “But the one thing that motivates me is that when my coach, Ed Sargent, took over, they told him that he couldn’t win and in 1999, we went 10-1. No one thought that could happen. I think there’s something special about the West New York kid and their toughness. I like coaching tough kids, like the kids we had in Kearny. But when you coach tough kids, anything is possible. Hopefully, the non-believers will second guess themselves.”
Guerrero met with his new team for the first time last week.
“I told them that I was one of them just 10 years ago, so they could relate to me,” Guerrero said. “I know that they’re capable of. I can definitely relate to them as well. I was born and raised here. I am one of them. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity. There’s a passion I have for this program and for this town that runs deep.”
Guerrero is definitely a respected coach and a big guy with a huge heart. His hiring was a move in the right direction for the Memorial program, bringing home a homegrown product…
Although it took place after press time, Thursday night’s doubleheader at the Rutgers Athletic Center was expected to be one of the finest in Hudson County basketball history.
That’s because St. Peter’s Prep was slated to face Seton Hall Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public A North finals, followed by St. Anthony facing Paterson Catholic in the NJSIAA Non-Public B North title game.
It was a regular smorgasbord of Hudson County hoops, with the local teams looking to avenge losses to the same teams that knocked them out of the state playoffs a year ago.
Never before had two Hudson County teams battled for state sectional titles on the same night at the same venue, so it was definitely a historic evening and we’ll have more about the championship doubleheader and the plight of the Marauders and the Friars next week.
How wild would it be if the two local titans squared off once again in the Tournament of Champions? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility…
Although the weekend of wrestling in Atlantic City was highlighted by the performance of this week’s Athlete of the Week, Kevin Innis of St. Peter’s Prep and his second place finish, there was another local wrestler who brought home some hardware.
Julian Quintero of North Bergen finished seventh overall in the 130-pound class, winning his seventh place consolation match against Dymere Rappa of Paulsboro, when Rappa was injured and couldn’t continue.
It’s a remarkable ending for Quintero, who had to overcome a transfer to another school, a severe shoulder injury and more remarkably, a broken jaw when he was attacked by three unidentified males on a North Bergen street last summer. Quintero deserves a little place in the sun and he received it last weekend by getting a medal at the state championships…
For the second straight year, the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Year was a St. Anthony product playing for Fordham. Former Friar standout Chris Gaston, who led Fordham in scoring and rebounding this season as a freshman, was named the A-10 top rookie, one year after former teammate Jio Fontan earned the honor. Although Fontan has since left Fordham and transferred to USC…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (26-2). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (24-3). 3. North Bergen (21-4). 4. High Tech (18-7). 5. Marist (16-8).
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (20-5). 2. Secaucus (20-3). 3. Lincoln (15-8). 4. Holy Family Academy (18-3). 5. St. Anthony (19-4)….
We’ll have the Hudson Reporter All-Area Boys’ and Girls’ All-Area teams in next week’s editions…
In closing, let’s all say a collective prayer for one of Hudson County’s coaching legends. Our good friend Bill DeFazio, the former St. Anthony and Marist girls’ basketball coach, hasn’t been feeling well and he deserves to be in our thoughts and prayers at this tough time.
Billy has been a long-time friend and mentor going back to my childhood days at St. Paul’s in Greenville, where he served as a jack-of-all-trades, coaching three sports and serving as athletic director. Although he stands all of about 5-foot-2, Billy is a true giant in Hudson County sports and we have to hope and pray that he’s feeling better real soon… -- Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.