Vic Paternostro is a high school football coaching legend, a larger-than-life figure. With 373 career victories, no other New Jersey high school football coach won more games ever. With an astounding 20 NJSIAA state titles, no coach has ever captured more hardware than the architect of the Pope John of Sparta gridiron dynasty.
He's sent countless players off to college on scholarship, including about seven players on last year's roster.
Needless to say, Paternostro needs no buildup here. He's the real deal, the true article, perhaps the most famous of all New Jersey grid coaches.
So it came to a little bit of a shock to Paternostro and his family Thursday, when it was reported by the school's president, Msgr. Kieran McHugh, that Paternostro was ''retiring'' because of health reasons.
The news was released by McHugh when Paternostro was indeed in the hospital receiving medical treatment. McHugh even went as far as to call the local newspapers himself to report the so-called retirement.
There's only one problem with the story. Paternostro didn't retire. While Vic has been battling a host of illnesses over the past few years, including diabetes and a degenerative hip condition, he wasn't planning on going anywhere. He was making plans to return to the sidelines in the fall.
And if Vic Paternostro wants to continue to coach and thinks he can coach, then he has earned the right to do so and should be able to go out on his own terms.
Paternostro didn't retire. He was forced out the door by McHugh, who had already reached out to Don Bosco Prep and inquired about the services of assistant coach Brian Carlson, the former head coach at Kean. In fact, McHugh was already earmarking Carlson as Paternostro's successor even before telling Paternostro himself.
When Vic's dutiful assistants heard word of this, they sprinted out the door as well. Long-time defensive coordinator Chris Kappelmeier, a great football coach, has already decided to join Frank Marchiano's staff at Sparta.
The true story was reported by New Jersey Herald sports editor and long-time standout writer and reporter Jim Dente, who was not afraid to publish the truth.
Here's Dente's story
Dente has quoted Paternostro's daughter about the true story.
Now, why in the world would the silly administration at Pope John push a legend like Paternostro out the door, then make it seem like he retired because of health reasons?
Vic Paternostro leaves when he's good and ready to leave, not because some ill-advised man of the cloth decides he wants to capitalize on the expanding popularity of Don Bosco Prep.
It's downright despicable to think that after 44 years, this school just tosses Paternostro out like dirty dish water.
Sorry, but Vic deserved better. Shame on Msgr. McHugh for making this decision, then calling the newspapers on his own, then hiding when the truth is revealed.
I totally applaud the job that Steve Timko has done as the executive director of the NJSIAA. Timko has totally changed the face of the organization.
When it was run by big bully Boyd Sands, who pushed people around like rag dolls because he could, the NJSIAA had an adversarial relationship with the media.
It's not the case any longer under Timko. He's done a fantastic job and is more than helpful, realizing that the media has a job to do and that we all should be promoting high school sports instead of sheltering the athletes involved.
However, there's one policy the NJSIAA still keeps in place that I feel should be eliminated.
Wednesday night's game between St. Anthony and St. Patrick at Rutgers should have been televised live. Not everyone could get to the game, so it would have made sense to air it on television somewhere, not just streamed via FIOS on nj.com.
MSG Network would have gladly aired the game on either the regular network or the fantastic MSG Varsity channel (which Comcast subscribers, like yours truly, still can't get).
MSG has been a true champion in giving New Jersey high school athletics tremendous coverage over the last two decades. Guys like Mike Quick, Jimmy Cavallo
, and others have promoted high school sports like no one else.
This would have been a perfect chance for MSG to broadcast the most important New Jersey high school basketball game in ages.
But because of this new deal the NJSIAA has with the Star-Ledger and NJ.com, the game could not go anywhere other than that FIOS link and broadcast online.
I just think this was a game that deserved and belonged to be televised -- and the contract should have been sealed with the one network that has done the most for New Jersey high school sports more than any other.
You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com and www.dailyrecord.com