At age 46, Matt Hogan didn’t think he was actually Hall of Fame material.
“I’ve been a head coach for 22 years now,” said Hogan, the fixture of the highly successful McNair Academic cross country and track and field program and the new president of the Hudson County Track Coaches Association. “I figure I’m on the downside of my career now, with maybe 15 or so years left. I do take pride in what I do. It’s human nature to get complacent after all this time, so something like this gives me a challenge to get back into it more and put my nose to the grindstone a little.”
Hogan recently was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was the lone Hudson County coach honored in this year’s induction class.
“I wasn’t taken by surprise, because [McNair Academic athletic director [Hugh] Dwyer asked me for my information,” Hogan said. “Still, it was nice to get the letter, saying I was getting inducted. It really felt good to get recognized. There is a little validation that people are taking notice and people do care.”
McNair Academic has been traditionally one of the stronger programs in the county, despite having to constantly take on much larger schools.
“We’ve won some county championships by competing with and against some bigger Group IV schools,” Hogan said. “We’re able to hold our own coming from a small school. I’ve been very lucky to have had a lot of great athletes over the years. Something like this reflects more on them than it does me. This definitely makes me feel special. You spend a lot of long hours coaching this sport and in the end, it’s pretty great to receive this kind of recognition statewide. I can’t help but to be a little taken back.”
Hogan didn’t have any time to rest on his Hall of Fame laurels. His Cougar team features 60 kids, 40 of which are freshmen.
“We’re doing a lot of teaching this year,” Hogan said. “But it’s all well worth it.”
It’s an honor well deserved for Hogan, who is truly one of the great New Jersey track and field coaches. Even at his young age, he deserves his place in the Coaches’ Hall of Fame…
Hudson County had to bid farewell to two local sports icons in the past week.
Last week, both Hudson Catholic and the city of Union City mourned the sudden loss of John Higgins, who was such a huge supporter of both Hudson Catholic (his high school alma mater) and Union City (where he lived and worked).
Higgins was about as loyal a supporter as Hudson Catholic had. He was constantly at the school, giving of his time, cheering on the Hawks. He was a fixture at Hudson Catholic sporting events, more often than not, boys’ basketball games.
Just a day before his untimely passing at the tender age of 54, Higgins was at Hudson Catholic, speaking with basketball coach Nick Mariniello, making plans for the future. He was very instrumental in helping to keep the school’s doors open a few years ago, when it appeared as if the school was headed to demise like so many other local parochial schools.
Higgins’ passing has left a huge void in Hudson Catholic and Union City….
Also this past week, Union City sports legend Bill Brooks died after a two-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 77.
During his heyday, Brooks was a great basketball player out of Emerson High School and later Seton Hall University. Brooks went on to have a great teaching and coaching career in his native Union City and later Rutherford High School, where he became the head baseball coach and guided the Bulldogs to a state championship in 1992.
In later years, Brooks was an assistant basketball coach at Montclair State with his long-time friend and colleague Ted Fiore.
Billy Brooks was always a true gentleman in the purest sense. In fact, he personified the term, because was truly a gentle man, a kind soul who eventually went on to become the mayor of Rutherford.
Brooks’ older brother, Harry, was perhaps the best all-around athlete to ever grace Union City and played in the NBA. He would speak of Harry’s accomplishments with pride, never wanting to talk about his own achievements, which were truly remarkable in their own right.
Losing both in the span of five days was devastating to a close-knit sports community like Union City. In fact, both were irreplaceable for their dedication and service to kids, not only in their hometowns, but throughout the area…
Jersey City native and current firefighter Pat “Paddy Boy” Farrell made a triumphant return to the professional boxing ring last weekend, winning a unanimous decision over James Guy in a pro card at the Parsippany PAL.
The 31-year-old Farrell, who has been a Jersey City firefighter for almost two years now, has moved up to the heavyweight ranks. Farrell, the former St. Peter’s Prep and LaSalle University football standout, now has a pro boxing record of 10-2-1…
North Bergen native Julian Rodriguez, who just turned professional after several years as one of the best amateur fighters in the country, spent the last three weeks sparring and training with world contender Manny Pacquiao in Los Angeles, as Pacquiao prepared for his rematch with Timothy Bradley this weekend. Rodriguez, 2-0 as a young pro, will return to the ring in April for his next challenge…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.