The Legendary Life of Ed Stinson

He may no longer live in Hoboken or coach football in the Mile Square.

But make no mistake, Ed Stinson is Hoboken through and through, like homemade mutz, Sinatra, and the St. Ann’s Festival.

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The most famous and respected football coach in Hoboken history, Stinson will begin his 50th season coaching football this fall.

“My addiction is a positive one,” Stinson said. “It’s coaching football. I don’t see the end happening soon. Other professions are great, but they can’t have the emotional component that coaching football has.”

Stinson currently serves as the defensive coordinator at Seton Hall Prep, working with people who have Hoboken connections like Seton Hall’s young and energetic head coach Billy Fitzgerald and assistant John Peluso, who worked with Stinson at Hoboken High for decades.

In his Hall of Fame career, Stinson will forever be remembered as the architect of the Hoboken High School dynasty of the 1990s, known as “The Team of the Decade.” It won five NJSIAA state championships in the ‘90s, a record that will never be duplicated in New Jersey high school football history.

Hoboken Roots

Stinson was born and raised in Hoboken, growing up in the 1950s on Second and Hudson Streets. “There were 19 bars on my block alone,” Stinson said. “I think that’s why they called Hoboken the Barbary Coast.”

While Stinson could easily have fallen prey to street life in the ‘50s, he found his safe haven in sports.

“We had a lot of kids living in Hoboken back then and playing ball is what you did,” said Stinson, who was a letter winner in three sports at Hoboken High, graduating in 1965. “Baseball was my first love. I was a big [Brooklyn] Dodgers fan. Back when we had the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants, I loved Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo. I played shortstop, so I wanted to be like Pee Wee Reese.”

He played Little League baseball and CYO Biddy basketball for his parish team, St. Peter and Paul.

“I didn’t get into football until the eighth grade,” Stinson said. “I played basketball and baseball for fun. I played football for the competition and the emotion.”

Football Bug

In 1962, Stinson was first introduced to the new head football coach at Hoboken High, a 24-year-old fiery inspiration by the name of Vince Ascolese, who would go on to become one of the most successful head coaches in New Jersey gridiron history. Ascolese, who died in 2014, left Hoboken for North Bergen in 1973 and retired in 2011 with 359 career victories, 13 Hudson County titles, and seven NJSIAA state championships.

“He was so young,” Stinson said of Ascolese. “He was a physical coach. He was a major force in my life. I had a father at home, but Coach Ascolese was like a father figure who I looked up to. He taught me to play with no fear.”

Stinson became a standout wide receiver for Ascolese, earning All-Hudson County honors in 1964.

After graduation, Stinson didn’t initially attend college. He worked for the shipping company Seatrain in Edgewater. His life could have been totally different, if not for some words of encouragement from his mother.

“My mother told me that I had to go to college and had to find a way to get a college degree,” Stinson said.

He enrolled at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) and attended classes at night. Football wasn’t even top of mind.

Life-Altering Influences

At Jersey City State, a second young, inspiring coach appeared, Jack Stephans, who would later coach at Fordham, William Paterson, and Weehawken High. “He named me the team captain, the first one they ever had there,” Stinson said. “I think it helped me with leadership.”

Stinson was selected to the All-New Jersey Athletic Conference First Team in 1969.

“Right after that season, Jack offered me a job as the secondary coach at Jersey City State,” Stinson said. “That’s what sealed the deal for me. Coaching was the closest thing to playing. It’s why I still do it, the passion, the adrenaline, the ups and downs.”

A career was born. Stinson remained an assistant to Stephans at Jersey City State for four years, working his way up to becoming the defensive coordinator. He eventually went to William Paterson to work with Stephans, remaining there until 1977, when the ultimate position opened up. Stinson was going home to be head coach at his alma mater.

“It was as big of a thrill as anyone could have,” Stinson said. “To coach at the school that I went to and loved.”

It was a gigantic challenge for Stinson, who was taking over a program that had won just one game in the prior two seasons. He also took over in the middle of a contentious teachers’ strike.

“It was hard to get a staff together,” Stinson said. Before the start of the season, “We went away to camp in Pennsylvania and six kids ran away. They didn’t want to play.”

Home to Hoboken

In 1979, the Hoboken Redwings won their first 10 games before losing in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group III championship game. A year later, the Redwings won it all.

Stinson got a ton of help.

“That’s what made it a program,” Stinson said. “We had study halls, team meetings, and a Saturday breakfast club. Having the ability to have that kind of help was essential.”

But Stinson didn’t stay long. A year later, he took a teaching and coaching position at Park Ridge High School in Bergen County.

“In 1981, I had four kids, and I had to do what was right for my family,” Stinson said. “It was a logical move for me.”

Stinson posted a 32-7 record over four seasons and went to the state championship game in 1981. He then took a job at Pascack Hills, where he stayed for two seasons.

“I just wasn’t happy there,” Stinson said. “I had to do something different.”

Stinson’s brother, Joe, who was head coach at Hoboken, resigned after the 1986 season. Stinson went back home again.

For the Record Books

Stinson remained Red Wings head coach from 1987 through 2004. Under Stinson’s guidance, the Redwings won 10 HCIAA championships and five NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group III state titles. His record during those 18 years was an incredible 158-36-1.

The Redwings had two lengthy winning streaks of 38 and 29 games. Those streaks were sandwiched around just one loss in the state title game of 1997 against Ramapo, led by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, son of Giants Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms.

The Redwings were 67-1 over a six-year span.

“Looking back on it, I think about if we won that game, that we would have won 68 in a row,” Stinson said. “We were just in the right place at the right time with the right people. We had the ability to do things because the weight room was open and a safe haven for the kids to show up all the time and be with their friends.”

Hoboken’s legendary players during that stretch include All-State performers Ravon Anderson, Rashard Casey, Keeon Walker (the current Hoboken head coach), Wilber Valdez (the head coach at Union City) and Tyrell Dortch. All were NCAA Division I scholarship players.

End Zone

In 2004, Stinson resigned as head coach.

“It was time,” said Stinson, who went on to be an assistant coach at William Paterson and head coach at Queen of Peace in North Arlington and St. Anthony (two schools that have since closed), as well as assistant stints at Hackensack and Bergen Catholic.

Two years ago, Stinson received a phone call from Billy Fitzgerald, who had just taken the head coaching job at Seton Hall Prep.

“I was asking around for a defensive coordinator, and I was in touch with Zach Naszimento [former Weehawken head coach],” Fitzgerald said. “We were talking about people, and he mentioned Ed. I thought it would be a great thing for me to have him with us.”

Fitzgerald had no problems having a legend on his staff.

“Some people might have been intimidated,” Fitzgerald said. “But he’s always been so supportive of me. He’s given me more credibility as a head coach.”

“A young guy like Billy asks you to take a job,” Stinson said. “I coached against him when he played at St. Peter’s Prep and coached against him when he coached at Prep. After taking the job, Billy asked if there were any others who I wanted to bring with me. So, Peluso came with us.”

Fitzgerald has been impressed. “He’s been terrific,” Fitzgerald said. “He put a system in place, and the kids are getting more and more used to it. The first thing that comes to mind with Ed Stinson is that he’s a professional.”

Stinson lives in Secaucus with his wife, Marie. They’ve raised four daughters, Stacy, Marie, Kristen, and Erin.

A family man and a coaching lifer for five decades—that’s hard to beat.

“I’d have to say it’s been a fabulous run,” Stinson said. “And never to be duplicated ever again—07030

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