Auriemma, five coaches honored by Coaches Hall
The Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame welcomed in five new members and honored the University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach and Norristown native Geno Auriemma with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Auriemma, who entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, was inducted into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2005 and joins fellow Norristown native Tom Lasorda as the only two coaches to be honored with both the Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the Coaches Hall of Fame.
“Any time you get a chance to come home where you grew up, with people that you went to school with and people that you’ve made great friends with, any time you’re honored by a group of people like that, I think it’s pretty special,” said Auriemma. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first time and the only time or if it happens again.”
Throughout his career, Auriemma has amassed an impressive resume, including seven national championships and induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, but 2012 has been exceptionally noteworthy. In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, Auriemma guided the Huskies to the Final Four for the 13th time and coached the gold medal-winning Team USA women’s basketball team at the London Olympics, a feat that Auriemma is still trying to put in perspective in his own mind.
“It doesn’t dawn on you beforehand because it’s too hard to think about it and once you are over there you are in the middle of it and it is a little bit overwhelming. But once you’re done and you get back, you start to think, ‘Wow, how many people get an opportunity to do something like that?”’ Auriemma said. “The more time goes on, the more I think I will appreciate it.”
In addition to honoring Auriemma, former Norristown Area High School Track and Field Coach Ernie Hadrick, North Penn High swimming coach Rick Carroll and softball coach Joan Moser, and Lower Merion High School basketball coaches Gregg Downer and Bill Anderson were inducted into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2012.
“I think it’s probably the biggest thrill that I’ve had because of the notoriety that the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame has,” said Carroll. “When you read through the list of names of people that have been inducted, it’s tremendously impressive; overwhelming, in fact.”
“It’s a very big honor,” said Hadrick, echoing Carroll’s sentiments. “This organization has done great things, recognizing people over the years. It’s just incredible to be selected. I didn’t anticipate it.”
For Hadrick, the induction closed the circle of his career, as he participated in the Norristown track and field program as a student before returning to the school as a coach after a brief stint at Bishop Kenrick High School in the early 1980s. Hadrick coached the Norristown track and field team from 1986 to 1990 and again from 1997 to 2003. During that time, he coached 11 individual state champions and three relay state champions. He also led the 2001 boys indoor track team to the state championship in a moment that stuck out in Hadrick’s mind after reflecting on his career.
“We never really stopped to look at what was happening,” Hadrick said. “Winning the States’ the one time indoors was something we had never anticipated. It just rolled out on us. We had some exceptional athletes and we were looking more to perform well and do whatever we had to do to perform well.”
Leading the same program that he participated in as student was a special honor for Hadrick, who was able to form a unique bond with the athletes because of the local connection.
“It was a huge thing to be able to come back and work in your own community,” said Hadrick. “You connected with the kids in a different way.”
North Penn coaches Carroll and Moser were contemporaries and both brought unheralded sport success to school.
Moser, who coached field hockey and basketball along with softball, led the softball team to three state titles starting in 1976 when the team went undefeated. She also guided the Maidens to 13 Bux-Mont titles in 17 years and ended her coaching career at the school with 278 wins and was inducted into the Ursinus Hall of Fame in 1987.
“This is especially nice for me because the Hall of Fames that I’m in are for athletes, actually participating in sports,” Moser said. “This is a coach’s recognition, so that’s new to me.”
Under Carroll’s tutelage, the North Penn swimming team won an astounding 17 consecutive league championships, nine District 1 championships and two state titles while compiling a record of 213-14, including a 69-match winning streak. Carroll had previously been inducted into the Pennsylvania Swimming Hall of Fame.
The induction of Downer and Anderson brought a unique dynamic to the event, as the 346 career wins that Anderson, who passed away in 1962, had accumulated in his career had been the Lower Merion school record for more than 60 years until Downer recorded his 347th win in 2010.
“I never met Bill but I heard so many things about what a great coach he was and to be considered someone in the record books along with a coach of that caliber is a great thing,” said Downer, who currently holds a career record of 407-180 and has won two state championships. The Associated Press also named him the Pennsylvania Coach of the Year in 2006.
Although each inductee took a different path to success, all those honored agreed that their success was as much of a reflection of the student-athletes as it was of coaching ability and that working with the athletes is as rewarding as any accoloade.
“I have one kid who never won a race that calls me every year on Father’s Day and lets me know how much of a difference was made for him,” Hadrick said. “Touching lives the way we touched them, me and the coaches and the community even, was just incredible.”
Board members John Pergine, Joe Davis, Tony Leodora and Mike Morsch with honorees Ernie Hadrick, Joan Moser, Rick Carroll and Gregg Downer at Tuesday’s Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet at the Westover Country Club.