NJSCA Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Devaney is a coach at heart

FROM THE MONITOR

By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor

For 31 years, Dennis Devaney ran the sideline huddles for the St. Rose of Belmar boys basketball team. In late March, Devaney’s efforts were rewarded when he was inducted into the NJSCA Hall of Fame Courtesy photo

Dennis Devaney had only one goal when he took over the St. Rose of Belmar boys’ basketball program in 1985.

“I just hoped I didn’t take the program down a notch or two,” he said.

It was quite the opposite, as witnessed by over 500 victories, 22 Shore Conference division championships and three South Jersey Non-Public titles. The New Jersey State Coaches Association recognized those accomplishments in early spring, when Devaney was inducted into the NJSCA Hall of Fame for his 31 years of molding good players and even better human beings.

Devaney still teaches health and physical education at the school, but stepped down from coaching prior to the 2017-18 season for personal reasons.

Does he miss it?

“Only every day,” he said. “What makes it harder is I still teach there, so I’m in the gym every day. I knew I was going to miss it, because that was my passion. I still can’t go to games. A part of me is still in the program I inherited. People on the outside don’t realize the thousands of hours you put in. It’s almost like a drug. You take it away, and boy did I go through withdrawal.”

It’s not hard to see why. If anyone was born to coach, it was Devaney.

As a young teen in the early 1970s, Dennis was a Knicks fan. His friends rooted for players like Willis Reed and Walt Frazier. He rooted for coach Red Holzman.

“My parents always said, ‘We knew you were going to be a different boy,’” Devaney said with a laugh. “Everyone was like, ‘You gotta be the weirdest kid in the world.’” 

As a player for Mater Dei, he idolized St. Rose coach Pat McCann, the man he would eventually replace. Prior to one game, the Purple Roses received a technical foul and Devaney had to shoot the free throws.

“I was walking to the basket,” he said, “and I wanted to go over and apologize to coach McCann, and say ‘Coach, this is not my idea. I have to do this, my coach picked me out, so please don’t be upset with me.’ I just thought the world of Coach McCann.”

As he became a family man, Devaney named his three sons after famous college coaches – John Robert (after John Wooden), Bobby Knight Devaney and Dean Smith Devaney.

“People were like ‘What kind of middle names are Knight and Smith?’” Dennis said. “My criteria was you had to have 500 career wins and at least two national championships. My wife said ‘Why don’t you name one Dennis?’ and I said ‘Vickie, I have to stick to the criteria. I don’t even have one (state) championship.”

But he reached the state finals three times, losing to Bob Hurley’s nationally ranked St. Anthony teams each year.

“It was electrifying going up against a great coach and great team, and to try to prepare for those types of teams,” he said. “It was just a lot of fun.”

He was also proud to coach Bobby and Dean on St. Rose, and equally proud to be in an NJSCA HOF that includes McCann, who recently passed away. McCann coached St. Rose for 29 years before hiring Devaney.

“It was very unexpected and very humbling,” Devaney said of his induction. “To be in the same sentence with Pat McCann is an injustice to him. His passing was a big loss. That man is a legend.”

Whether he thinks so or not, so is Devaney.

For those who need proof, just attend a Purple Roses basketball game next year at the Dennis Devaney Gymnasium, which was renamed after him in January.

Only true legends get that kind of honor. 

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