Rodio earns 1,000th win
RICHLAND—Surrounded by family, friends and many former players, St. Augustine Prep basketball coach Paul Rodio celebrated a rare milestone last week as he became just the second boys basketball coach in New Jersey history and 21st nationally to reach 1,000 career victories.
“I’m just overwhelmed by that, more with how long I’ve been doing this and how many people that are here that I’ve affected, all of that is just as important, if not more important than the 1,000 wins. I’m just happy to do it in here with all kinds of former players and people here, family,” Rodio said.
The win improved Rodio’s record to 1,000-255 in 46 seasons at St. Augustine Prep, where the coach graduated in 1970. He took over at his alma mater in 1977 and earned his first win that season against Williamstown.
In more than four decades since, Rodio has led the Hermits to five state titles, 15 South Jersey crowns and 10 Cape Atlantic League championships.
Rodio was met with loud applause when he and his team entered the gym for last week’s game against Ocean City, and after grinding out a tough 50-41 win, everyone stayed to watch the Hermit’s student section, the Richland Rowdies, unfurl a banner celebrating the 1,000 wins and a five-minute video that displayed highlights from Rodio’s career.
The coach thanked everyone for coming to the game and shed a few tears as he hugged his wife, Bonnie, and other family members.
The longtime coach was overwhelmed by the turnout and support he received.
“It’s incredible all the people who came tonight. Some I haven’t seen in decades. The doctor that saved my life is here,” Rodio said.
Last year, Rodio almost lost his life when he developed blood clots that forced emergency surgery and led to a 35-day hospital stay.
“I’m happy to be able to do it here with all the former players here. I don’t think anybody will ever get (1,000) wins again,” he said.
Among the many who turned out to watch the game was former Atlantic City head coach Gene Allen, whose teams battled for Cape Atlantic League supremacy many times with Rodio’s Hermits.
“Paul is such a good friend, such a good guy. I’ve learned so much from him. I can’t even imagine [1,000 wins]. All the changes that have happened over the years, and he still has the same passion he’s always had. He’s a special guy,” Allen said.
Last week’s game was not a sure thing as Ocean City battled the Prep for four quarters.
St. Augustine led early, but Ocean City closed to within three points as the end of the first quarter and trailed 28-26 at the half. A 3-pointer from Sean Sakers kept the Red Raiders in the game in the third period and Ocean City led 37-36 at one point in the second half.
Ife Okebioru scored late in the third quarter to put St. Augustine back on top and the Hermits never trailed again. Ocean City pulled to within four points late in the game, but Matt Kouser and Semaji Bethea hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
The win allowed Rodio to join Bob Hurley as the only coaches in New Jersey to reach 1,000 wins. Hurley posted a 1,185-175 record in a Hall of Fame career at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.
“Obviously, 1,000 wins is a great accomplishment, but it’s really about much more than that. I’ve said many times it’s about running an organization. The biggest thing, to me, is the building of relationships, the connections that you make,” Hurley said.
Rodio hinted at those connections following his milestone victory.
“There are so many people here who have affected me. My best friends, students who don’t play basketball who I’m close to, and all the guys who played for me who I’m really close to. That really touched me. I’m happy to have done it here,” Rodio said.
Hurley and Rodio were rivals for many years and have become friends, often hosting camps together in the summer.
“I’m happy for Paul [Rodio],” Hurley said.
“He found a great place to coach and he’s really good at it. When we’ve worked camps together there were always former players who came to help out. That’s a testament to what he’s done and the impact Paul has had on the kids he’s coached,” Hurley said.
It’s unlikely that anyone will join Hurley and Rodio in the 1,000-win club anytime soon, if ever again.
“Nobody coaches that long anymore to do it. That’s the problem. When I did it, I never thought I’d be here that long,” Rodio said.