By TOM WILLIAMS
As it turns out, Dave Troiano will be turning over the reins of his highly-successful Wildwood High School girls basketball program to a woman who has played a big role in that success.
Teresa Cunniff, an assistant to Troiano the past 21 seasons, was approved as the new Wildwood coach at a Board of Education meeting tonight.
“I’m excited,” Cunniff said, “but I’m also nervous. The idea of becoming head coach some day is always in the back of your mind – trying out some ideas and seeing what you can prove. Coach and I think similarly but we are two different people so there might be some differences.”
Troiano stepped down last month after 39 seasons. His teams won 682 games – 433 when they were part of the Cape-Atlantic League and 249 in the Tri-County Conference. He won more games than any girls basketball coach in South Jersey.
Wildwood returns 5-6 junior Maddie McCracken and 5-7 senior Tracey Young from last season’s 25-5 team that won the South Jersey Group 1 championship. “We also have some nice freshmen,” Cunniff said.
In addition to her contributions as an assistant coach, Cunniff – then Teresa Polini – made a big impact as a player for Troiano from 1987-91. She scored more than 1300 points and was the key player on the 1991 state champions, the first for Troiano.
Cunniff went on to average nearly 20 points a game at Mitchell College during a pair of undefeated seasons before transferring and playing her final two college seasons at Rutgers, where she played in the NCAA Tournament.
Wildwood High School retired her number 23 earlier this year.
“I’m really pleased about the two assistant coaches I’ll have,” she said. “Rich Hans knows Wildwood High School and is a multi-sports guy. And Jimmy Clarke has coached with the Wildwood Catholic boys for about 17 years and he teaches at Wildwood. They bring a lot of valuable experience to the program.”
The Warriors are scheduled to open the season on Dec. 15 at Clearview. They will play in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in the Wildwoods Convention Center during the Christmas holidays and against Atlantic City in the 97.3-ESPN Girls Shootout in January.
Wildwood plays in the Classic Division of the Tri-County Conference with Clayton, Gloucester, Pennsville, Pitman and Salem. Non-conference games include Lower Cape May, Cedar Creek, Jenkintown (PA), Oakcrest, Cape May Tech and Ocean City.
“What did I walk into,” Cunniff said with a laugh. “It is a tough schedule and Dave leaves some big shoes to fill. But I’ve been drawing up practice schedules for two weeks and I’m ready to go.”