By BRIAN CUNNIFF
John Leahy received enough accolades as a player. He certainly doesn’t need or want them as a head coach.
But he’s going to get them anyway.
Leahy, in his 16th season as the head girls basketball coach at Middle Township, is on the cusp of a major coaching milestone. He’ll be going for his 300th career victory when the Lady Panthers face Atlantic City Friday evening at the Seagull Classic showcase event at Holy Spirit High School.
While media members and high school sports historians often keep tabs on coaching records, Leahy said he didn’t realize the milestone was approaching until last week.
“When we were up at Southern at the (Score at the Shore tournament), one of the coaches got his 100th win and that kind of made me wonder where I’m at,” Leahy said. “That was the only reason why I was prompted to look at it. So I counted them up and I was like, ‘Wow, here I am. Right at 299.’”
Leahy’s career mark sits at 299-126 entering Friday’s game. His teams have been among the best in the area through most of his career. Under Leahy, Middle has appeared in the South Jersey championship game seven times, winning in 2012. Middle has also appeared in the Cape-Atlantic League championship game four times under Leahy, winning in 2012 and 2014. The program has also won CAL National or United conference titles in eight of the last nine seasons.
Leahy said he’ll be focusing on trying to win Friday’s game for the players and the program, not on his quest for No. 300.
“That kind of stuff I never really gave much thought to,” he said. “I’m too old to worry about my own accomplishments. I think you coach because you like to see kids have their own successes.”
Leahy gave credit to his players and his coaching staff for the chance at 300 career victories. His current assistants include Brandee Day, Jordan Sykes, Brynn Caraballo and Renea Wing.
“Overall, I’ve been privileged to coach a lot of great kids and I think my coaching staff is second to none,” he said. “Any kind of achievements or any kind of successes we’ve had I think reflects on the stability of our coaching staff and having really great kids come through your program. We’ve coached a lot of great kids.”
In addition to his coaching success, Leahy is considered one of the best players in Cape May County history. After helping Wildwood Catholic to a South Jersey title in 1988, he transferred to Middle Township and played in two more South Jersey title games, finishing his high school career with 2,139 points. He went on to an excellent four-year playing career at Division I Seton Hall, helping the Pirates win consecutive Big East titles as a freshman and sophomore. He later embarked on a long professional career in Ireland, England and Australia.
Leahy became the Middle Township girls coach prior to the 2004-05 season.