Longtime St. Rose boys basketball coach Dennis Devaney stepped down as head coach of the Purple Roses, according to a letter by athletic director Dan White sent out to parents and students on Wednesday.

Devaney said Thursday in a phone interview that he decided to step away from the program for "personal reasons."

"My life has gotten more complicated over the last couple of months and I didn't think it was fair to the kids and the administration to keep them waiting while I tried to figure out how I'm going to work everything out," Devaney said. "I just decided it was going to be too hard to do this year and I wanted to give the program a chance to move on while there is still some time before the season."

While Devaney - a physical education teacher at St. Rose - did not want to make public the specifics of why he chose to step down, he acknowledged that he missed two-and-a-half weeks of school over the past month, although he downplayed the seriousness of the absence.

"I had a couple of referees call me because they thought I was dying, which is not the case," Devaney said. "I told them, 'The way you guys treated me for 30 years, I'm surprised I'm not.

"I don't want to scare anybody into thinking I'm in any serious condition, and for the people who don't like me, I don't want to get them too excited."

Devaney was the longest-tenured head boys basketball coach in the Shore Conference prior to his resignation, having served 31 seasons on the St. Rose sideline. During his three-plus decades at the helm, Devaney led St. Rose to more than 500 wins, 22 Shore Conference division championships and three NJSIAA sectional championships.

St. Rose coach Dennis Devaney (at left, in blue shirt) speaking to his St. Rose team. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

"We are very grateful to Coach Devaney for his decades of leadership and for his stewardship of the program and student-athletes of St. Rose over those years," White said in his statement.

"I inherited a program from coach (Pat) McCann that was already a great program," Devaney said. "They already knew how to do things around here before I got here and I think we were able to keep it respectable over the last 30 years. They know what they're doing, so I think they'll be fine. It's not brain surgery."

According to the letter, Matthew Gathman will serve as the interim coach while White conducts a search for a permanent replacement for the upcoming season.

"We were in the gym three days a week over the summer, putting in a new offense and defense," Devaney said. "I had no intention of leaving coaching, but things changed."

An alumnus of Mater Dei High School, Devaney is part of an accomplished family of Shore Conference coaches and leaders in sports. His younger brother, Sean, is the head boys basketball coach at Holmdel and led Raritan to both a Shore Conference Tournament championship and an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions appearance during the mid-2000's.

His other brother, Billy, was the general manager of the St. Louis Rams in the NFL from 2008 to 2011 and is currently Director of Player Personnel for University of Nebraska football.

In recent years, St. Rose has found the landscape in the Shore Conference Class B Central much more difficult with the emergence of Mater Dei Prep and Ranney as not only Shore Conference powers, but among the top 10 programs in N.J. Last year, St. Rose finished fourth in the division with a record of 15-12 overall and 8-6 within the division.

The competition was never a problem for Devaney, who was on record that he liked that Ranney and Mater Dei came out of nowhere to raise the level of play in B Central. The landscape of coaching in high school basketball, however, is much different - even if the actual coaching portion of the job remains similar to what it was 30 years ago.

"Just look around: how many (coaches) are in it for the duration (of their careers)? Not many," Devaney said. "It’s not the same as it was and and it’s a shame. Different facets point fingers as to why it's changed, but it just does. Players don’t change - they still want to be coached and get better - but the periphery does. It's not the the same job at all, but I still really enjoyed it."

Devaney said he has no intention of retiring from his job in the school and plans to attend some of the games during the season.

"I don't want to have any input into what the team does," Devaney said. "It's tough, because I'm sure I'll have a lot of the players in gym class and they're always talking about last night's game or the one coming up, so I'm sure I'll hear about it. I just want to take a step back and let somebody else do it. It's somebody else's turn now."

 

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