To some John Amabile will best be remembered as the football coach with the big straw hat while others will talk about his sideline and on-field tirades which became almost legendary. Lost in all of that is the fact that Amabile was an incredibly successful coach with legions of admirers and devoted followers and friends who are mourning his passing Sunday night of pancreatic cancer at the age of 72.

A Jersey City native who played quarterback at Boston College, Amabile’s first coaching job at the shore came in 1970 at Middletown High School. He moved to Wall in 1977 where he won a pair of state sectional titles and also compiled a 33-game winning streak before taking the Neptune job in 1985.

For the next 15 years he guided the Scarlet Fliers to unparalleled success, including three state sectional championships and during one stretch five consecutive division titles. Even in retirement Amabile continued to coach spending six seasons at St. John Vianney and another at Allentown before running the offense at Long Branch last season. His career record of 218-141-8 makes him one of only six coaches to win 200 games while at the shore.

For many of the 35 seasons in which the Nets called New Jersey home they were a pretty bad basketball team. It didn’t matter whether they were playing in Piscataway, East Rutherford or Newark wins were often hard to come by but seats were easy to find. That all comes to a close tonight when the Nets host the 76ers at the Prudential Center in their final Garden State home game.

The Nets of course are headed next season to Brooklyn and the brand-new Barclays Center and most will not give it a second thought that New Jersey no longer has a pro team because they didn’t notice when they were here. However there were some good times, especially in 2002 and 2003 when Jason Kidd led the Nets into the NBA Finals.

I doubt too many New Jerseyans will follow them to Brooklyn…heck they didn’t follow them here.

Photo of John Amabile courtesy Bill Normile.