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Six years ago, George Sourlis stepped down as one of the most successful head basketball coaches in Shore Conference history and thought that part of his life was over.

On Wednesday night, he officially starts a new chapter coaching with two distinct differences: he will be working for his former school's rival and he will be coaching the boys.

Sourlis was approved as the new boys basketball coach at Red Bank Regional, a school located just 2.5 miles west on Ridge Road from the school where he built a sparkling resume as a head girls basketball coach for 30 seasons.

As the head coach of Rumson girls basketball, Sourlis helped build the Bulldogs into a perennial contender for the NJSIAA Group II championship. With Sourlis at the helm, Rumson-Fair Haven girls basketball won 14 NJSIAA sectional champions -- an average of nearly one every two seasons during his tenure.

"Six years ago, when I retired, I really thought it was for good," Sourlis said. "There is a fire that burns. There wasn't one for a while and that's because I had other commitments I wanted to fulfill more, so I really didn't miss it. I wanted to spend time with my kids, who are young adults and in college and with my wife. I got to do things I couldn't have done if I was coaching.

"But I got into coaching younger kids and that was the pilot light. I have to admit, I didn't think I would be this excited, but I am. I'm really looking forward to the challenge and getting to work."

In this 14 championship seasons, the Bulldogs went on to win the overall group title five times, with those championships coming in 1996, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Sourlis's tenure also included 18 Shore Conference division championships, 16 appearances in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, 26 20-win seasons and 30 straight appearances in both the SCT and NJSIAA Tournaments.

After six seasons away from coaching high school basketball, Sourlis takes over a Red Bank Regional program that is set to return a number of key pieces: current junior guard and leading scorer Nick Valentino, junior forward Collin Teter and sophomore guard Braydon Kirkpatrick.

"I have met few of the guys and started to get to know them," Sourlis said. "I have watched a little bit of the film from last year, but I don't want to see too much. I want to see them in person and see how they go about their business in practice, because you never know who was hurt or what was going on last year."

Sourlis will be replacing Scott Martin, who coached Red Bank boys basketball for 21 seasons before stepping down after a 2021-22 campaign that saw the Bucs go 15-11 and win a share of the Shore Conference Class B North public division championship.

"Whenever you stick around somewhere for 21 years, you were doing something right," Sourlis said. "Scott has been such a credit to the program and to the community and obviously very successful. I just want to take what he built and continue it the best way I know how."

In the days leading up to his official hiring, Sourlis said he heard from literally hundred of his many former players, congratulating him and encouraging him on the career move. Sourlis suspects they would not have been as enthusiastic if it were a girls job that he was taking.

"I was never going to take another girls job at the Shore Conference because I could never bring myself to face RFH," Sourlis said. "Even with the boys jobs, I was not going to take a job with a team that was in the same state bracket as Rumson.

"I have a lot of respect for (Rumson coach Chris Champeau), he is a friend, he coached my son to two state champions. I'm okay with playing him twice a year in the division, but we're not playing for division titles. We're playing for state championships and if we can help each other improve and go into the state tournament with a better chance to win a championship, I think we'd both like that."

Sourlis said he is strongly considering a number of his former players at Rumson-Fair Haven for his coaching staff. There are currently no women assistant coaches on any Shore Conference boys basketball coaching staff, although there is precedent in New Jersey basketball. Shelly Dearden is the longtime coach of Ewing boys basketball, which Dearden led to the NJSIAA Group II championship and Tournament of Champions in 2012.

There is also precedent for basketball coaches at the Shore making the switch from the girls game to the boys game. The most noteworthy success story in that regard is the late Ken O'Donnell, who led both the Neptune girls and boys teams to NJSIAA Group championships.

"There are certain things that are different about coaching the boys, but it's the same game," Sourlis said. "For example, you have to defend the rim in the boys game, which you don't have to worry about coaching the girls. The speed of the game is also different, but that's all relative. The basic principles of the game and of coaching and communicating with young players is more or less the same."