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Following one of the toughest losses of his coaching career and as the world was about to enter into a global response to a pandemic, Mike Nausedas started a group-chat with his 2019-20 Marlboro boys basketball players to keep in touch with them and let them know what was happening.

More than two years later, Nausedas said that group chat is still active, only now rather than a bunch of 16-year-old kids wondering if they will ever get a chance to win a championship for Marlboro High School, the chat is occupied by young men who persevered and authored the golden age of Marlboro boys basketball.

That text threat may indeed live on, but Nausedas’s time as Marlboro boys basketball coach is over. After spending 10 seasons turning the Mustangs program from a middling Shore Conference program into one of the best Group IV programs in all of New Jersey, Nausedas resigned from his post a little more than a week ago.

Marlboro coach Mike Nausedas. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
Marlboro coach Mike Nausedas. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)
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“It’s very hard to leave those guys,” Nausedas said. “To built when we have for the last 10 years and just leave it behind is something that was very hard for me to do. But my daughter just finished her freshman year at Brick. My son is going to be in eighth grade. I haven’t been able to watch them and it’s long past time I got to watch my kids play.”

“Mike did exactly what a basketball coach should do,” Marlboro coach Dave Ryden said. “He took over a program that was struggling, he put the work in, he created a winning culture that made kids want to stay home, and he coached them and molded them into a championship team. It’s hard to do a better job than Mike did and I have nothing but positive things to say about the way he handled the job and the way he is going out.”

In 10 seasons as head coach at Marlboro, Nausedas accumulated a 153-94 record, including 60-14 over his final three seasons. Under his watch, Marlboro reached three Shore Conference championship games, two NJSIAA sectional finals and a Group IV final – all of which were firsts for the Marlboro program.

The breakout season for the program was the 2016-17 campaign, when the Mustangs made a surprise run to the Shore Conference Tournament final as a No. 6 seed, knocking off No. 3 Freehold Township and stunning No. 2 Ranney in consecutive rounds before falling to Mater Dei Prep in the championship game. Prior to 2017, the Mustangs had never been as far as the SCT semifinals and the win over Ranney secured the program’s first ever postseason championship game experience.

In 2019-20, Marlboro made its first trip to the Central Jersey Group IV championship game and the Mustangs also had the privilege of hosting the game. Marlboro took the lead in the final 30 seconds on a Jackson Seidler jumper, but South Brunswick scored as time expired to break Marlboro’s collective heart.

Two days later, the NJSIAA cancelled the remainder of the NJSIAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There was no NJSIAA Tournament in 2021 and the Shore Conference playoff was considered unofficial, but Marlboro – which returned three starters from the 2019-20 team – was on a mission. The Mustangs again conquered Ranney in the Shore Conference semifinals and took Manasquan to overtime before losing another championship heartbreaker on a shot in the final seconds.

This past season, everything came together for Marlboro and its five senior starters. The Mustangs went 2-2 while starting guard Zach Molod was out with COVID in early January and were 26-1 with Molod in the lineup. The 28-3 season – a program record number of wins in a single season – included Marlboro’s first outright division championship in 50 years, the Mustangs’ first ever Shore Conference Tournament championship and their first ever Central Jersey Group IV championship.

Marlboro extended its season with a come-from-behind victory over Rutgers commit Derek Simpson and Lenape in the Group IV semifinals and took a one-point lead to the half against Elizabeth before falling to the Minutemen in the Group IV final, 70-63.

During his decade-long transformation of the Marlboro program, Nausedas earned the Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year three times: 2017, 2021 and 2022.

“Ten years ago, the goal was to completely change everything, because there was nothing here,” Nausedas said. “If there were any good players in town, they would go to Colts Neck, which is just how the Freehold Regional District is structured. I knew I needed to get the guys who were here believing they could win and once we had that spark, things started happening.”

Marlboro coach Mike Nausedas. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
Marlboro coach Mike Nausedas. (Photo: Ray Rich Photography)
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Marlboro’s coaching search is underway and the new head coach will take over a team with very little experience from a team that rode its five senior starters for heavy minutes. Rising senior A.J. Schwartz was the team’s sixth man, while classmate Ryan Mendes got fleeting minutes as well. Another senior-to-be Jack Levine missed most of the season with a foot injury and will be a key cog once he is healthy next year and rising 6-foot-6 junior Brave Haugh is another intriguing player projected for the 2022-23 Marlboro rotation.

“I’m looking for another coach who wants to be here for the long haul,” Ryden said. “I don’t want a guy who is one or two seasons in and looking to move on. I’d like to find somebody who wants to continue to grow the program. It’s certainly not going to be easy living up to the standard that Mike set for the program, but there is still enough talent and enthusiasm to have success.”

With a flourishing feeder system and an established winning culture cultivated 10 seasons, the next head coach will have a much different job than the one Nausedas took over.

“For any applicant now, it’s all there,” Nausedas said. “There is a culture of winning. You have fourth and fifth graders packing the gym. All the community wants to talk about is basketball and the kids playing together through high school. Marlboro is a place kids want to play basketball. It’s not going to be easy – nothing ever is. There will be some challenges, but it’s all there.”