Girls Basketball: Rumson’s George Sourlis Sets Shore Career Wins Record, Stant Scores 1,000th Point
A humbled and emotional George Sourlis set the Shore Conference record for the most wins of any basketball coach on the boys or girls side thanks to a 66-23 victory over Raritan on Tuesday for his 626th victory.
"This is a program win, not a George Sourlis win,'' he said. "This means the players have won more games for me than any other players have won for any other coach. I don't shoot. I don't rebound. I don't defend. The girls do it all. I'm just the beneficiary of 29 years of hard work by so many different people, and I want to thank them all."
Sourlis passed retired Christian Brothers Academy legend Ed Wicelinski, who was 625-116 in his 27 seasons. Sourlis now boasts a career record of 626-189 in his 29 seasons, which have all come at a Rumson-Fair Haven job that he started at all of 23 years old. Wicelinski called Sourlis on Tuesday to congratulate him after the victory.
"He was a gentleman as a coach and was even more a gentleman today in congratulating me,'' Sourlis said. "I always looked up to him and admired him as a player and when I went to CBA camps. Now that he's retired, to be up there in his rarefied air, I'm speechless.
"To think of all the great coaches on the boys and girls side in the Shore Conference, from (late Neptune boys coach) Larry Hennessy to (Long Branch great) Gerry Matthews to (late Southern girls Hall of Famer) Kathy Snyder to (current Red Bank Catholic girls coach) Joe Montano to (former St. John Vianney girls coach) Nick Russo to (former Manasquan girls coach) Dick Johnson to (former Red Bank boys coach) Nick Pizzulli, it's just amazing to even be mentioned with those people."
Adding a cherry on top was that Villanova-bound senior Grace Stant scored her 1,000th career point for the Bulldogs (14-4) in the first half of the win over the Rockets.
"That was really great,'' Sourlis said. "When I got my 500th win, it was the same day (former star) Kate Miller got her 1,500th point, so these are things that I'll always remember."
While Sourlis made sure to emphasize the contributions of his assistant coaches and all the players dating back to his first season in 1986-87, he also made it clear that there was another special group to credit.
"All the support from my mom and dad, my wife and children to my brother and my sisters has been tremendous,'' he said. "My wife (Nikie) has made so many sacrifices. We haven't been able to go on vacation in the winter for 25 years of marriage, and she has sacrificed so much else. I've been lucky. She's allowed me to do what I love."
Sourlis began his career at his alma mater right out of college in the 1986-87 season after being talked into it by his younger sister, Dorothy Sourlis, who was a sophomore at the time for a Bulldogs team that was in need of a coach. He figured he would help her out, so he coached the last three seasons of her brilliant career with no initial intention of staying much longer. Now many of those former players, who are in their forties, still keep in touch.
"To me, that's more gratifying than the wins,'' Sourlis said. "Knowing that these kids still follow us and care, that's why you coach."
The winning doesn't hurt, either, as Sourlis has led the Bulldogs to 14 NJSIAA sectional championships, five Group championships and five appearances in the Tournament of Champions. He also led the Bulldogs to appearances in the Shore Conference Tournament finals in 2006 and 2007.
"Every kid that I've coached since 1989 has won at least one state title,'' he said. "When you start thinking of that, it goes to show you how good and how consistent our program have been. That's just the level of kids we've had. They have been phenomenal."