Long Branch Icon Danny George Stepping Down as Football and Wrestling Coach
Danny George is hanging up his whistles.
George, a Long Branch fixture since his time as a star athlete for the Green Wave, is stepping down as the school’s head wrestling after 23 years, he told Shore Sports Network on Wednesday morning, and will also step down as the school’s head football coach following the upcoming 2021 season.
“I’m going out on my terms,” George said. “I want to spend more time with my family, my wife, my daughter Abby is playing college lacrosse, and you find yourself, mentally, in other places. It’s not fair to my family or to my football and wrestling guys.”
As it does for many coaches, the time has come for George to walk away from the sports he loves. The time commitment it takes to be a head coach in one sport is extensive, let alone two sports. In addition to family commitments, George is the Beach Manager for the city of Long Branch. He is in charge of some 225 employees for the city's beaches, which see an average of 1.5 million visitors each summer.
There was never going to be a perfect time to step down for George and he knew the decision had to be like ripping off a Band-Aid.
"That's the whole thing, you're almost on autopilot because you've been doing it so long," George said. "If I didn't tell myself, 'ok, now is the time', I would just continue to roll myself into the next season and the next season because that's what you do. For me, it's always about the kids and there's always another class coming in that gets you excited. You say, ok, I'll go when this kid graduates or when these kids graduates and at that point, you'll never leave because you don't want to let anyone down."
George had been the Green Wave’s wrestling coach since 2000, compiling over 400 career victories and winning three NJSIAA Group 2 championships, six NJSIAA sectional titles, five NJSIAA district titles, three Shore Conference Tournament titles and eight division championships. He also coached three individual state champions and is one of just two Shore Conference wrestling coaches to reach 400 career wins.
Long Branch blossomed into one of the Shore Conference’s elite wrestling programs under George’s direction, including going undefeated in 2008 and finishing as the No. 1 team in New Jersey in 2009. The Green Wave were also nationally ranked in 2008 and 2009. He was selected as the New Jersey Wrestling Coach of the Year in both 2008 and 2009 and is the only Monmouth County coach to receive the honor twice. He has also been named either district or region coach of the year five times. Before Long Branch, he was Red Bank’s head wrestling coach for eight seasons.
"We obviously had some great moments stemming from our three (state championship) teams and really the pinnacle was being in front of 14,000 people in Atlantic City and being honored as the No. 1 team in the state," George said. "For me, that was something that made every Thanksgiving or Christmas I missed for workouts, the time away in the summer, traveling to Virginia Berach, all worth it. That is something I'll never forget."
Long Branch had some epic dual meets over the years but none can compare to the showdowns with state power High Point in 2009 and 2010. During the 2009 season, Long Branch rallied to defeat the Wildcats, 28-27 on criteria, in a match held at Rutgers University. The Green Wave would go on to claim the NJSIAA Group 2 state title and finish as the No. 1 team in New Jersey. The following season High Point returned the favor in a thrilling match up in Sussex County, winning 24-23 in a match that came down to the final bout.
"You can't talk about one without the other," George said. "The one that we won that catapulted us to No. 1 and the one we wrestled up there that should go down as one of the greatest high school dual meets in the history of New Jersey."
Long Branch struggled in the pandemic-altered 2021 wrestling season. finishing just 1-7 in dual meets. The Green Wave also did not have a wrestler qualify for the state tournament. COVID-19 had a major negative impact on the district's wrestling program as numbers were at an all-time low. George said the middle school team usually has no less than 75 kids within the program but was down to just 10 this past season. It was the same at the high school level with just 30 wrestlers on the team.
"I'm still going to be working at the high school and working with the athletes and I'm still going to be, hopefully, as involved as the next guy wants from a recreation standpoint," George said. "There are a lot of things that need to happen within our wrestling program after the pandemic. It needs a shot in the arm and somebody who is going to spend an exorbitant amount of time. That coach will really have to go out and get after kids in the summer and in the fall, and I just don't have that time anymore."
"I've had a great group of (assistants) around me and hopefully one of them will have a chance to step up. I know Jay (Long Branch Athletic Director Jason Corley) will do a great job picking a successor."
After beginning his football head coaching career at Ocean Township and leading the Spartans to consecutive 8-3 seasons and Class A North division titles in 1997 and 1998, George took the job at Long Branch and hit the ground running. In his first season, the Green Wave went 9-3 and captured the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title, the school’s first since 1986. That championship season ushered in a career that has spanned four separate decades at his alma mater. George’s teams are 159-96-1 combined between Ocean and Long Branch with 143 of those wins coming for the Green Wave. His Long Branch teams captured three division titles and three state sectional crowns, the most recent ones coming in 2017 and 2018.
In 2017, Long Branch went 9-3 and captured the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 title with an incredible 43-42 overtime victory over Freehold, which featured record-breaking quarterback Ashante Worthy. After senior quarterback Juwan Wilkins tossed a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Pasa Fields Jr. in overtime to pull the Green Wave to within a point, George elected to go for the two-point conversion. Wilkins then connected with senior Elijah Sherin in the right flat for the winning points to deliver Long Branch its first state title in 18 years and cap one of the most epic NJSIAA sectional championship games a Shore Conference team has ever been a part of.
The following season in 2018, Long Branch repeated as sectional champion and won the NJSIAA Central-South Regional Bowl Game with a thrilling comeback victory over Shawnee. The Green Wave finished 11-1, losing only to Non-Public Group 3 champion Red Bank Catholic, and tied a program record for wins in a season.
Long Branch also reached sectional championship games in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2012 with George at the helm.
George was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2018.
Overall, George’s football, wrestling and track & field teams have won 16 division titles and eight state championships and he has won some form of a Coach of the Year award an astounding 22 times. He is a member of the Long Branch High School Athletic Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
George graduated from Long Branch High School in 1983 where he lettered in both football and wrestling, playing football under head coach Jack Levy and wrestling under head coach Chuck Rutan. He won a district title at 155 pounds as a senior. From there, George went on to Ohio State University where he wrestled for the Buckeyes from 1984-1988 and was the team captain during his junior and senior years.
The entire George Family is synonymous with Long Branch. He was one of four brothers who were athletic standouts for the Green Wave along with William, Alex and Tommy. William was most recently the Superintendent for Middletown Township Public Schools before retiring in August. Alex is a former head wrestling coach at Manchester and is currently an administrator in the district.
Dan coached his son Nick and nephews Billy and Jake, sons of William, during Long Branch’s incredible championship run that produced three straight NJSIAA Group 2 titles from 2008-2010 and six sectional championships from 2008 to 2018. Billy was a two-time state third-place finisher and is currently an assistant wrestling coach at Rumson-Fair Haven. Jake was a two-time Region 6 finalist and Nick was a district champion.
As the school year winds down, George is gearing up for what is sure to be a busy summer on the beaches of Long Branch. Before long, he'll be back on the field running training camp in mid-August for his final season on the football sideline. Throughout those four months on the gridiron, he'll get a chance to savor it all as the curtain closes on his illustrious coaching career.
"What I didn't want - and what I felt like started to happen last year with rumors out there - is for it to be about me," George said. "It should never be about any one person, let alone the head coach. Wrestling is over and giving the announcement now means there's plenty of time to adjust and get someone else in to do a great job. And with football, we're going to ride this last wave - pun intended - together and see where the season goes."
"I'm excited for the next phase of my life."
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