Shore Sports Network basketball blogger Tim “Nep84″ McCollum gives his take on the coaching situation involving his alma mater, Neptune. The Neptune Board of Education is expected to either re-approve Ken O'Donnell or name a new head coach at Tuesday night's meeting. 

Dear Neptune Board of Education,

I was at a basketball game several years ago and got into a conversation with one of the coaches. He was amused because the team, on an off day, was watching film of a game from the Holiday Jubilee from at least a decade earlier, and they noticed me sitting in the stands, right about where I like to sit even today.

It is no secret that I support Neptune basketball. I have for as long as I can remember. It is true I was there in the 1990s. I was also there in the 1980s, the 1970’s, right up to today. When you are a part of a town and a supporter of a program, you understand and come to appreciate its qualities. They have been the constants that have helped forge Neptune’s tradition of excellence with no excuses.

(Photo by Bill Normile)

When you think of Neptune basketball, you think of defense, dedication, tenacity, heart, and championships. It’s amazing that Neptune basketball has accomplished so very much but has not lost its grace, dignity, class and respect along the way.

I thank Ken O’Donnell for quite a bit of that.

He was an All-Shore player before I could walk. He was my social studies teacher in junior high school. He won the first girls basketball championship in Neptune history in my senior year in 1984. He won Neptune’s first boys basketball championship since the great 1981 team when my first child was at Neptune High School. No coach in the history of New Jersey high school basketball has accomplished this. That wasn’t even the last of his state titles. This is not to mention all of the division titles, Jubilee titles, Shore Conference Tournament titles, and NJSIAA sectional titles he has been a part of.

I write to you today to ask you, the Board of Education, to consider absolutely none of this when you approve the position of head basketball coach.

Consider this instead.

Ken O’Donnell has given his professional life to Neptune. His quiet grace under immense pressure; his unwavering dignity in victory and defeat, his love not just for the game of basketball, but for his hometown and our kids, is the reason he deserves the job.

His legacy is typing this letter to you today. His legacy is patrolling the streets of Neptune as a police officer. His legacy is teaching other kids the game of basketball. His legacy is thousands of people who have learned from him. His legacy is his strong set of core values being passed on to the children of his students. As much as I like to see the trophies in the trophy case, the banners in the gym, and the pictures on the wall of fame, that is not what interscholastic sports is all about. It is supposed to be an extension of the classroom. Ken O’Donnell has extended the classroom to everyone he has met for 50 years.

Nothing lasts forever. Change is inevitable. Ken O’Donnell has earned the opportunity to end his career on his terms, with the grace and dignity he has given to you all these years.


Tim McCollum