Change comes to Mendham despite another winning season

 By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

 Mendham 2012 season review

It was the end of an era in several ways for the Mendham boys basketball team. The biggest of course was the resignation of Jim Baglin, the Morris Countyboys coach with the most basketball victories. Baglin’s teams have been prominent in the area for the last three decades and his reputation is known throughout the state for finding a way for suburban kids to compete against talented inner city basketball squads. He will stay on as athletic director for the school, a job that has become increasingly complicated over the years.

 “I just can’t do it anymore,’’ Baglin said. “It’s too much. The people have been great. It’s personal. Ever since the season started I’ve been thinking about it all the time — every day. You never get away from it. I’m always thinking about it. We have a great administration, great kids, great parents. I even like the guys I coach against. … It’s at the level that I just felt a lot of pressure for the kids.’’

The Minutemen’s loss toMount Olive in the quarterfinals of the Morris County Tournament put an early end to their hopes of winning a fifth consecutive MCT title but they would make up for it with another strong run in state play that took them to a sectional final.

Drew Jacobs played a huge role in Mendham’s success. He had some monster games including a 36-point effort against Morris Knolls which gave the Minutemen a division title share.

Season Highlights

Because of its reputation, it’s difficult to label Mendham as an overachieving team, but Baglin may have done one of his best coaching jobs with a group of players that were athletic but did not possess as much basketball savvy as past teams.

Mendham finished with a 20-6 record and gain a share of a division title with a dramatic win over Morris Knolls. They shocked the Golden Eagles 71-68 on the road on February 15. They share the National with Morris Knolls and Randolph. In state tournament play Mendham worked pastMorristown,Irvingtonand a road win against top-seeded Rahwayto get to the title game.

In a weird way their lopsided loss to Plainfield, which would end its season at the Tournament of Champions title game, was appropriate. Baglin is a Plainfield alum. It meant his basketball journey had come full circle.

“I think it’s interesting that it ended at Plainfield,’’ Baglin said. “It’s just funny the way things work out.’’

Senior leadership

Mendham wouldn’t have excelled without Drew Jacobs. When the senior point guard played well everything clicked. He averaged 22 points and six assists a game and was terrific down the stretch during the team’s state tournament run.

“It all came down to Drew,’’ Baglin said. “There were nights where he carried our team. He’s a great leader. He gave you confidence that he could make you win.’’

It helped that Nick Maguire, a terrific baseball prospect, came back to the team and played well in the post. Baglin also coaxed some terrific performances by Tom Reifsnyder and sparkplug David Yee that helped the Minutemen along.

The improvement of Will Gibbs may loom large if next year’s Mendham team wishes to exceed expectations.

Reasons for hope

There is still talent in the Mendham pipeline. Several returning players are capable of having good seasons next year. Starting guard Alex Jacobs improved as the season progressed. He scored 17 points including three 3-pointers in the Rahway victory. Will Gibbs, the 6-foot-3 forward, should also return a stronger, more improved player in the post. One returning player that could also make a difference is Bobby Stoltz.

 “We had him play jayvee as a junior,’’ Baglin said. “We would have played him more on varsity but there was no place to play him.’’

Kai Roemer and T.K. Hayes also had limited time on the varsity last year. Next season you will see more of them.  

Jim Baglin’s tenure as Mendham coach may have ended but his legacy and influence lives on.

Off-season plans

Mendham will continue to focus on individual improvement during the off-season and hold their traditional open gyms where former players often come back to test the newcomers. Even without Baglin the Minutemen are planning to return to his alma mater at Susquehanna University for their annual visit as well as do a day at Bucknell University where former player Nick Leonardelli is an assistant coach.

Seven year Mendham assistant Kevin Schmid is expected to be named Baglin’s successor. The only hold up is that Schmid, who has varsity head coaching experience at Parsippany and Morris Catholic, does not teach at Mendham. If a qualified applicant from the school district (Mendham or West Morris) does step up, Schmid’s hire is not an automatic one.

“Kevin has a legal right to the job according to the school contract,’’ Baglin said. “Each job comes under contract every year. It is filled by the unit members and then the non-unit members. I’m going to recommend Kevin for the job. The problem is he is a non-unit member. He teaches in Parsippany.’’

No matter who gets the job, it is foolish to tamper with such success. Expect Mendham to keep adding to its tradition of quality basketball.

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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