Headaches didn’t stop Kinnelon

 By Mark Kitchin


Kinnelon 2012 basketball season review

Sean Rivers thought his high school coaching career might be at an end. In late November of last year doctors discovered he had a small aneurysm in the front part of his brain.

“Will I be able to continue coaching?’’ asked the Kinnelon coach.

“Yes,’’ the doctor replied. “Just take it easy.’’

Take it easy? Obviously, some doctors don’t have a grasp on how intense and strenuous coaching can be. Varsity coaches agonize from play to play and the stress of even one game much less a season of games can take its toll. Taking it easy is especially difficult for a hoops lifer like Rivers who lives to coach the game he loves.

Rivers worked his way through it without incident and despite a rocky start Kinnelon ended up winning 11 games and had an overall productive season. However, in the beginning there were some causes for concern.

“Two days before Thanksgiving I was having headaches,’’ Rivers said. “I went to see my doctor. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease which is genetic. The doctor said if you have cysts in your kidneys it’s possible to have them in other organs including your brain.’’

A cat scan revealed the bubble like object was too small to operate on. Technically an aneurysm is a localized blood filled bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. They are more common than you would think and people often carry them around for years and years with no adverse affects. Treatment depends upon the vessel involved, the size of the aneurysm and the overall health of the patient.

Not knowing his coaching status was a disruption. Rivers notified his athletic director Scott Rosenberg who said he would work with him with whatever he had to do. Then he met his players.

“It ended up, I had my blood pressure taken every morning,’’ Rivers said. “The trainer took my blood pressure after practice. I took one day a week off and it was worse because I was wondering about what was going on in practice.’’

Longtime jayvee and freshman coach Jerry Sullivan ran the Kinnelon practices when Rivers was out, but Rivers couldn’t stay away for long. He did everything he could possibly do to improve his health.

“I got my blood pressure down,” Rivers said. “The headaches went away. It wasn’t something I couldn’t handle. It eventually put me at ease.’’

Kinnelon’s R.J.Gianetti (44) is a force on the boards for Kinnelon. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Season highlights

Kinnelon finished a respectable 11-14. The Colts were 7-3 at one point. They had no letdowns in terms of beating teams they were capable of beating. Montville, Kittatinny, High Point, Butler and Boonton all fell to Kinnelon. They were hindered when they lost R.J. Gianetti, at one point the fifth leading rebounder in the state, for a 3-week stretch due to injury.

 “That killed us,’’ Rivers said. “He broke the school record for rebounding. He had 25 in one game and 24 in another.’’

 Of course, his injury happened before the Colts played in the preliminary round of the MCT. Kinnelon was upset by West Morris, 55-40. Gianetti would get back in the lineup in late February but the Colts were never quite the same. They were eliminated in a 47-35 loss to River Dell.

Senior leadership

The Colts got a boost of senior leadership in the 2011-12 season from several players that returned to the program after missing some time. Guards Chris Villante and John Mamary and forward Bill Bolding played major minutes and contributed to the team’s effort. Rivers was grateful for their help and leadership even though missing their junior seasons hindered their development. Forward Mike Fissinger knocked down some shots and helped the Colts over the course of the season.

The Colts rely on Sean Robbins (12) for scoring and leadership. (Photos by Mark Kitchin).

Future prospects  

The Colts have their own core of four players gained plenty of experience over the last few years and are comfortable with the Rivers system. Gianetti at 6-foot-3, 200-pound was terrific for rebounds and putbacks. He had a nose for the ball and was often able to trigger the Colts in transition.

Sean Robbins is an athletic player with excellent court vision. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete is fearless at going to the basket. Robbins was the team’s leading scorer. His best games included a 34-point effort against WallkillValley and a 23-point game against MountainLakes. He’s a good complement to Sean Walsh who can knock down shots from the outside and is also a major contributor to the Colts offense. Guard Evan Argirou shows terrific perimeter presence. He knocked down more than 50 treys for the Colts.

The Colts may be a little thin but have some newcomers that may contribute. The best might be Eric Hausser, a 6-foot-3 athlete who is better known for success at varsity soccer last fall.

Sean Rivers is not a coach that likes to take it easy. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Off-season plans

Unfortunately, for budgetary reasons the Kinnelon Summer League was shelved for the second consecutive year and it is doubtful that the once popular endeavor will ever return. Plans for Kinnelon to attend Rutgers Camp also fell through in late spring.

The Colts had some twice-a-week workouts over the summer to keep their team on track. Some of their best athletes are focused on other sports. Robbins, Walsh and Argirou are football players. Gianetti has gained athletic prowess on the baseball diamond. In some ways having athletes dedicated to a variety of sports can help a program.

“We’ve had workouts here and there,’’ Rivers said. “I have a couple of kids returning. We have four core kids from the varsity. They are playing football and baseball and will probably play those sports in college so I know they are all working.’’


About mcvbb

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

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