St. Rose Coach Joe Whalen will try and win his first SHORE CONFERENCE TITLE this weekend at Monmouth University. This will be the first time he will been favored to win the event. In his previous trip the opposing team held all the cards. But this time around he appears to be in the drivers seat. Joe Whalen has been waiting for this opportunity for years. But getting to this point and receiving the respect he feels he and his team derserve has not been easy.
St. Rose was ranked 5th by the Shore seeding committee this year. It was the proper ranking. They did not a win against a Top 10 team in and out of state all year going into the SCT. Everyone knew they were a great team because they have 8 division one players on their roster, they were ranked nationally and #2 in the state. Joe Whalen and kids used this slight as a means of motivation during the SCT. When it comes to Joe Whalen there is no grey area, your either with him or your not. That’s the exact way he coaches his team, your either in or out. This philosophy has paid off for Joe Whalen and St. Rose.
These days their may be no one person, who has done more for a school and it’s kids than Joe Whalen. When you consider every junior and senior on his roster, one though six has received a scholarship, its mind blowing. I can assure you that has never happen at St. Rose. But even more valuable is the amount of free publicity the school has received. You cannot put a Monetary value on this, especially at a small school like Saint Rose. Right now St. Rose is as well known as any school in the state and across the country. Joe Whalen has a lot to do with it. When he arrived at the school 5 years ago, many thought St. Rose was a thing of the past. The star players graduated and the head coach took an assistant job at another high school after winning the SCT. NOBODY was very interested in St. Rose, except Joe Whalen.
Joe Whalen has his critics, most has to do with the sucess of program. He is very guarded about his program and it may be for good reason. When he arrived at St. Rose he was not embraced by many in the St. Rose family. Today he is folk hero but not long ago, there were those trying to make his job difficult. He had parents and players not with him 100%. Joe Whalen can pretend he didn’t care, but trust me, it hurt him. It hurt him because didn’t know why so many were working against him. He was the only one that believed the program was not dead.
In his first year at St. Rose, Joe Whalen inherited a team not ranked, depleted of talent and not getting much attention. But yet his team almost took out SCT AND TOC favorite Kelly Hughes and Pt. Boro. It was a game St. Rose had won, if not for a mystery call. Most have long forgotten this disservice to the St. Rose kids and program. But it’s this and a series of other issues that have led to Coach Whalen and his kids being on the outside looking in. Like when his team had the #1 seed stolen from them 2 years ago. His team had done all there was to do, to earn the top seed. Yet those in the committee thought nothing of not rewarding his kids.
There was the time his team beat #1 in the tri state area, LONG ISLAND LUTHERN and people said the reason they won was because BOOGIE, LUHI’s star was sick that afternoon. It was he who turned Cindy Napolitano, a little used and unknown player into a star. She would break the state three point shooting record her senior year. It was he that turned Kat Phipps, into the best three point shooter in state history and a ALL STATE player. It was he who turned the little known JESS LOURO into the HOOP GROUP PLAYER OF THE YEAR and 1st TEAM ALL everything. Yet nobody wanted to acknowledge, these achievements. It’s these patterns of disrespect from the outside which has made Joe Whalen very happy not to join the Shore elite inner circle. Joe Whalen is old school, no games and he is god awful bad at playing politics. It’s just not part of his DNA. While Kevin Durant may say “if you can’t beat them, join them” Joe Whalen has said if you can’t beat them, try and try again. Saturday he will give his best try to date. He also will have something he has never had ….a equal play field.
Joe Whalen is very sensitive and that’s a part of him, most do not know. He is a proud father, his son Ryan has followed in his footsteps and is a D1 college coach. He is also a proud grandfather and husband. Most don’t understand, this is his pride and joy..HIS FAMILY. He loves his players like his family and if you question this, he is deeply offended. He will stand by his kids no matter what. It’s why they are willing to take the pressure he puts on them. He courages them to shoot at 6am in the morning, during the summer. He encourages them to play year round together as a team. Most frown on this, but it is a formula that has worked beautiful. The proff is clearly in the pudding. St. Rose has been a Top 5 team the past 4 years. The school with its rich history of State titles and SCT titles. Has NEVER been as popular as it is these days. Joe Whalen has to be given the loins share of the credit. His players always show sportsmanship and he despite being a lighting rod, he has ALWAYS BEEN NOTHING BUT CLASSY ON THE SIDELINES.
Joe Whalen has also been rightfully criticize in my opinion for his schedule. His non conference schedule rarely includes playing the Shore elite, outside of the annual Manasquan game. I believe this goes back to the treatment he has received at times. The truth of the matter is most could care less about his program until he started to win. This I believe is the reason he has no interest in playing the Shore traditional powers. His kids train together and for the most part outside the Shore, that’s the way he likes it. No coach puts more vaule on loyalty than Joe Whalen. He promotes his players and makes sure each is set for college. He just does it his way, not the way others expect him to do it.. But he also can be stubborn. This year he rolled the dice, playing two powerhouse teams out of state. St. Rose lost both , if they had won and then beat Manasquan, Joe Whalen would be playing for not just a SCT TITLE but a National title as well. But he didn’t win and paid the price for not winning enough quality games in state. The stubborn part is what many wrestle with, as he and his team wanted to be ranked higher on reputation, rather than production. The great Al Davis once said, ” just win baby, just win” and that’s exactly what his team has done in this years SCT.
Somebody asked me what was Joe Whalen’s coaching style. That was so easy for me to explain….ACCOUNTABILITY. Let me give you an example. There is great player in the Shore. She at time makes the same mistakes over and over. I asked both her coaches in the past two years, why they allow her to continue to make the same mistake..there answer, just crickets. When a St. Rose player makes a mistake, regardless of who there are, Joe Whalen will sub them out ASAP..but notice he always puts them back in. What he does is remind them, you have a job to do. The players all have roles, the shooters shoot, the defenders guard and the rebounders rebound. It’s not a equal sharing of each responsibility, you play your role 100%, it’s about team not credit. Joe Whalen is old school, you learn the system, work hard and get better. Everyone in his program is treated equally but not the same. He understands each personality is different and his kids know this. Like him or not, there is one thing nobody can debate….JOE WHALEN IS ONE OF THE BEST COACHES IN NEW JERSEY BOYS OR GIRLS….THAT’S A FACT.
- Saturday SJV will see a team that plays more like a college team, than a high school team. People ask me all the time, if Joe Whalen could coach at the coach level. I have no idea, because it’s such a different game. But here is what I do know, his teams run almost all college sets. They practice like college teams do. Joe Whalen runs his entire program from A-Z like a college program. I know of no team that is more of a Reflection of there coach than St. Rose. What’s the first question you ask, when learning about a team? What is that’s teams identity? Will the identity of St. Rose is JOE WHALEN…and on Saturday he will have a chance to beat them all on his own terms!
- ***Ball Handling Shooting tonight is at 6.30***