On April 1, Catholic prep basketball in New Jersey could boast no fewer than three of the nation's highest profile coaches. One week later, that number is down to one, leaving fans to question whether any program will rise to compete with Bob Hurley Sr.'s St. Anthony (N.J.) High dynasty.
On Thursday, high profile St. Patrick (N.J.) High head coach Kevin Boyle left the program he turned into an annual national title contender to take the head coaching position at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. The 2011 Naismith National High School Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, Boyle said he took the Montverde Academy job because it provided a better opportunity for he and his family. Boyle has two daughters who have graduated from high school and are in college, and a son who will be a sophomore in 2011-12. His son is expected to play for him at Montverde, just as he did at St. Patrick.
"They presented me with an offer that was just too good for me and my family," Boyle told the Newark Star-Ledger. "It was just too attractive to turn down.
"It was a very difficult decision. It's been emotional for me."
While full financial details of Boyle's new contract have not been disclosed, the coach admitted that he signed a multi-year contract which also includes his family's use of a house directly across the street from the school's campus. The longtime St. Patrick coach will also serve as the director of the Montverde booster club as part of his duties with the school.
Amazingly, Boyle's departure was the second high-profile exit from New Jersey Catholic School sports in three days. On Tuesday, St. Benedict (N.J.) High coach Roshown McLeod left the school after a single year in charge of its basketball program. While it is unknown where McLeod -- a former player at St. John's, Duke and with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks -- will go next, he is expected to return to college basketball as an assistant coach, similar to the role he had at Indiana before taking over the Newark prep program in 2010.
"I am truly grateful to Father Edwin Leahy for allowing me coach and work there this past year," McLeod said in a statement released to the press. "It was a tremendous experience coaching at such a prestigious academic and athletic, high school institution. I truly appreciate all of the support from the alumni and administration during this past season. I wish the Gray Bees nothing but success as they move forward."
Add those departures to the disappearance of Patterson (N.J.) Catholic, which closed after the 2009-10 school year (a number of whose players eventually became St. Anthony players in 2010-11), and it's possible that New Jersey could transform from fielding four national top-25 teams in 2009-10 to only one in 2011-12. In fact, that might be more of a likelihood than a possibility.
While McLeod's departure will only renew the unrest facing St. Benedict after the 2009-10 season, when the former college star took over for departing coach Dan Hurley, Boyle's exit sends a sturdy, established program in a state of unknown. It's possible that this state of flux has been coming for a time, as some speculated that Boyle had been searching for an exit from St. Patrick since he received a three-game suspension during the 2010 season for attending workouts before the official start of the basketball season.
In fact, Boyle appears to have been seeking other exit paths earlier this month. The Star-Ledger reported that the 23-year St. Patrick head coach applied for the vacant coaching position at Monmouth University, which was eventually filled by Vanderbilt assistant coach King Rice.
Now, the remaining talent base at St. Patrick has to decide whether they want to be part of a new group of players to maintain the program's success under its first new coach in two decades, or whether they are better suited pursuing New Jersey honors at another school.
No matter how one looks at it, that won't be an easy decision.
"A lot of people were mad. A lot of the underclassmen were real upset. A lot of people were shocked," St. Patrick senior guard Derrick Gordon told the Star-Ledger of his teammates' reaction to Boyle's announcement of his departure. "A couple of them are sophomores and they don't know what school they're going to go to now. A lot of people are talking about they're going to transfer, but I think that's just the anger talking."
The one remaining legendary coach on the New Jersey Catholic prep circuit said that the departure of Boyle and McLeod definitely changes the state's prep hoops landscape going forward, though it may be too early to speculate whether it encourages other athletes to travel to St. Anthony for their prep basketball careers instead of St. Patrick or St. Benedict.
"The battles will be a little bit easier now without Kevin coaching St. Pat's," legendary St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley Sr. told the Star-Ledger. "The battlefield won't be strewn with as many soldiers as in the past. Not that someone that will take over won't be as good, but he was a veteran [and] accomplished. The rivalry will definitely be different now.
"Our basketball is always going to be good, but it's a cycle of change."