CLARK, NJ- Mike Pozyc once walked the basketball courts of Arthur L. Johnson High School as a Crusader. When he returns to his Alma Materthis season, it will be as a coach. Pozyc was officially introduced as the new head boys basketball coach at Johnson at the Board of Education meeting Monday night.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Pozyc said. “I am very excited to get started and come back home. It’s all about coming back home where I’m most comfortable.”
Pozyc, a 2010 Johnson graduate, also played football and baseball as a student-athlete. He replaces Dave Kennedy, who spent the past ten seasons at the helm of the Crusaders boys basketball program.
Pozyc’s coaching career in basketball began in 2012, when he served as the head boys basketball coach at Rutgers Prep.
After three years, Pozyc went to Linden, where he was an assistant coach to a team that won two NJSIAA Group 4 State Championships (2016, 2017) and made an appearance in the Tournament of Champions Finals in 2016.
He was most recently an assistant basketball coach at Saint Mary of the Assumption (Elizabeth), before the school announced its sudden closure during the summer. Pozyc also served as the head softball coach at Wardlaw-Hartridge (Edison) for the 2014 season.
Pozyc’s coaching career include a Skyland Conference championship in 2014-15 at Rutgers Prep. At Wardlaw-Hartridge, they won the Gold B division championship, along with a Prep B state championship.
With the season a few months away, Pozyc knows building relationships with the players is important to work toward the goals and visions for the team.
“[Coaches’] have great relationships with their players. I think that’s essential, something I really want to do here,” Pozyc said. “I already have pretty good relationships with these kids. It’s a different coach relationship with a player rather than just a friend.”
“Those guys I worked under, they did a really good job of building relationships with their team and their players,” he added.
Some of the basketball coaches Pozyc worked with included Tim Ortelli (Rutgers Prep), Phil Colicchio (Linden) and Dan Crincoli (St. Mary of the Assumption).
“Mike is a hard worker. There is a saying, ‘If you work extremely hard there is no guarantee of success- but if you choose not to, there is a great chance you will not be successful.’ I know Mike is excited and I am thrilled for him,” Ortelli said.
In a transitioning year, Johnson went 8-17 last season. Led by 1,000-point scorer Brandon Hund, the Crusaders managed to reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 state tournament, falling to Manasquan in the first round.
The team is coming on three years removed from an appearance in the sectional championship game. As part of the process, Pozyc says having a vision to achieve the successes that previous teams did begins with the players in the room.
“Laying the groundwork is most important and teaching these kids how to be young men and to be respectful, have integrity and high-character kids. That’s the first thing,” Pozyc said.
“Relationships with the youth is crucial. There has to be that positive approach,” Ortelli said. “If Mike is allowed to pursue those growth-oriented objectives, he can continue to grow the program and himself each and every year. That was the model I was supported with at Bridgewater-Raritan and it established the foundation that continued to grow year in and year out.”
With the season a few months away, the players have continued to prepare all summer. Despite the changes taking place, it didn’t affect their offseason routine, which stands out to Pozyc.
“It’s essential for them to be in the gym,” Pozyc said. “We have some good upperclassmen with leadership. They’re going to get these [younger] players in the gym and work.”
“As they’ve been working all summer, without a head coach, they’ve been out there at the recreation center working hard,” he added. “I’ve driven past, and I’ve seen them. It’s a great thing to see and they’re going to keep it up during the fall.”
Outside of basketball, Pozyc is an assistant football coach at Linden in the fall and is an assistant baseball coach at Union Catholic in the spring.
“The competitive fire is here,” Pozyc said. “These kids love the game of basketball and for as long as I have known them, they have always given 100% effort. This was a mutual thing.”
“We all have the same goals and we will improve and grow on a daily basis,” he added. “I have a saying that we will use as the centerpiece for what we do in this program on the court, in the classroom, at home and in the community, ‘we will think like a winner, act like a winner, play like a winner and you will be a winner.’”