SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ --When the final buzzer sounded at the end of Union Catholic's win over Kent Place in the first round of the Union County Girls Basketball Tournament on Feb. 18, it represented more than a berth in the quarterfinals for the Vikings.
The victory also catapulted Union Catholic girls head coach Kathy Matthews and UC boys head coach Dr. James Reagan Jr. into very rare territory as the dynamic coaching duo reached an impressive and unique milestone by combining for 1,000 victories in their basketball coaching careers at UC. That's a remarkable feat that very few schools in state history have ever accomplished.
Coach Matthews, who has since added a victory over Roselle Catholic in the UCT quarterfinals, has racked up an astounding 740 victories in her legendary 43-year career at Union Catholic. Coach Reagan, who picked up a win vs. Oratory last Thursday, has piled up 262 wins in his 18 years as head coach of the Vikings boys program. The dynamic coaching duo now have a career coaching record of 1,002 wins against just 429 losses.
To consistently win for as many years as Reagan and Matthews have at the same school is an amazing achievement.
"I think it's pretty unique that we have combined for 1,000 wins,'' said Coach Reagan, whose team is 12-10 this season. "I don't know of any other places in the state that can say that, so it's very special.''
Coach Reagan feels that the success of the two programs speaks volumes about Union Catholic, and that he and Coach Matthews share the same mission of helping their players be good people, and preparing them for life after graduation.
"I think it speaks to the stability of our programs, and the stability of this school that we've been able to work with our student athletes and put the best product out there,'' said Coach Reagan, a 1996 graduate of UC. "And it's about more than just wins and losses here at Union Catholic, it's about doing the right things, about following our kids after they graduate and seeing them become successful citizens, successful parents, and successful professionals.''
Coach Reagan always admired Coach Matthews when he was younger, and said it's a pleasure to now get to work with her. It's very exciting for me having grown up watching Kathy Matthews, and now getting to work with her,'' said Coach Reagan "It's like a dream job situation for me, and I'm very thankful and appreciative of my time here.''
While Coach Matthews and Coach Reagan often share their coaching wisdom with one another, their relationship goes beyond X's and O's.
''Jim gave me one of his motion offenses that's really helped us a lot, and we always talk a lot of basketball,'' said Coach Matthews, who will lead her 18-4 squad into the UCT semifinals tonight vs. Gov. Livingston (6 p.m. at Rahway High). ''But the other thing that's really nice is that we're friends and respect each other, work well together, and support each other. I also think we understand the highs and the lows, what it's like after a tough loss or a great win. We can relate to all the different emotions that come with coaching. We have a special working relationship.''
Union Catholic Athletic Director Dave Luciano said Coach Matthews and Coach Reagan have been models of consistency on and off the court, and set a great example for the entire Union Catholic athletic department.
"Kathy and Jim have put the time in for years focusing on not just on winning games, but also making sure our kids are good citizens throughout their four-year stay and beyond,'' said Mr. Luciano. "As an Athletic Director, it gives me a comfort level that I have two professional coaches in the building that I know always strive to do the right things, preach that to our athletes, put our kids in spots where they can be successful, and in the end, the wins speak for themselves. Obviously what they are doing is working considering that they have as many wins as they do. What they have done is very rare and unique.''