PATERSON, NJ - James Ring wishes his head coaching career at Kennedy High never began. Sure, the 16 successful season and more than 300 wins as head coach of the Knights basketball team have been great. But Ring says he wishes he were still an assistant coach to his mentor Tyrone Collins.

"To be perfectly honest with you, I would have been very happy right now starting my 35th year as his assistant, because that would have meant he still would have been here," Ring told PatersonPress.com shortly after he passed the 300-win milestone this season.
In 1996, Ring took over the head coaching job just two months after Collins died in a tragic accident at his home in Wayne.  Ring said that Collins was probably the best coach in the program's history, and definitely its best player.
 
"That's not debatable... He put Kennedy on the map.  As a player, he was the first All-American to come out of Kennedy High School," Ring said.
 

If Collins put Kennedy on the map, Ring has kept it there. 
 
Ring's success goes beyond county championships and 20-win seasons. He also made a mark on the players and earned a reputation as a coach who cared just as much about his players' performance on the court as he did about their lives off the court.
 
Michael Cleaves, who played for Ring from 1998 to 2000, said Ring was more of a "father coach" or an "off-the-court coach" and said the two consider each other family.
 
"I call him my white father, he calls me his black son," said Cleaves, adding that Ring had taught his older siblings and coached his brother before him.
 
James Hargrove, who played for Ring when he was still an assistant coach in the 1980's said he was proud to be a part of Ring's legacy and grateful for the coach's guidance.

"Coach was a good coach.  He taught me more about life itself, with basketball.  That's why I really appreciate being coached under him when I was young," said Hargrove.
 
Ring grew up in Edgewater, NJ and went to high school at St. Joseph's in West New York, where he played guard.  He went on to study mathematics at Montclair State University, but credits a basketball class and its teacher Ollie Gelsten, with making him the coach he is today.
 
Ring said that Gelsten, who also coached the school's basketball team, gave the class an open invitation to sit in on the team's practices.
 
"I was able to pick up an awful lot of stuff from just sitting there and watching him.  He was one of the greats at Montclair State and he just had a way of motivating and getting kids to play at their maximum," he said.
 
When he graduated from Montclair State, Ring went straight into teaching mathematics at Kennedy.  He started teaching around the same time as Collins, and was part of Collins' coaching staff from the very beginning, when he took over as head coach in 1977.
 
And 19 years later, Ring said he had no choice but to take the reigns of the squad following the head coach's tragic death.
 
"That first season, we endured simply because there was no other choice but to.  I can't say enough about that class that year," adding that team marked a change in the landscape of Paterson basketball.
 
The Knights won their first game under Ring's leadership, defeating St. Joseph's of Montvale.  But that was only the beginning. Following the graduation of Paterson Catholic phenom Tim Thomas, Ring says the city's most talented players no longer passed over Kennedy to play for Paterson Catholic, sparking a new era and a new rivalry for the program.
 
As the team returned to its "winning ways," Ring made his mark on the program, leading them to three consecutive county championships in 1998, 1999, and 2000.  
 
After 300 wins and a litany of county and sectional championships spanning three decades, many head coaches would be ready to retire, but not Ring.  The coach says he sees great potential in his current squad, particularly the freshman class. Ring said he expects "very very good things from them in the next couple years."
 
"To have two freshman on our varsity squad, that's probably the first time that we've had that since the early 90s."
 
Ring, who lives in North Haledon, continues to teach, though no longer at Kennedy High.  He was transferred to the Sports Business Academy at the beginning of this school year.
 
Ring said he's had some very memorable victories in the 300+ he's racked up so far, including a memorable double-overtime defeat of cross-town rival Eastside High to make it into the 1998 county finals.  But that's not all he remembers.
 
"Just like any other coach, if you ask me which games I remember, I'll remember the losses more than I'll remember the wins."