SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys soccer coach Tom Breznitsky notched another major milestone to add to his lengthy resume on Thursday as the Raiders defeated Elizabeth, 2-1, in overtime. Breznitsky picked up his 700th career win as a head coach.
“It is a big accomplishment,” said assistant coach Joe Mortarulo, who has been in the program since 1982 when he was originally a ball boy. “There are not many guys who have that recognition and win total. It is a testament to his livelihood, desire and dedication to the program and his kids.”
For the past 42 years, Coach Brez, as he is affectionately called, has turned the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School boys soccer program into one of the nations best.
In 1974, the year before he took over as head coach, the team finished 3-8. Since Breznitsky’s first season in 1975, the team has never had a losing record.
“He wants to win more than anyone I have ever met in my life,” said Mortarulo. “Ever. I have played with some of the best players in the country and the world and he wants to win more than anybody. I think he brings that along to the training ground everyday and definitely that desire in every match.”
Breznitsky has been at the helm for 27 conference championships, 17 county championships, and 18 sectional titles, and seven state championships (eight if you include his time as the assistant varsity baseball coach).
Four of those seven state championship teams in 1987, 1992, 1997 and 1998 finished the season nationally ranked.
The on-field results are not the only thing that has made SPFHS soccer a dynasty under Breznitsky. It is the culture of winning he has created that continues to keep the program in the highest echelon of high school soccer.
“He is tenacious to protect his team, protect his players and to protect the reputation of the school,” said Athletic Director Ryan Miller. “If it means the goals are ripped and he wants them fixed or the right officials on the field, he does not quit in terms of getting the very best for these kids and this program.”
For Breznitsky, it was all about building the program up to the point when success becomes is always expectation.
“You have to get the program to that point where you believe in yourself, are winning, and doing the right things,” said Breznitsky. “From that particular point on, it just falls into place. It is like many of the great athletic teams that win year after year after year after year and there are many of them. We have been able to do it for an awfully long time.”
The victory puts Breznitsky in a tie with Phil Savitz of River Bluff High School in South Carolina for seventh in U.S. high school soccer history. In the state, he is in third place all-time behind current Pingry head coach Miller Bugliari and former Columbia High School head coach Gene Chyzowych.
“I think this is one of his better [accomplishments],” said Miller. “There was a lot of pressure to get 700. Our fans knew it. Our kids knew it. And then we had to play Elizabeth who is probably top three in the county and are coming off of last year where they ousted us in states. It had a lot wrapped up into one game: redemption for the sectional semi finals and win 700.”
Over the years, Breznitsky has had many players in his program who have come to appreciate all the work he has done to get them better.
“He has been a great coach,” said senior Robert Devine-Gelling, who scored the game-winning goal on Thursday. “He encourages players to work hard, train hard and makes everyone live up to the expectations that he wants and shows in training.”
When Miller thinks about the still-growing legacy of Breznitsky, three things come to his mind.
“His ability to keep the kids going to school, to keep in touch with the alumni, and to build Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School into the powerhouse it has been over the last 42 years are his biggest accomplishments without a doubt,” said Miller.
Breznitsky’s career has been a history-making one, and he is happy that he was able to do it here.
“We have the town’s program and the community," said Breznitsky. "It is very rare to see a soccer turf field, but that was the community and the town. They have a belief in our program, and they pushed for a second turf field. I couldn’t ask to coach in a better situation than I am in now.”