STAFFORD — Former long time Southern Regional Basketball coach Jim Ruhnke was honored at halftime of the Southern Regional Boys contest against Toms River East on Friday, January 3.
Ruhnke's former assistant coaches, teaching colleagues, players and family members gathered to honor a man who had a profound impact on hundreds of young men who had the privilege to play basketball for him at Southern Regional High School.
The purpose of the gathering was to dedicate the court where Ruhnke roamed the sidelines for many years to be named the "Jim Ruhnke Basketball Court."
Ruhnke recorded 323 career wins, 18 state playoff appearances, three Shore Conference Class A South titles, three Southern Regional Roundball Festival titles and an amazing six WOBM Christmas Tournament championships.
The picture below is of Coach Ruhnke, his wife Jane, children Chris, Mike, Megan and other family members (photo courtesy of Kevin Williams).
Tim Tantillo, a three year starter who graduated in 1985 spoke eloquently on behalf of the former players at the event. Tantillo addressed the audience:
"Myself and the alumni gathered here have great memories of playing for Coach. He emphasized toughness. He had an unparalleled level of success over the years and I know we are all very proud of him. Coach Ruhnke was fanatical about practice..... There were many life preparation lessons learned from our basketball coach.
Tantillo concluded by saying, "Coach, you had a profound effect on my life. I have learned a great deal from you,"
Tantillo's words echoed the feelings of approximately one hundred former players in attendance. Many of the players traveled from great distance to be in attendance. Former players who attended came from Washington D.C., Charlotte, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and perhaps more regions of the United States to honor Ruhnke.
Kevin Williams, Hall of Fame sportscaster from WOBM 92.7 FM made it a point to be part of the celebration to honor Ruhnke. Kevin spoke of when the Southern Regional Roundball Christmas Festival ended in the early 80's and WOBM took over the tournament that has now been going for 36 years. Williams shared that Ruhnke was a great help in those early years working with the WOBM tourney, which at that time took place at Ocean County College. Today it
Kevin Williams mentioned back in the early 80's when Southern was ending their long time Christmas tournament and WOBM took over the tournament. The WOBM tournament has been running for 36 years and Ruhnke was instrumental in the early years of the tournament.
"In my 40 years of covering high school basketball in Ocean County, Jim Ruhnke is by far the best basketball coach I have ever watched," said Williams. "He was a remarkable basketball coach and many others sought his counsel when he was coaching and even after he retired.
A lot of students cheering for the Rams playing tonight don't know much about Coach Ruhnke...... But I do know that from this day forward whenever anyone walks in this gym, they will know from now it is (home of) the Jim Ruhnke Basketball Court. They will ask who he is and what they will find out is that he personified greatness as a basketball coach and greatness as a human being."
Superintendent Craig Henry and Board of Education President Scott Waters presented Ruhnke with a detailed proclamation which concluded with the following:
Now therefore be it resolved, on this third day of January in the year 202, that the basketball court in the 9/10 House High School be named the Jim Ruhnke Basketball Court in honor of this man's impressive and invaluable body of work and contribution to the Southern Experience!
Coach Ruhnke began by thanking Tim Tantillo and Kevin Williams for their remarks.
There is a lot of thanks to go around. Southern Regional educational community, the athletic department and my good friend superintendent Craig Henry. My friends, my colleagues, and especially my family who are all a part of this.
But mainly I want to thank my assistant coaches and players. You are the guys who made this happen. You played hard, you played smart, and most of all you played together and that combination is really tough to beat.
Although I may have gently corrected you on occasion, you are all really important to me. Thank you everyone for you support.
After the halftime ceremony, the 2019-20 Rams went on to a 37-25 victory over Toms River East.
After the game, the Ruhnke family invited former players and coaches over to the Element Restaurant where more great memories were shared and friendships rekindled. It was also a time to get to know Coach Ruhnke's family members who were also very proud of his accomplishments.
For the players who loved Coach Ruhnke it is a night that they will always remember. Special thanks goes out to Southern Regional Chief School Administrator and part-time sports video broadcaster Craig Henry who organized this fine event.