With the game in hand on Thursday and a milestone just seconds away from becoming a reality, Bogota coach Jay Mahoney checked the last of his starters and waited for him to come on the sidelines.
The Senior Wrapped Veteran Coach Evan Meberg in an embrace once he steps off the pitch, celebrating a win that lasted 43 years. It was one of a series of hugs Mahoney was part of that night as family, players, coaches and friends from all his years in Bogota reunited.
It was a big one. Earn #700.
Mahoney, 67, is only the 14th coach in state history to achieve that record and all 700 of those wins have come in Bogota. It’s a journey Mahoney could never have imagined when he came to this Bergen County town in 1978 as a teacher or when he began his coaching career with the Bucs the following winter. .
“It’s surreal. It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” said Mahoney, the son of a coach who loves basketball. the impression that, in a way, it came so quickly. I think doing 700 with a kid like Evan Meberg is appropriate. In 43 years, we took younger children who were of average ability and convinced them to work 12 months a year to get better. This kid embodies all the people who have passed through Bogota and who have spent time and developed. They weren’t just born with it. They worked for it. »
Mahoney’s first year in Bogota was nothing to talk about. The Bucs have gone 10-12 this season.
It was good. It was a process and it was going to take time to build a winner.
Not too long though.
Two years later, Bogota staged their first winning season under Mahoney and it was just a taste of what was to come. Ten years after first taking office, Mahoney came to state attention in 1990 as he guided a team that included All-American Pat Sullivan at the Tournament of Champions.
This group also won the Bergen County Jamboree – an incredible feat for a Group 1 school. Bogota won another county championship a few years later with Sullivan’s brother Ryan taking the lead.
Suddenly, Mahoney and the square mile city of Bogota were in the spotlight and that’s when his signature coaching style was on display as well. His voice isn’t as crisp as it was back then, but Mahoney still coaches with passion and uses a strong approach to get his message across to his team.
No matter the score or the situation, Mahoney always tries to make the Bucs better.
He learned that from his father, Jack, who was a coach at St. Anthony in the 1960s and a scout for Jay until 1995. Mahoney didn’t come to Bogota to coach at first, but when the opportunity arose. is presented, he took it. He loved playing in high school at St. Joe’s in Western New York and in college at Bergen County Community College and Thomas College in Maine. Basketball runs through Mahoney’s veins.
There’s also an edge he gained growing up in Weehawken that Mahoney sees in a lot of the kids who passed through Bogota. It’s something that made Bogota the only place for him.
“We grew up with this passion, this tenacity and this defensive spirit,” said Pat Sullivan, who won a national title at the University of North Carolina. “’Coach is a guy from Hudson County and he established that in our town and in our community. It’s what we all wanted to be. On so many levels, he basically prepared us. I mean that as a compliment, but he was almost unreasonable with his demands. He wasn’t going to let you slip on a pivot or a step or a dribble or a pass or a fake or a defensive assignment. He was just a perfectionist.
Sullivan has seen a lot since his time in Bogota. He played at UNC and then coached in the NBA for 17 years before returning to his alma mater as director of recruiting this season.
When he first came to Chapel Hill, Sullivan says Dean Smith told him he didn’t have to worry about his fundamentals. Sullivan had them in hand and learned a lot from Mahoney.
Sullivan clearly remembers starting each workout with the same two exercises.
First, you roll the ball, dive to the ground, stand up, then put it down.
Then you roll the ball, dive to the ground, stand up and charge.
A lot has changed for Mahoney over the past 30 years. His hair is now gray and he has grown accustomed to wearing hoodies and a long-sleeved black shirt with a Bogota logo on it. The process is still the process though.
Meberg says he and his teammates perform the same drills to this day.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an All-American or the last guy on the bench, Mahoney is going to demand the same from you and expect you to work hard year after year. It’s also why he doesn’t stop training until the final whistle. He gives his player the same work ethic for 32 minutes that he asks of him.
“There’s a great tradition here in Bogota and it’s great to be part of this milestone,” said Meberg, who scored a team-best 29 points against Palisades Park. “Coach deserved it all the way and we are all happy to be here to help him get to 700. When I was little I went to his summer camps and I knew he was hard. The younger guys in Bogota know what Coach is and when you get to high school you’re just excited to play for him and work hard. I’m just trying to help the guys play bogota basketball and have fun there.
Mahoney may have slacked off for a few seconds at the end of that last win, but you can forgive him. It was quite an important step and a step that few coaches have been able to experience.
After sharing that hug with Meberg, Mahoney individually embraced his coaching staff, including his son, Kyle, who was born in 1993 – the same year Bogota won their second Bergen County title. Shortly after, streamers opened with confetti flooding a pitch with Mahoney’s name written on it.
A presentation was made with a commemorative balloon to celebrate the victory.
Then, former players joined this year’s group for a photo with their legendary coach.
Mahoney’s daughter Brianne met him halfway through after it was all over, sharing a special moment with her dad on a night to remember. Brianne was born in the fall of 1989 and has lived in Bogota since the Bucs went to TOC. Coincidentally, this is another year that Bogota has won everything in Bergen County. Kyle jokes that his father should have another child if Bogota wants another county crown.
Over the past 43 years, Bogota has won 10 league championships, four section titles, two Bergen County championships and a Group 1 title. This team that went to the Tournament of Champions in 1990 is the gold standard , but there have been so many good teams and 12 that have won more than 20 games.
This is amazing for one of the smaller schools in North Jersey.
“To be able to compete with the Hackensacks, the Bergen Catholics and the Teanecks is a tribute to his work ethic and how he’s able to focus on execution,” Sullivan said. “He created a fabric of tenacity. It made us who we were as a team in Bogota. When other teams arrived on the bus and walked into our gym, they knew it wasn’t going to be their night. You knew what you were getting into that night and this is what you were going to get. Mahoney established that with what he created for our program and our community. This dynamism and these constant efforts are impressive. You knew what you were doing every day and there were no days off, no light workouts or light games. He wasn’t going to take your head easily. He wanted you to improve with every game; no matter who you were. I will never forget him.
This year has been a little tougher for Bogota (5-7), but Mahoney is still going strong.
Meberg is the leader of a range that also includes seniors Daniel Trinidad, Vincent Ducut and Jaden Feliz as well as second year Vance Mixon. Junior Brian Cotes, sophomores RJ Asencio and Jean-Paul Wiski, and freshman Lucas Cruz also saw time against Palisades Park as their coach won No. 700.
These are names that Mahoney will remember 10 years from now when he thinks about this moment.
The veteran coach can rattle off hundreds of names of former players and not just 1,000-point scorers or All-Staters or All-Americans. He remembers the children who came to work every day and improved their lives. Some of those kids were there in the gymnasium today.
This is what he experienced in Bogota. That’s why he keeps doing this.
And that’s why in 2022, Mahoney is still with the Bucs; 700 wins and counting.
“For the past six or seven years, I wake up in the morning and feel like I don’t want to do this anymore,” Mahoney said. “Then I come here and I coach, and when I come home after the game I feel like I want to do this for the rest of my life. It will probably be the same tonight. It’s that’s who I am and that’s what I do.”
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