Gary Mobley is still in a state of bewilderment.
He is no longer the head football coach at Rahway.
He would also like to know the answer why.
The Rahway Board of Education has only told Mobley that he will not be back as Rahway’s head football coach.
In essence, the Rahway BOE can no longer tolerate a football coach who guided the Indians to a record of 30 games above .500 the past 11 seasons.
Before Mobley – a 1986 Union graduate who starred on back-to-back 11-0 North 2, Group 4 state championship teams coached by Lou Rettino his junior and senior seasons of 1984 and 1985 – was promoted from assistant coach at Rahway to head coach for the 2004 season, Rahway had three head coaches the previous four years. The Indians failed to make the playoffs and finish above .500 all four of those seasons.
Rahway BOE president Peter Kowal delivered a mixed message – of sorts – in last week’s informative story written by Greg Tufaro that appeared on the mycentralnewjersey.com website.
Kowal was quoted as saying, “Gary has done a great job for us, no question about that. I know there’s a coaching block that is Gary Mobley guys. I’m a Gary Mobley guy.”
Kowal also said that the board “decided that we would be going in a different direction.”
Rahway Athletics Director Tom Lewis was quoted as saying the same thing. “Gary is nothing but a good guy. He was a very good coach. The board has made a decision to go in another direction.”
If Kowal and Lewis think that Mobley is a good guy and a good coach and even Kowal said that, “he is a Mobley guy,” than why is Mobley – with a record of 74-44 (.627) during his 11-season tenure as Rahway’s head coach, which includes nine winning seasons, nine playoff campaigns and playoff wins in seven seasons – not being retained?
“That’s what I would still like to know,” Mobley said by phone interview Thursday.
I know several coaches that would give their right arm for a 74-44 record in 11 years.
Sure Mobley can reapply, but why would he be considered if the BOE has already said that they are going in a different direction? Why would he reapply? Is he going to sit in an office in front of Kowal and Lewis and explain his credentials?
Kowal and Lewis, especially Kowal, should have just said that “they were going in a different direction.” For Kowal to also say that “he is a Mobley guy” just confused the situation.
If Kowal is a Mobley guy, why is Mobley out?
“I still don’t get it,” Mobley said.
Kowal, also in the Tufaro story, said, “I probably want to keep those (reasons for not retaining Mobley) in house. The program showed some decline. We met with Gary at the end of last season to talk to him about that.”
Mobley’s only losing season as Rahway’s head coach was this past year when his 2014 Indians – a team chock full of sophomore first-time starters and many inexperienced underclassmen – finished 1-9.
Just two years ago – in 2013 – Rahway finished 7-4 and was a touchdown away from playing for a state title, falling at eventual champion Rumson-Fair Haven 28-21 in a CJ, G2 semifinal.
Mobley guided Rahway to sectional semifinal appearances seven times in his first 10 years at the helm, including going one step further in 2008 against Phillipsburg at Rutgers where Rahway was winning the North 2, Group 3 state championship game 6-0 before falling 20-6.
”When we met they explained to me that they wanted me to have a stronger connection with the Pop Warner football in town,” Mobley said. “We have two separate divisions here in Rahway. I met with them in October, November and December and again – at the high school – in January.”
Because it will not be disclosed, not even to Mobley, why Mobley is out as football coach – he still coaches track at Rahway – all we’re left to do is guess why Mobley will not be returning for a 12th season.
“Not once did I ever receive any unsatisfactory remarks on any kind of evaluation,” Mobley said.
Was Mobley fired because he didn’t deliver Rahway’s first state championship since 1984? The head coach of that Rahway team was Edward Yergalonis, who Mobley cited as one of his biggest supporters. Yergalonis retired as Rahway’s Superintendent of Schools on Dec. 31, 2014.
“It seems like it’s about wins and losses,” Mobley said.
If it’s about kids – his players – then Mobley earned an A-plus at Rahway. Each senior class he dealt with included players moving on to play at all different collegiate levels, including the highest.
One of them, 2008 graduate and Southern Connecticut State standout Ike Igbinosun, has an NFL career history with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
Only three other programs in Union County – New Providence (88 wins), Summit (79) and Brearley (75) have won more games the last 11 years.
Only one Union County head coach, Scott Miller at Brearley, has won more games than Mobley the last 11 years – exactly one more.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MOBLEY?
Mobley could surface as a head coach elsewhere for 2015. What might be more likely is a year off before moving on for 2016.
“I’m not done being a head coach,” Mobley said. “I still have the desire to lead young men in that position.
“Right now I will take my time and weigh my options. I’m not going to just jump into any situation.”
ROSELLE PARK HEAD COACH TERRY HANRATTY
AMONG MANY SURPRISED AT MOVE
Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty, who coached against Mobley when he was the head coach at Governor Livingston from 2004-2011 was among the many who was miffed at the move Rahway made concerning Mobley’s future. He also thought it was a hit Union County football didn’t need to take and one that the county might regret.
Hanratty, who still teaches physical education and also coaches girls’ basketball and baseball at GL, has already guided Roselle Park to a state championship game and two playoff appearances in three seasons. Last year’s 5-5 squad concluded with a three-game winning streak.
“I was very surprised,” Hanratty said. “When you talk about Union County football the last 10 years, Gary Mobley’s name and program are at the forefront of high school football.”
Hanratty is a 1990 Elizabeth graduate who also played on North 2, Group 4 state championship teams his junior (10-1) and senior (11-0) seasons at Elizabeth in 1988 and 1989. He began his gridiron coaching career as an assistant at Linden and Elizabeth.
“You talk about what Chet Parlavecchio and John Quinn did at Elizabeth and what John Liberato did at Summit and you put Gary right up there with them,” Hanratty said. “Gary used football to get kids to the next level, which is something all high school coaches should strive to do.”
Hanratty always knew his GL teams would be in for quite a battle when going up against Rahway. He also knew that his Highlanders would find the opposing Indians to be more than fair opponent.
“His teams always played the way you should play football and athletics,” Hanratty said. “We always stress how a team should compete with respect, dignity and pride. Gary’s teams always showed the utmost respect for his opponents.
“Gary is a standup guy. I have so much respect for him as a coach and as a person.
“We had a kid hurt during a game at his field (Veterans) once and Gary came over and made the player and his parents feel so comfortable. He had the ambulance take the player to Overlook Hospital, which was closest to Berkeley Heights.
“Gary was always a gentleman. When we played him one year at our field (before GL’s Frey Field switched to field turf), Gary held an officials’ hand to make sure he did not fall in the mud.
“I don’t care if a team is undefeated, or ranked high or has a lot of talent. It’s the little things. I look at the respect that Gary had for everyone involved.
“Another time Gary was beating us by 21 points once in the fourth quarter and took some dive plays and then a knee. One of my assistant coaches was surprised that he was doing that. I wasn’t because that’s what kind of sportsmanship, what kind of respect Gary has.”
SEASON 11 WAS STILL GOING TO BE
VERY EXCITING FOR MOBLEY
Here’s some of what I wrote last September when I put together Rahway’s 2014 season preview:
Gary Mobley can’t wait for the 2014 season to commence, which is what you want to hear a coach say after the years begin to add up.
“I still get a good feeling for my first day of camp and still enjoy all the things that go with being a coach,” said Mobley, who teaches physical education at Rahway. “It’s a blessing.”
Promoted to head coach in 2004 after being an assistant coach for the Indians, Mobley has guided Rahway to nine winning seasons and nine playoff campaigns in his first 10 years at the helm.
“It’s funny how the seasons stack up on one another so rapidly,” Mobley said.
The only year Rahway did not make the playoffs was in 2009 when it fell short of having enough power points in Central Jersey, Group 2 with a 5-3 record at the cutoff date. Rahway won its final six games that season to finish 7-3.
The only non-winning season was two years ago when the Indians finished 5-5, falling in the North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals. Rahway’s playoff record under Mobley is 8-9, including a trip to the North 2, Group 3 final in 2008 and semifinal appearances six other seasons.
Rahway has never had a losing season under his guidance.
“That’s true, but we still have work to do which means attaining that elusive state title,” Mobley said. “We’re fortunate to have enough talent in the pool in the city of Rahway.
“We’re just trying to be consistent with our system, year in and year out trying to teach the best fundamentals.
“We want to keep working on our craft. We believe that hard work works.”
MOBLEY’S DEDICATION REMAINED AT RAHWAY;
HE WANTED TO LEAD RAHWAY TO ITS NEXT TITLE
There was an opportunity for Mobley to seriously consider taking over the program at Union, his high school alma mater, several years ago.
His first words to that question were that he wanted to win a state championship at Rahway. That’s where his dedication was and that’s where he wanted his dedication to remain.
At a time in the near future his gridiron dedication, to the surprise of many, will be practiced elsewhere.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rahway’s loss will truly be someone else’s gain.
GARY MOBLEY HEAD COACH RECORD AT RAHWAY:
2013: (7-4) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals
2012: (5-5) – reached North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals
2011: (6-4) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 quarterfinals
2010: (6-5) – reached North 2, Group 3 semifinals
2009: (7-3) – non-playoff season concluded with 6-game win streak
2008: (10-2) – reached North 2, Group 3 final
2007: (9-2) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals
2006: (7-4) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals
2005: (8-3) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals
2004: (8-3) – reached Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals
Overall record: 74-44 (.627)
Playoff record: 8-9
Winning seasons: (9)
Playoff seasons: (9)
Sectional semifinals appearances: (7)
Sectional final appearances: (1)