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Jimmy Salmon, the longtime AAU coach for the Playaz, has been rumored to be next head coach at Montclair Immaculate. (photo courtesy of youtube.com)

Jimmy Salmon (right) had one of the nation's more high profile players last summer with his Playaz AAU program in Kentucky-bound all-stater Isaiah Briscoe of Roselle Catholic (11). (photo courtesy of mchronicle.augusta.com)

While Awaiting Salmon Decision
AD Says IC Will Not Be RC
By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

MONTCLAIR- For Immaculate Conception Athletic Director Ryan Horan, there are simply only positive vibes emanating all throughout the tiny Catholic high school nestled between Cottage Place and Munn Street in the heart of Montclair Center, and that has nothing to do with prevailing chatter that the Lions have visions of one day being the next mega power in boys hoops as rumors were still swirling recently that one of the biggest names in New Jersey AAU basketball, Jimmy Salmon, will be the Lions’ next head basketball coach.

The Archdiocese of Newark was all set to close the doors at IC after 90 years due to financial straits last July; however, a terrific groundswell of support from alumni and other well-meaning donors raised more than $360,000 initially toward the $500,000 required to keep the school going and the doors were back open last September.

Now, with the prospects of the largest-ever, incoming freshmen class of between 50 and 60 a distinct possibility, IC appears alive and well and ready to compete more rigorously in scholastic sports with a varsity football schedule back in play for this fall and a new boys hoops coach soon to be hired to replace 71-year-old Danny Grasso, the highly-regarded, longtime North Jersey coach, who retired after 12 seasons at IC after last winter’s campaign.

When asked directly if IC had any visions of being the next St. Anthony or Roselle Catholic in the New Jersey boys basketball high school hoops hierarcy as some have been saying this summer, Horan was quick to deflect such talk.

“No, we’re not headed in that direction,” he said. “With our little gym and how we go about things here we're really looking to be able to compete with our neighbors, and be able to play with teams like Glen Ridge on our schedule,” said the 28-year-old Horan, a third year AD at the Montclair-based Catholic school and coach in both football and softball for the Lions. “Would we like to be bigger and better and bring more exposure to the school?...Certainly, but (St. Anthony and Roselle Catholic) are a whole ‘nother level.”

IC boys hoops finished 5-16 last winter and 4-10 for seventh place among eight schools in the Super Essex Conference’s bottom of five different divisions, the Independence. Glen Ridge (17-7 overall) won the Independence Dvision title with a 12-2 mark.

Meanwhile, Salmon, who is best known as the director of the Playaz basketball program that has competed for Jersey AAU bragging rights in recent years with Ed Bright’s highly-successful Team Izod/Sports U organization, has apparently not yet decided if or where he may return to coach high school hoops.

When reached by phone at an AAU tournament this past Friday, he said that he would not comment about the possibilities of becoming the next head boys hoops coach at Immaculate.

However, Sideline Chatter has learned that Salmon will likely make his decision as to whether he will accept or turn down the coaching position at the Montclair Catholic school on or around Aug. 10 when the summertime AAU circuit has slowed down at least a bit.

Horan would not confirm or deny that Salmon was ‘the man’ for the Lions’ head hoops coaching position; however, all would make sense in terms of Salmon blending in with the new regime at IC since the new high school principal is Michelle Neves who at one time was an assistant principal at Paterson Catholic where Salmon had his most recent high school head coaching job.

Salmon directed a Tim Thomas-led PC team to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final vs. Orange in 1994, where Duval Simmons (St. Joseph University) and company for coach Al Thompson’s Tornados defeated the Cougars, 64-56, for top honors in Garden State scholastic hoops circles for the 1993-94 winter season.

As far as players rumored to be heading to IC should Salmon be the next boys hoops coach there, one name being prominently mentioned is West Orange 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Justin Winston; however, neither Horan nor Kathy Badillo, the recently-appointed IC director of admissions, would confirm or deny that the former Mountaineer would next be a Lion in September.

Badillo did not yet return a phone message left at her IC office. Also, Winston has been rumored to be transferring to Hudson Catholic which already has a very high-profile hoops program coached by Verona native Nick Mariniello.

Salmon was still coaching at Paterson Catholic in the 1990s when he started ‘The Pat Cats’ which were the precursor of Playaz, who took off with the involvement of Thomas, the Paterson Catholic all-stater who spent his freshman season playing for Jay Wright at Villanova (where Salmon also arrived as an assistant coach for one year) before heading off to a long career in the NBA.

Salmon, meanwhile, continued a business relationship at the time with Adidas and went back to making the Playaz a popular hoops magnet for big-name players from far and wide.

NBA stars Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant became involved with the Playaz as the AAU team made its impact on a national scale. Former Seton Hall University standouts including the late Eddie Griffin and Marcus Toney-El were other key Playaz additions as was Toney-El friend and former Seton Hall Prep teammate Brandin Knight (Pitt).

Brandon Costner of SHP and North Carolina State, Dahntay Jones of Steinert High School and Duke, and Earl Clark of Hillside and Louisville were other notable Jersey players with Playaz. The latter two both played in the NBA.

The most notable recent star for the Paterson-based hoops organization was graduated Roselle Catholic N.J. Player of the Year Isaiah Briscoe, who is now headed to play for John Calipari at Kentucky.

One caveat, perhaps, in Salmon not taking the Immaculate job is the fact that there is a prime high school hoops coaching opportunity that has opened up in his home silk city at Paterson Charter with its head coach, Tommie Patterson, heading back to his own high school alma mater, Paterson Kennedy where the very popular veteran coach Jim Ring was not rehired.

Excitement Building About Return of Varsity Football At IC

Meanwhile, with much ‘hoopla’ circulating around the boys hoops program regarding little Immaculate, there is also much excitement about the upcoming 2015 football season for the Lions with a new head coach, former MKA assistant Fabian Alesandro, and the potential of a squad of between 25 and 30 players.

Having just this past week added a seventh game in a Newark school called People’s Prep Charter, the Lions’ gridiron slate is beginning to come together. Horan said the school has been helped by the fact that Cardinal McCarrick in Middlesex County closed its doors this past June meaning a couple of teams at least were looking for games.

Right now, the other six opponents on a still-to-be-finalized IC football schedule for this fall are:

Sept. 12 vs. Marist; Sept.18 at Morrisville (Pa.), Oct. 3 vs. Maryland Christian; Oct. 17: at Strawberry Mansion (Philadelphia); Oct. 24: vs. Newark Academy; Oct. 29: at Bergen Tech (Riverside County Park in North Arlington) and Nov. 7 vs. Snyder.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Immaculate assistant football coach and school athletic director Ryan Horan is seen with returning star back Krevon Davis. (photo courtesy of Immaculate)

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