2016 GMC Hoops Awards–Coach of the Year

Hard Work Pays Off for South Brunswick’s Joe Hoehman

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–It has been a long road to the top for South Brunswick’s Joe Hoehman. Although his Vikings ended up as the runner-up to St. Joseph’s in the GMCT, and couldn’t get past Colts Neck in the Central Jersey Group 4 State Tournament, Hoehman, the 2016 GMC Hoops Coach of the Year, can now be put in the same discussion with the top coaches in the GMC. The journey to this point began during the 2003-04 season.

In the 2003-04 campaign, St. Joseph’s head coach, Dave Turco was in his second season at South Brunswick. Bob Turco was an assistant on the staff. The JV squad was the top seed and reached the championship game of that season’s East Brunswick/GMC JV Tourney before losing to third seeded East Brunswick. Meanwhile, Hoehman was coaching the SBHS freshmen squad, and that team was also the top seed. The Freshmen Vikings led by Martin and Malcolm Soaries as well as Devon Young, reached the semifinals of the 2004 Perth Amboy Tournament.

Sayreville put an end to South Brunswick’s Freshmen run in the Amboy Tourney, and then lost to South Plainfield in the championship. South Brunswick ended up finishing third in that tourney after defeating Piscataway in the consolation game. The following year, not much was expected of Hoehman’s freshmen squad. They entered the tourney as the 12th seed, but then put together a Cinderella run. A group that consisted of the likes of Arman Wilson, Sean Lease, Jordan Teicher, and Troy Confessore took advantage of a wild tournament that saw many upsets to reach the final.

The 2004-05 Freshmen Vikings defeated fifth seeded Cardinal McCarrick in the Round of 16, shocked fourth seeded Edison in the quarterfinals, and then 8th seeded Piscataway to go a step further than the more highly touted frosh team of the year before. South Brunswick would fall in the championship to second seeded J.F. Kennedy, which was then coached by Chris Banos. However, South Brunswick was a program on the rise after the varsity team reached the semifinals before losing to Andrew Bynum and Sean Baptiste led St. Joseph’s while the JV won the EB/GMC JV Tourney. Hoehman, who had been an integral part of this growth and success, was about to move up.

Following the 2004-05 season, Dave Turco took the head coaching job at St. Joseph’s and Chris Balent, who had served on the staff at The College of New Jersey came in as the new coach. Hoehman became the JV coach, and had the opportunity to coach the likes of Wilson, Lease, Teicher, Confessore, and Mohammed Sanu, the younger brother of Sayreville standout, Samir Sanu, who would eventually make a name for himself on the gridiron at SBHS and Rutgers before moving on to the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. In 2005-06, South Brunswick’s JV won it all again in the East Brunswick/GMC JV Tourney. The second seeded JV Vikings defeated Edison in the Round of 16, Immaculata in the Elite Eight, Bishop Ahr in the semifinals, and top seeded Joes in the title game.

After winning the EB/GMC JV Tournament two years in a row, South Brunswick fell in the semifinals of the 2007 JV Tourney to Bishop Ahr. However, Hoehman’s work at the lower levels for the last four seasons was bearing fruit at the varsity level. Despite losing to fifth seeded Cardinal McCarrick in the semifinals at Middlesex County College in the 2007 GMCT, the SBHS varsity, which now consisted of the likes of the Soaries twins, Young, and Wilson along with the likes of Ray Dasant, Brian Morgan, Vineesh Manchanda, and Mike Sobers as well as Lease, Teicher, and Confessore coming off the bench, rebounded to roll though a very tough CJ Group 4 field to win the section, and then defeat Cherokee in the state semis before giving Linden all it had before falling in the Group 4 State Championship at Rutgers.

During the offseason, Balent took the head coaching position at Elizabeth High School, and Hoehman moved up to coach the varsity for the 2007-08 season, and he has been there ever since. There have been some ups and downs as well as some difficult disappointments, but gradually, he was building the program much like his predecessors did. There were already some pieces in place with the likes of Eric Savage and Jack Engel up at the varsity level. Terrence Wong, who graduated last summer along with Engel, was also added to the mix after transferring in from Piscataway Tech. However, it was the talent at the lower levels that would eventually bring about the success that SBHS enjoyed this season.

Video: Watch South Brunswick’s talented junior class as freshmen against Monroe in the Perth Amboy/GMC Frosh Tourney Quarterfinals.

With the help of his coaching staff that included Bob Henning, Justin McCuen, and Sean Edwards, Hoehman was able to reach the GMCT Quarterfinals in 2015, and then the finals for the first time since 1993. The current junior class had a lot to do with that success. Two years ago as freshmen, the SBHS juniors reached the championship game of the 2014 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament before losing to St. Joseph’s-White. The following year, South Brunswick avenged that loss by defeating top seeded St. Joe’s in the EB/GMC JV Tourney final. This past season, a number of those juniors contributed to South Brunswick’s run to the final of the 2016 EB/GMC JV Tourney before losing to North Brunswick. A number of these juniors made key contributions to the varsity’s success.

Video: Watch highlights from South Brunswick’s win over St. Joseph’s in the 2015 East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament Championship.

Mike Ugarte was the second leading scorer on South Brunswick behind Eric Savage, and he came up big against East Brunswick in the 2016 GMCT Semifinals with 17 points. Ugarte also had 15 points in the win over EB in the CJ Group 4 Quarterfinals. Ryan Moran was the hero in the first win over EB on January 26th when he scored all 9 of his points in the fourth quarter including two threes in the final minute to lift the Vikes to a thrilling 57-56 win over the Bears. Danesh Thriukmaran was another key contributor with several threes in the loss to St. Joseph’s in the GMCT Final, and a couple long treys against EB in the Central Jersey Group 4 Quarterfinals that ended up with Savage hitting the game winning shot in overtime for the 63-61 win. Hoehman along with his assistants Henning, McCuen, and Edwards, did a great job cultivating all of the talent at SBHS with a solid offseason program as well.

Over the summer and fall, South Brunswick made the rounds of a number of different leagues and showcases. Last summer, the Vikes played in the Moody Park Summer League in Ewing, where they reached the quarterfinals before falling to Bordentown. South Brunswick also played in the Odie Page Summer League in New Brunswick, and the Montgomery Team Camp before finishing the summer with the Summer Primetime Shootout at Trenton Catholic. Then in the fall, SBHS participated in the Linden Fall League with the likes of Linden, Old Bridge, A.L. Johnson, St. Peter’s of Staten Island, and Rutgers Prep. In addition to trusting his staff, Hoehman also had great leadership on the court with Savage, who served as the extension of the coach.

Video: Watch South Brunswick play Bordentown in the 2015 Moody Park Summer League Quarterfinals.

Savage turned in a solid season for the Vikings. The senior, who finished with 953 career points, and will attend Tufts University in Boston in the fall, came up big when he needed to. In the first win over EB on January 26th, Savage scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half to help the Vikings come from behind for the win. He scored 24 in the second meeting against the Bears at East Brunswick in the regular season finale as well as a couple dozen in the loss to St. Joe’s in the GMCT Championship. He was clutch down the stretch again in the fourth and final meeting versus East Brunswick in the CJ Group 4 Quarterfinals, where he took the team on his back with scores late in regulation, and the game winner at the buzzer to finish with 22 points. Savage then scored another 22 in his final game against Colts Neck in the sectional semifinals.

Video: Watch South Brunswick battle St. Joseph’s in the 2016 GMCT Championship.

Not to be left out were the other seniors, who brought their share of leadership to the team to help Hoehman attain his success. Jaier Garrett, Isaiah Franklin, and Sean Nally also made many contributions to South Brunswick’s best season since 2007. Garrett sparked the Vikings comeback from nine points down with 1:26 to go in the first contest against East Brunswick on January 26th by making a pair of free throws. He also scored 16 points in the third and final win over EB in the state playoffs on March 3rd. Nally often had his hands full having to take on the likes of big men such as Alanzo Frink of St. Joseph’s while netting threes from time to time such as the one against Hillsborough in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at Montgomery HS on January 9th. Isaiah Franklin also brought some length and experience to the floor as well. As sophomores, these three helped guide SBHS to the 2014 EB/GMC JV Semifinals.

Video: Watch SB’s Jaier Garrett, Mike Ugarte, Sean Nally, and Isaiah Franklin play in the 2014 East Brunswick/GMC JV Semifinals.

As you can see, Hoehman’s success was brought about by a combination of factors: 1.) Growing talent from the lower levels, 2.) Trusting your coaching staff, 3.) Challenging the team with a rigorous offseason schedule, and 4.) Utilizing senior leadership. All of these factors made it possible for South Brunswick’s best season in 9 years, and for Joe Hoehman to become the 2016 GMC Hoops Coach of the Year.