Paul Rodio and Tony Chapman have never been formally introduced. The highly successful coaches’ boys’ basketball teams have never played against each other.
Their paths have likely crossed, since they’ve been traveling in the same circles for more than 40 years.
“We probably shook hands one time,” said Rodio, suspecting they might have met at a summer camp or coaches clinic, an AAU tournament or a showcase event.
But according to the man who serves as the nexus between the coach with the most career wins in Philadelphia-area history and the coach with the second-most wins, they both can discover a lot about the other in the same spot: the mirror.
“It’s really kind of amazing, the similarities,” said Kevin Burke, who played for Rodio at St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J., and now is Chapman’s boss as the principal of Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem.
Rodio, 67, and Chapman, 66, don’t look alike. They don’t approach the game in the same way, either.
“Tony is a master tactician, always looking at the intricacies,” Burke said. “Coach Rodio is no slouch when it comes to X’s and O’s, but he’s the greatest motivator I’ve ever been around.
“They come at things from different angles. But they have the same intensity, even after all these years.”
Burke said the similarities in the two coaches are uncanny, starting with the fact that both St. Augustine and Holy Ghost opened in 1959.
Both men played guard in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the same all-boys school at which they now coach. Rodio graduated from St. Augustine in 1970, Chapman from Holy Ghost in 1971.
Both men went to college at Big 5 schools during a high time in that city basketball series. Chapman graduated from La Salle, Rodio from Villanova.
Both almost immediately returned to their alma mater, serving as assistant coaches for the basketball program. Rodio became the Hermits’ head coach before the 1977-78 season, seven years after graduating from the school. Chapman became the Firebirds’ head coach before the 1978-79 season, seven years after graduating from the school.
Both coaches are still going strong in their sixth decade on the sidelines. Both do their business in home courts named after them -- Rodio Gymnasium at St. Augustine, Chapman Arena at Holy Ghost.
Rodio has 955 wins in 43 seasons. Chapman has 888 wins in 42 seasons. No other coach in the region is close to the top two, with Burlington City’s Paul Collins next on the Philadelphia-area all-time wins list with 808, per research by local sports historian Chuck Langerman.
Rodio’s teams have won 10 Cape-Atlantic League titles, 15 South Jersey titles, and five state titles. Chapman’s teams have won 22 Bicentennial League titles, eight District 1 titles, and two Eastern state titles.
“It’s so much more than just the wins and losses,” said Burke, who graduated from St. Augustine in 2000 and became Holy Ghost’s principal in July 2019. “It’s the influence these two guys have had on generations of players.
“And the thing that strikes me most is that both of them put the institution first ahead of themselves, ahead of their basketball program.
“Coach Rodio wants what is best for St. Augustine. Coach Chapman wants what is best for Holy Ghost.”
Burke laughingly notes another similarity: Long benches, to account for a lengthy list of loyal assistant coaches who need to find a seat during games.
“Every game it’s, ‘Wait, we need more chairs,’ ” Burke said.
Chapman credits those assistant coaches for extending his career.
“The No. 1 thing for me has been the support of my family,” Chapman said. “The other thing is the people I’ve had around me, the help I’ve had. There’s so much nowadays, especially in the offseasons. I never would have been able to keep going without them.”
Rodio said support from his family and others in the St. Augustine athletic program have been instrumental to his longevity and success, too. He points to another source of inspiration: the baby faces on the student-athletes who walk in the door as freshmen every September.
“It’s the kids that keep me going,” Rodio said. “Just watching them grow, as basketball players, as people, just believing I can have an impact on that.”
Both men are still producing top teams. St. Augustine was 24-5 this past season, winning another Non-Public South A title and advancing to a scheduled state final that was canceled when the NJSIAA shut down the tournament because of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Holy Ghost was 23-5, advancing to the second round of the District 1, Class 5A tournament.
Both coaches are as competitive as ever although they both admit to taking it a little easier on the referees than they did in the early days.
“I know I used to be a lot more fire and brimstone,” Chapman said. “That was hard on the kids, and I think it was taking an emotional toll on me. I used to be tough on the officials. Now I seem to get along with all of them.”
Burke said both men have softened for another common reason: Both are devoted grandfathers.
“I’ve had people tell me that,” Rodio said. “I guess it’s true."
Throughout all the years, Rodio and Chapman never have formally met. And their teams never have played.
But that likely will change next season, as officials from both schools are working to schedule a game between the Hermits and Firebirds, a contest that will feature coaches who have combined for more than 1,800 wins over an aggregate of 85 seasons on the sidelines.