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They have an enduring passion for basketball

For many of them, there awaits a golf course, a televised Friday night clash between St. Joe's and 'Nova, the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones, or maybe the chance to take a wintertime cruise to the Bahamas.

Legendary coach Speedy Morris, now in his 10th year at St. Joe's Prep, yells instructions. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Legendary coach Speedy Morris, now in his 10th year at St. Joe's Prep, yells instructions. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)Read more

For many of them, there awaits a golf course, a televised Friday night clash between St. Joe's and 'Nova, the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones, or maybe the chance to take a wintertime cruise to the Bahamas.

But that would mean the end to something that has long stirred their competitive juices, provided the impossible-to-measure satisfaction of pointing another teenager in the right direction, and what has been fertile ground for developing lifelong friendships.

And just when they decide to give serious thought to leaving the sideline, a promising freshman class walks in the door. Now, staying around for one or two more years becomes three. And the cycle, of course, continues.

Few, if any, know it better than William "Speedy" Morris, the dean of Southeastern Pennsylvania basketball coaches. On Friday, when St. Joseph's Prep tips off the season, it will mark his 43d year on the bench.

Morris and several others have graced the hardwood for 20-plus years. They have seen the game change, not always for the better, and helped make Philly-area basketball, rich in tradition and history, what it is today.

Morris, an assistant athletic director at the Prep, has had a victory-splashed career, 869 wins to be exact, at the high school and college levels.

Before coming to the Prep, where he enters his 10th season with a 188-56 mark and two Catholic League titles, he posted a 238-203 record with the La Salle University men's squad. His first two years at 20th Street and Olney Avenue were spent with the women's program.

His start was at Roman Catholic, where Morris, a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame, won 347 games from 1967 to 1981. He also coached at Penn Charter.

"I still enjoy what I'm doing," said Morris, 68. "I love it. That part hasn't changed. And I've been blessed to be able to coach a lot of great kids over the years."

At La Salle, in a stretch that included a 30-win season, a string of losing years led to his firing after the 2000-01 season. "It happens," Morris said. "It was time to go. I still love La Salle, am thankful for the chance they gave me."

When he began coaching the La Salle women, Morris, known for his super-intense personality, remembers his suddenly toned-down approach being addressed by Explorers captain Gina Tobin.

"She said, 'We're insulted that you think you don't have to holler at us the same way you did with your other teams. You're not the same coach,' " Morris recalled. "After that, I was my old self."

In the 1990s, Bob Schaefer, now embarking on his 30th season as the Cheltenham girls' boss, was asked if he were interested in taking over for the school's retiring boys' coach. "I said, 'No, I'm probably only going to do this for another year or two,' " Schaefer said.

With the Panthers, Schaefer, 64, has compiled a 707-154 record. "It's been an exciting three decades," he said. "The girls' game has completely changed. When I took over, it was a rare girl who could make a lefthanded layup. Now, the skills are definitely there."

Schaefer grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania's coal-mining region, and played for two years at Bloomsburg. Why did he get into coaching? "The intensity of the sport matched my personality and style," he said.

At Cheltenham, he has won four PIAA District 1 championships. The Panthers took home Class AAAA state gold in 2000 and 2007.

Steve Chadwin, in his 33d year at Abington Friends, called himself a "dinosaur."

The Germantown High and East Tennessee State graduate said he "kind of knew in high school what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a health and physical education teacher and coach basketball at the high school level."

In the Friends Schools League, Chadwin, owner of a 532-246 record, has guided the Kangaroos to 15 titles. Jabril Trawick, a senior swingman ticketed for Georgetown, is the school's sixth Division I scholarship recipient in the last five years.

"It's all about the kids," said Chadwin, 64. "I want them to become really good people, develop self-esteem, and become productive after high school."

Chadwin's wife, Sherrea, directed the Germantown Academy girls in hoops from 1977 to 1981. Their son, Jamie, is a teacher and coaches men's basketball at Immaculata University. Their daughter, Jessica, is an assistant athletic director and lacrosse coach at Villa Maria Academy.

At Downingtown East, Bob Schnure, with a 695-203 mark in 30 seasons, is nearing yet another milestone. He retired as a history teacher, after 37 years, at the end of last school year.

"I love coaching," he said. "I really like the teaching part of it. I always considered the best class teaching basketball. I love practice. Two hours of practice is like two minutes to me."

Before Downingtown split into East and West, Schnure, 63, steered the Whippets to state championships in 1987, '91, '92, and '98. The District 1 Class AAAA title that East won in 2008-09 was his 11th overall.

In 1990-91, Downingtown, led by stars Tina Nicholson and Tora Suber, went 31-1 and claimed statewide glory at HersheyPark Arena. Nicholson is now one of Schnure's assistants.

Schnure's wife, Fran Baliotti, is East's scorekeeper. His daughters, Molly and Caitlyn, played under him.

Is there a trademark of Schnure-coached squads? "We always try to be organized on offense," he said. "And we want to play with intensity."

Like other coaching lifers, Tony Chapman, entering his 33d year as Holy Ghost Prep's boss with a 687-238 record, values the relationships he has formed through roundball.

In building the Firebirds into a Bicentennial Athletic League power, he quickly credits the work of assistants such as Gary Nolan, Tom Finnegan, Jason Fisher, Bob McCarthy, and Bruce Simon. Chapman, a Holy Ghost alum, coached Nolan and Fisher in the 1990s.

"I've been fortunate to get a lot of help from a lot of people, in and outside of the season," Chapman, 56, said. "Without them, I wouldn't still be doing this."

With Holy Ghost, Chapman, the dean of students and social studies teacher, has won four District 1 titles and twice reached the Class AAA state championship game, in 1999 and 2004.

Like Schnure, he has had the chance to coach two of his kids: Brian and Matt. His eldest, Chris, went outside the box and played tennis.

"What I'm most proud about in my time here is the consistency of the program," Chapman said. "The tradition is really strong. The kids learn a lot about teamwork and camaraderie."

In the early 1980s, thanks to a recommendation from an older sister who had passed on the job, Tom Lonergan was tabbed as the girls' junior varsity coach at Archbishop Ryan, his alma mater. That was the start of a 29-year high school career.

With the Bishop McDevitt girls from 1984 to 1999, Lonergan, 49, went 265-124 and won four Catholic League crowns. In 11 seasons at Central Bucks East, he has compiled a 252-75 mark and won nine Suburban One League titles.

When it came to choosing a partner in life, Lonergan stayed within the hoops world. His wife, Kathleen, a former coach at Archbishop Wood and with him at McDevitt, is an NCAA Division I referee, working Big East and Atlantic Ten contests.

The elder of the couple's two sons, T.J., a sophomore at Pitt, has diligently kept track of Lonergan's coaching accomplishments. Tyler, an eighth grader, talks about one day joining the teacher-coach trade.

"Yeah, that could happen," said Tom Lonergan, a chief financial officer for a property development firm. "I could still be coaching then, maybe, as my kids like to joke, with the help of one of those mobility scooters."