One day soon, people will talk with Roman Catholic basketball coach Chris McNesby and not feel the need to ask what it’s been like inheriting the reins from a legend.
Note from McNesby – no need to hurry.
After taking over for former coach Dennis Seddon this season, McNesby realized that he would fall under some microscopes. He recognized that, fairly or unfairly, some expect him to direct the Cahillites to glory the same way his predecessor did over the past 22 years, during which Seddon engineered a record 10 Catholic League titles and a jaw-dropping 516-128 record.
But McNesby is intelligent. He isn’t trying to duplicate the record of the man who coached him at Roman before he graduated in 1995, and who provided a coaching opportunity as junior varsity coach and varsity assistant.
McNesby is just trying to be himself.
“I haven’t felt the pressure,” said McNesby. “I know the kids. I know the school. I know the environment. I’ve had a high comfort level.”
After Seddon announced his retirement to devote more time to his growing supervisory responsibilities at Cione Playground in Port Richmond, he immediately recommended McNesby as his successor.
Even if he had not been asked to be varsity coach, earning Seddon’s respect and trust was tantamount to anything McNesby could think of in regards to basketball.
“Coach Seddon was always about the players, always about the program,” said McNesby. “It wasn’t about him. It never was. No matter how many championships he won, it never changed him. When we went through a stretch of not winning a playoff game, he never changed then, either. He just kept doing what he believed in. I admired that so much, and the other assistants and the players did, too.”
McNesby displayed impressive sportsmanship when he talked about longtime Cardinal Dougherty coach Mark Heimerdinger and how he, too, has maintained a steady approach during the times, high and low.
Usually a Catholic League contender, Dougherty has struggled this season but, McNesby points out the Cardinals keep getting better.
“You look at their scores, they are improving even though they are young,” said McNesby. “That’s the kind of coach he is. I marvel at guys like him and Dennis Seddon. So many years they’ve dedicated to their schools, but they keep putting out good basketball teams and better players year after year.”
Thus far, the Cahillites have maintained their sense of excellence. Despite an absolutely brutal schedule that has included contests against the number 1, 2, 3, 9, 11 and 15 teams in the country, against whom Roman went 1-5 and lost by two points to top-ranked Mater Dei (California), the Cahillites are 9-5 overall and 5-0 in the Catholic League Red spanision. All league wins were by double digits.
Roman guards Maalik Wayns and Rakeem Brookins are arguably the best backcourt combo in the tri-state area. Wayns has already committed to Villanova University while Brookins has attracted interest from a host of spanision-I schools, some of them powerhouses.
Because of their versatility, McNesby can play either guard at the point. Both players have expressed gratitude for how their new coach has trusted them to spearhead the Cahillites’ attack.
“I think both of us have the same goal, and that is to win the Catholic League and then win a state championship,” said Wayns. “That’s one of the great things about our schedule. To be the best you have to play the best.”
In Wayns and Brookins, McNesby said he already has two of the best.
“They’re more than just go-to players,” said McNesby. “They play at such a high level. But what I like most about them is their focus.
“You take a guy like Maalik. Some kids, once they get their head filled with how great they are and already know their college, kind of put high school on the shelf. Not him. He is all about Roman Catholic right now. It’s a great thing.”
That’s McNesby – focusing on the players and not himself while leading his team to victories.
It appears as though not much has changed at Roman Catholic.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.