By Phil Anastasia
Paul Rodio knew the math.
"Before the season, my wife asked me if I thought this team could win 19 so I could get to 800," said Rodio, the St. Augustine Prep basketball coach. "I said, 'I don't know. We're so young.'
"I turned around and we were 15-1 and I was like, 'I'm still not sure.'"
Rodio on Tuesday night will beoame the first coach in South Jersey history and just the third in state history with 800 victories if heavily favored St. Augustine beats Lower Cape May.
Rodio, South Jersey's all-time leader in coaching victories, will join St. Anthony of Jersey City's Bob Hurley, who is still active with 1,093 wins, as well as the late Jerry Molloy, who won 900 at four non-public schools in North Jersey, as the only coaches in state history to reach 800.
"It means a lot to a lot of other people," Rodio said Sunday after his team beat Eastern in a clash of Top 5 teams at the Cherry Hill East Invitational. "It's big for the school. It's big for South Jersey to have a coach with that many wins.
"It means I've been around a long time."
Rodio, 61, said he has no plans to retire. He has been the Hermits' coach since 1977-78 season.
He has a young team that features sophomores Mike Vasturia and Sa'eed Nelson as well as freshman Justyn Mutts.
But in what has been typical for Rodio's teams through the years, the Hermits also have good senior leadership from players such as Nate Segal and Brian Seward, who have been members of the program for four years.
"He's a great guy," Segal said. "He does so much for us on the court and off. Everybody has so much respect for him."
Before the season, St. Augustine appeared to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode with a lot of inexperienced athletes and veterans who had been role players through their careers.
But the Hermits are 18-2 and No. 3 in The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10. They will be the No. 2 seed in the Non-Public South A tournament.
They would host No. 3 seed Paul VI in a highly anticipated semifinal if form held through the first two rounds of the tournament.
"The formula is nobody cares who scores," Rodio said of the Hermits. "That's what I like about this team. Nobody cares who gets the credit."
SOUTH JERSEY'S TOP 10
Here are South Jersey's Top 10 in career coaching victories in boys' basketball, according to sports historian Chuck Langerman:
1. Paul Rodio St. Augustine 800*
2. Clarence Turner Camden 775
3. Jim Crawford Camden Catholic 713
4. Paul Collins Willingboro/Riverside/Burlington City 685*
5. Tom Feraco Middle Township 679*
6. Lou Schantz Salem 625
7. Joe Kessler Shawnee 575*
8. John Valore Cherry East/Cumberland/Camden 566*
9. Bill Hiltner Millville/Sterling 523
10. Ken Faulkner Burlington Twp. 521
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