Rich Flanagan (@RichFlanagan33)
For Randy Monroe, coaching always stemmed from what he learned beginning as a player at Roman Catholic, his knowledge gradually progressing along his stops at various programs as a coach.
More importantly, his drive to become a coach stemmed from his mentor at Roman: William “Speedy” Morris, a Catholic League legend who went from Roman to the head coach at La Salle University before returning to the high school realm at Saint Joseph’s Prep in 2001.
“It was through his leadership and guidance that I wanted to coach,” Monroe said. “I just saw how he ran a program at Roman for so many years and he did it with such fervor, passion, desire and commitment. It was something that I rubbed off on me where I said to myself, ‘I wanted to coach.’"
Monroe, 54, is joining Morris’ staff at St. Joe’s Prep as an assistant coach and it brings the two together for the third time along their individual coaching carousels.
After a stellar playing career under Morris where he helped the Cahillites win two Philadelphia Catholic League titles in 1979 and 1980, and was the runner-up for the Markward Award as a senior in 1981, Monroe joined his mentor at La Salle University as an assistant from 1988-93.
After working as an assistant at La Salle and Vanderbilt (1993-94), Monroe headed to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County where he worked as an assistant for a decade before taking the head coaching job in 2004. He compiled an 85-159 record in eight seasons at the helm, which included an American East Conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2007-08.
Monroe resigned from UMBC two days before the 2012 season and transitioned from the collegiate to the high school level. Last season, he was the head coach at Brandywine High School (Del.).
When Morris reached out to Monroe about the chance to join the Hawks’ staff, it was an easy decision.
“It was a no-brainer for me. Coach Morris is someone I’ve known all my life and have a great deal of respect for. I just thought that it was tremendous opportunity,” Monroe said. “I didn’t have to give much thought to it, knowing Morris was at the Prep and how he’s built the program there. The young men who come out of the program are first-class individuals.”
Morris has coached a steady succession of Division I talent since his arrival at Prep, from John Griffin (Bucknell) and Chris Clark (Temple) in the mid-00s up to current Notre Dame senior Steve Vasturia, Drexel redshirt junior Miles Overton and St. Joe’s sophomore Chris Clover in recent memory.
Monroe flourished as a player at Roman and moved on to play at Philadelphia University under Herb Magee from 1981-84, but the drive and longing to become a coach which Morris had instilled in him at such a young age was what ultimately brought him back to Philadelphia.
Not only his love for the city but the opportunity to continue to grow Morris’ legacy spurred Monroe’s decision to join St. Joe’s Prep.
“The goal is certainly to get to the pinnacle and that’s to win a Catholic League championship at some point. It’s something that I would like to see Morris get,” Monroe said. “We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We know that there are some very good teams in the league. Every game is a war and it kind of reminded me of going back to my playing days where we had wars when the league was split into two divisions. You had to be prepared or you would get beat.”
St. Joe’s Prep (13-10, 7-6) returns an explosive tandem in guards Kyle Thompson (13.6 points per game) and Darius Kinnel (11.4 ppg) from a team which fell to Monroe’s alma mater in the PCL quarterfinals.
Monroe believes Thompson and Kinnel are “two of the better guards in the league this year.”
Monroe and Morris have been through a lot together on their roads through the coaching ranks and even though Morris, 74, has had plenty of success, Monroe may have been brought in to be groomed as his mentor’s successor.
At the moment, Monroe is just focused on helping Morris, who became the first high school basketball coach in Pa. history to win 300 games at two different schools, continue to develop the St. Joe’s program.
“That will all take care of itself,” he said of the potential succession. “I think that the main thing I’m looking to do is come in and help [him] establish a brand that he has established since he’s been there.
“To me, he’s given me a tremendous opportunity to not only be his assistant for the second time but for me this is full circle,” he continued. “All we can do is focus on the present and how we can help each other.”