By Jim Hintelmann
RUMSON –An era in girls high school basketball came to an end last week when long-time Rumson-Fair Haven Regional coach George Sourlis announced his retirement.“I just felt that it was time,” said Sourlis, who began his successful coaching career in 1986 and leaves with a 663-199 record, an all time best for a Shore girls basketball coach.“It’s hard to hold the energy level and I know in my heart that I can’t give 100 percent anymore,”said. Sourlis, “That wouldn’t be fair to the kids.”
Sourlis, 53, has won five NJSIAA state championships along with 14 sectional titles and five Tournament of Champions appearances. It was at the suggestion of his sister, Dorothy, that Sourlis decided to take the job, even though he was just 23 years old at the time.“I have to thank her for that,” said Sourlis. “She convinced me to do it. I remember my first game was against Shore Regional.”
With so many great teams and players during his coaching career, Sourlis didn’t want to single out any one of them, but has some fond memories.“The first state championship (against Bloomfield Tech) in 1996 is always special,” he said. “My first sectional title was in 1993 against South Hunterdon. They were ranked No. 5 in the state at the time and were 26-2. Both of them were special.”Two other significant wins were in 1996 against Camden Wilson in the TOC and Point Pleasant Boro in 2013.
“Camden Wilson had four Division I players on that team,” said Sourlis. “Point Boro had Kelly Hughes, and we beat them in overtime at their place.” Perhaps the greatest player he coached was Chrissy Fisher, who graduated in 2002.“She went on to play at the University of Maryland,” Sourlis said. “She then played professional ball in Europe and won European Player of the Year honors four times.” Girls basketball has made strides since Sourlis began coaching, but not necessarily in terms of overall strength of teams.
“There are a lot more good players now,” he said. “There is more parity because the kids are not going to the select few schools.” Red Bank Catholic girls basketball coach Joe Montano, a long time but friendly coaching rival of Sourlis, looks back at their rivalry.“Our teams always have a healthy respect for each other,” said Montano, who now is the all time Shore active girls basketball coaching leader with a 566-151 record.
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