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Big Decision at Sullivan West:

Democrat Photo by Frank Rizzo

SULLIVAN/NARROWSBURG BOYS' basketball coach Cliff Kelly, left, shows his scorebook to SW/Jeff-Youngsville co-coach Rick Ellison after his Indians lost in the Class D semifinal to Chester at Sullivan County CC. Ellison’s Trojans had beaten Florida earlier that evening and had come back to see their fellow “Sullivan Westers” lose. SW/J-Y went on to lose to Chester in the Class D championship game.

Who Wants To Be
Boys’ Hoop Coach

By Frank Rizzo
April 13, 2001 – WHEN YOU'RE A basketball coach and your wife’s birthday happens to fall in January… well, there are years when it just might slip your mind.
Over his 15 seasons coaching the Narrowsburg boys’ squad Cliff Kelly claims he sometimes forgot his wife Maureen’s big day.
But if he was kidding or exaggerating, there is no doubt family considerations will shape his coaching future.
Like John Hubert at Delaware Valley and the Rick Ellison-Bob Menges co-coaching combo at Jeffersonville-Youngsville, Kelly will not have the same team to coach next season.
The tri-school merger plan calls for one unified team in every sport starting this fall.
“I would love the challenge, I would love to do it,” Kelly said of the prospect of coaching one team. “We’ve had tremendous success [here at Narrowsburg] the last six years. We turned the program around. I would love to have the options this opportunity (a unified team) provides.”
But unless he changes his mind in the next few months, Kelly will not apply for the Sullivan West boys’ basketball coaching position.
“I owe it to my family to watch my kid play,” Kelly said quite simply.
Sean, Cliff and Maureen’s eldest, is an eighth-grader in the Wayne-Highlands School District, and played on the Honesdale (Pa.) High School freshman basketball squad this winter.
Cliff watched Sean play in less than half of his games, and was undecided about going to his son’s last game, away in Scranton.
But Kelly figured he could get back in time for his team’s 7 p.m. home match against the Family School.
He gambled on having enough gas to make the return trip to Narrowsburg — and lost, running out in Beach Lake, Pa. Luckily, fellow Narrowsburg teacher Joe Walsh came to his rescue.
Also luckily for Kelly, his Indians pounded the Falcons to maintain their perfect league record — they had escaped with a one-point win up at the Family Foundation School gym earlier in the season.
Presumably, he won’t have to worry about situations like this next year.
The Politics of It
Anyone who has thought about the new coaching slot will bring up perplexing questions.
The numbers alone are dismal, unlike for other sports: 15 starting positions will be reduced to five.
The “politics” of the process will cause headaches.
“There’s so much politics involved already,” Kelly pointed out. “I don’t think it will take any more than what we’re doing now.”
Kelly summed up his philosophy: “You try to do the right thing for the kids… if I don’t please the parents — oh well.”
DV’s Hubert isn’t scared of the prospect either.
Why not?” he answered when asked if he would like to coach the team next season. “I wouldn’t mind it.”
Hubert added: “It would be difficult to walk away from coaching. I’m not ruling it out (applying for the position). It depends on who wants it.”
Hubert knows he’ll be handicapped because he is not on the faculty — teachers get preference when it comes to coaching, as per contractual obligations.
“Everybody’s a Coach”
J-Y’s Ellison has coached the Trojans since the 1990-91 season and this year his longtime assistant, Bobby Menges, was “elevated” to co-coach.
“Bobby and I would be foolish not to keep the door open,” Ellison said. “We’ll take a wait and see approach, see what the board does.”
Basketball, according to Ellison, “always seems to be under the microscope.
“There are a lot of coaches out there [in the stands] and some of them are undefeated,” he added with a laugh.
Asked what worries him the most about being the SW hoop coach, Ellison answered, “To be honest, I worry about the politics. The kids are the least of the problems — they’ve proven in football and track and baseball that they can get along.
“We have to stop thinking of them as Jeff kids or Narrowsburg or DV kids — they’re all Sullivan West kids,” he added.
Making cuts has been a reality for Ellison — it’s happened four out of the last five years on the Trojan varsity, he noted.
Ellison has at least three returning starters, Hubert counted four, and Kelly had one undergrad in the starting lineup.
“That’s going to be part of the equation,” Ellison said, referring to the difficult problem of who to cut. “We all knew this was going to happen, but we were hoping it was going to be in the new school. This [premature merging] is what we’ve been dealt.”
The original plans called for all sports to be merged when the new high school was completed in Lake Huntington. These have since been modified and the process has been moved up.

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