Manley's Blog

Toms River North Coach Dave Mitchell Passes Away

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on December 17, 2009

I received news this morning that Toms River North coach Dave Mitchell passed away Wednesday afternoon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. According to North assistant Joe Mahon, Mitchell was diagnosed with lymphoma about three weeks after the regular season ended, at which point he was transferred from Community Hospital in Toms River to Columbia Presbyterian. He had checked himself into Community on Nov. 18, the day after the Mariners lost to Toms River South in the Group IV final. Mitchell was 49 years old.

There is no concrete news on memorial services at this time.

That’s about all I know for sure. I spoke with Mahon today, as well Lee Webb, the father of senior captain Todd Webb. Both were stunned, saddened very reflective toward a man that both admired. I also received a text message response from Toms River East coach Ted Gillen, who was very close with Mitchell. Here are some of their thoughts.

“We’re all stunned. I know it’s hit Todd pretty hard. He was with coach Mitchell for four years on the varsity team and he spent every day with him during the fall of the last four years. Todd learned more about the game from coach Mitchell than anyone and to hear the news last night was devastating for Todd. I’m devastated. He was a great coach and a first class guy all the way. We’re going to miss him.”  – Lee Webb

“During the middle of the season, he told me, ‘I’m really sick.’ Obviously we didn’t know the extent of it, but after the season, as soon as the Toms River South game ended, he just kind of took a deep breath a and told me, ‘all I want to do right now is go check myself into the hospital and take care of myself.’ I think I talked with him once over the phone, but that was the last time I ever saw him.” – Joe Mahon

“Besides being a great coach and a fantastic teacher, he was an even better person. He touched so many people through teaching and coaching and everything else that he did. He did it all with caring and class. A great human being, a great man and a great friend, who’s missed already.” – Ted Gillen

“I met with the kids in school today we sat in Jerry Klimek’s classroom, where we always had our team meetings. It was supposed to be for counseling, but we ended up just sharing stories. He’s been their coach, a lot of them for four years now, but I don’t think they knew what kind of man he was and I think they all learned a little bit about him. I told them, ‘You have know idea how proud he was of you guys.'” – Mahon

From talking with Mitchell over the course of this past season, I can tell you that he was indeed especially proud of this group. He was a very honest man and he would be very frank if he was displeased with his team at any point, but a vast majority of time, he had nothing but kind and sincere things to say about this group, both as individual players and individual human beings.

Mitchell had a very difficult last few months. He lost his father at the end of the summer, just before the season started. Just before Mitchell’s father died, his mother was in a severe, but not fatal, car accident. During the Shore Conference Tournament, Mitchell arrived late to his team’s semifinal game against CBA because he was taking his father-in-law to the hospital.

“I think the kids really got a glimpse of what kind of person he was this year,” Mahon said. “They saw how hard his father’s death hit him and they honored that every game by wearing those arm bands. He went through a lot for this team and his family, and I think everyone appreciated him for that.”

My last conversation with Mitchell was the night of the loss to Toms River South, which was the night before he checked himself into the hospital. I left a voicemail message for him because I wanted to talk about the game and I didn’t necessarily expect him to call me back that night, knowing he had lost a tough game. Dave was always good about returning my calls and keeping me informed, but no one would have blamed a coach in his situation to wait until the next morning. And I think no one would expect a man in his state to call some reporter who just wanted to know how the game went that night.

Mitchell called me back shortly after I left the message and he sounded exhausted. I had know idea what kind of shape he was in, and that’s the way he wanted it. He was a very humble, reserved guy who would hate to draw attention to himself. I thought something was a little strange about that conversation because sometimes coaches have that exacerbated sound in their voice after a tough loss, but this one was different. Mitchell didn’t sound upset with his team. He said it was a great game, one of the best he coached in, and that he was proud of his kids. Again, no one would have blamed him if he did not call me that night, but the gesture speaks volumes of the pride he took in the team and the time he spent teaching and coaching them.

I had to cover a different game that night and could not go to the TR North-TR South game, and at the end of the night, I really wished I had gone to Neptune because of just how great of a game it turned out to be. With the news of Mitchell’s passing, I wish I could have been there for different reasons now. I had the utmost respect for Dave, both professionally and personally and it’s pretty clear that everyone who came in contact with him felt the same way. I’m going to miss speaking with him next year.

My heart goes out to Dave’s wife and children, the rest of his family and friends, as well as the Toms River North community. He will be deeply missed.

Former Colts Neck star wins National Championship

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on December 14, 2009

Former Colts Neck star Sean Hiller drilled the third and final penalty kick in Virginia’s 3-2 shootout win over Akron in the NCAA Championship game Sunday, a game that went to PKs tied at 0. Hiller’s final high school season was the 2007 season, when he played sweeper for the Cougars. You can watch the highlights at espn.com.

If you’re wondering or you’d like to mock me, I picked Hiller for third team All Shore back in 2007. I guess it’s better than fourth team, but that’ll be one you can shake your head at for a long time.

Live Chat

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on December 1, 2009

Sorry I’m late. Live Chat starts now.