“Fortunate” is a word often thrown around by Paul Rodio when reflecting on his storied career as basketball coach at St. Augustine Prep.
Rodio, now in his 37th season leading the program, has coached his way to plenty of accomplishments over the years — including four state titles and 12 South Jersey championships.
But in February of the Hermits’ 2012-13 campaign, Rodio saw his legacy reach its peak. Rodio, a 1970 Prep graduate, directed St. Augustine to a 66-33 win over Lower Cape May on Feb. 11, giving the coach career victory No. 776 and the new South Jersey record.
The incredible feat stands as The Daily Journal’s No. 4 local sports story of the year.
“I’ve had some great players, some great teams and we’ve been able to put together a lot of wins. But to come together and do it here in front of everybody on a special night for a bunch of kids, it was very special,” Rodio said after the milestone victory over the Caper Tigers.
“It’s really not about me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve surrounded myself with great people all along. I’ve just been fortunate to be able to represent the school in this kind of environment. It’s about those guys and those kids.”
Rodio tied the record, previously held by the late Clarence Turner at Camden, with an 80-57 win over host Millville on Feb. 7. Ironically, Rodio had a chance to break the record at home against Camden on Feb. 9 in the Olympic-Cape Challenge, but the Hermits were denied in a 65-55 loss to the Panthers, ruining what could have been a storybook ending to Rodio capturing the record.
“Like I try to do in every one of these situations, you try to go through the rubble a little bit,” Rodio said following that frustrating defeat. “I think lost in this is (Camden) came in here and did a pretty good job. They didn’t want to lose. They didn’t want us to win on a night like this.”
Rodio’s capturing of the record was inevitable, however, and two days later he secured the decisive win over Lower Cape May inside the gymnasium that now bears his name.
Following the 33-point victory against the Caper Tigers, a banner was unveiled in the gym to recognize Rodio’s remarkable accomplishment. The proudest part of it all for Rodio was that he was able to get every single win while coaching the Hermits.
“It’s exciting, the Augustinians have been great to me,” Rodio said of his time at the Prep. “There’s so many people to thank along the way. The current and former players, the current and former coaches, the current and former students. … There’s so much support that I’ve been able to get over the years and I think that’s what makes St. Augustine such a special place.”
Rodio has 783 wins entering tonight’s game against Father Judge (Pa.) and has a real chance to hit the 800-victory mark this season.