Tait proud of Judge’s accomplishments during coaching tenure

Sean Tait led Father Judge to the playoffs in nine of 11 seasons. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Sean Tait will forever be a Judge guy.

On Monday, he was told he’s no longer Judge’s guy.

Tait, who coached the Father Judge High School basketball team for the last 12 seasons, was told he will not be returning for a 13th campaign. He leaves Judge with a 61-97 record in the always-tough Catholic League, 132-133 record overall.

According to a release Judge sent out, the school is going in a different direction, although as of late Monday night, the position was not posted.

“Obviously I knew about it before today, I knew after a meeting with (athletic director Jake Serfass) about a week ago, so I’ve come to terms with it,” Tait said. “Today was hard, I had to tell people, coaches, players and my parents. It’s tough. I’m a competitor. I feel like I let some people down, coaches and guys who coached for me, and my players, my kids. That was the hard part.”

It was even harder for his former players.

According to guys who played for him, Tait, who guided the Crusaders to the playoffs in nine of his 11 seasons, not counting this year when only four teams qualified, shouldn’t be anything but proud. He leaves a legacy at Judge that won’t soon be forgotten. The best number might be sending 22 players to play in college.

“Coach Tait made me a better player, and he made me a better person,” said the school’s all-time leading scorer Marc Rodriguez, a 2017 graduate. “I would consider him a great coach and a great person. A great father. He’s a coach, but he’s also a father figure to me. And basketball? He made me a much better basketball player. He always put you in position to succeed.”

Tait’s teams weren’t among the best in the Catholic League in recent years, but there were always signs of improvement, and that is something he’s proud of.

Last year, Judge lost its first 10 Catholic League games before winning three of its final four. This year, the Crusaders started out slow again, but won four of their final eight games to finish the year 4-12.

It was a rough year for everyone, but city schools had a rough start because they were unable to get into the building. On the year, Judge played just one game in its home gym.

“I’m a little disappointed that it happened this year because it was a tough year with COVID,” Tait said. “We’ve had a lot of good years. Everyone had COVID issues, it wasn’t just us, but it’s a little puzzling that this was the year it happened. No excuses, but I thought we were on the right track.”

Before becoming a coach, Tait was a star for the school at Judge, winning Catholic League MVP honors as a senior in 1995 when he led Judge to a Northern Division championship.

Prior to coaching at Judge, Tait had a successful year as interim coach at Archbishop Wood, leading the Vikings to a 16-7 campaign. He chose to leave Wood to return to his alma mater.

“It’s hard because I know how much it meant to him,” said Sean Hanna, a 2013 grad who is now the director of basketball operations at Lafayette College. “He put a lot into the program. He made me want to be a coach. Obviously when I was in high school, I didn’t know that, but he had a passion for the game. He helped me as a player and as a person.”

That seems to be the consensus among his former players.

“He’s a great man, a great father, husband, a great teacher,” said Reggie Charles, a 2011 grad who went on to star at Holy Family and later became an assistant coach under Tait. “He was always helpful when he needed to be. Giving rides. Getting us in contact with coaches for college. I know if I needed help, I reach out, he’ll help me. He had great connections, a great resource I could count on. I still count on him.”

Tait was also respected throughout the Catholic League.

Judge might not have won championships, but under Tait, the Crusaders were a tough team to play against.

“He’s a great coach, he had a good run at Wood and he did a good job at his alma mater,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale. ”A few years he had a really good team, but it really didn’t matter who was on his team. They had a style you really had to worry about. When he had the right players, they were a real handful.”

In recent years, Judge hasn’t been afraid to go in a different direction with its sports teams. In fact, Tait’s dismissal marks the third time in five years Judge has fired a prominent coach.

In 2017, the school let go Ken Devenney as the baseball coach and in 2018, the school fired Mike McKay as the football coach.

That didn’t make the news any easier.

“Sean is a great family man, and he would make his players part of his family,” Hanna said. “I will still call him when I need advice. If I need to talk to someone, I’ll text him. He’s always there for his guys. And nobody maximized their talent like him. He got a lot out of his guys.”

“He cares, I think that’s the best thing about him,” Rodriguez said. “He played for coach (Bill) Fox, and he always said what a great influence he was. Coach Tait had that influence on me. I’m better because of him.

“I’m friends with his parents. They cared about us. They would come to every game. He made the program a family. When I see him, he doesn’t ask me about basketball, he asks me about me. About my family. Then we talk basketball, but it’s always personal first. That’s who he is.”

Tait loved his players.

He also loves his school and even though he’s not going to be on the bench anymore, his love of the school is still there.

“This was my dream job because I love Father Judge,” said Tait, who also teaches history at the school. “And I still love Father Judge. I wish I was still coaching, but I’m still a teacher. I love the mission of the school. I think the school is doing great things. Beyond athletics, the school is doing great things. I’m going to send my kids there, they’re going to be Judge guys. I believe in Judge and the mission.

“I’m proud of what we did. I think we sent 22 kids to college in 12 years, we had some great years, but we always had good guys. I’ve coached a lot of guys who became police officers, guys went on to work in the medical field. I had a guy who became a priest. Our guys were a great example of Salesian gentlemen. I’m proud of them and happy I coached them.”