Some of the best football coaches in city history have played their home games in Northeast Philly.
Over the years, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge were among the best in the Catholic League, while in the Public League, Frankford, George Washington and Northeast were the teams to beat in the Public League.
Things have changed.
Now St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle and Imhotep Charter are the top teams in the city, but our teams are almost always competitive, and a lot of that has to do with the men wearing the headsets.
Northeast Philadelphia has had more than its fair share of great coaches, and that makes picking 10 coaches an arduous task.
But it’s a subject we happily tackled.
Ground rules, we are picking coaches in the past 25 seasons and only men who coached the traditional Northeast Philly schools are eligible.
Also, all coaches are judged on their career, not what they’ve done in the past 25 years. Any coach who was a head coach in the past 25 years is eligible and they will be judged on their entire career.
We can guarantee that we will have 10 great coaches. We can’t promise all great coaches will make the list. If your guy isn’t on the list, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a great coach.
So let’s break it down and again, feel free to let your opinion be known on our Northeast Times social media pages.
Many of the numbers included in this story courtesy of tedsilary.com.
Let’s get started!
Cohen is statistically one of the best coaches in city league history, winning 12 Public League championships over 30 years during his tenure as Eagles coach.
Cohen, who retired after the 2014 season, had just one losing season during his career. During his illustrious tenure, he also coached in some of the biggest games in Public League history.
Three days after besting Archbishop Ryan on Thanksgiving Eve in 2004, he coached the Eagles to the first state playoff game in Public League history and nearly knocked off Easton.
He also guided Washington to the first Public League win in the large school city championship game when the Eagles defeated La Salle in 2008.
Prior to stepping down after 1999, Sullivan was the face of Father Judge football, and it seemed like every season, the Crusaders were in the thick of things in the Catholic League Northern Division.
He coached the Crusaders for 25 years and only once finished with a losing record. He did win four Catholic League crowns and added a city title in 1975.
Also coached golf, and was largely considered one of the best quotes in high school sports history. Also, according to a Ted Silary story, he was the one who started Labor Day football in Philadelphia when he would take his team to Wildwood to play.
One of Frankford’s most successful coaches, and that’s saying something, Mullineaux led Frankford for 16 seasons, never had a losing season and won at least six games every year.
He also won big games, four times winning Public League championships. And if you ask any Frankford fan, he was great in the biggest game of the year, going 11-5 on Thanksgiving against North Catholic.
He ended his coaching career with two straight Public League crowns in 2002 and 2003.
He spent 51 years on the Ocean City Beach Patrol, serving as the chief for 16 years before retiring in 2016.
In recent years, Gormley has been the most successful coach in the area, five times leading Northeast to the Public League Class 6A championship and really helping the Vikings become a powerhouse.
The former Jenkintown coach now serves as the athletic director at Northeast, after stepping down as football coach so he could watch his children play college athletics.
Left the team in great hands, turning the reins over to former assistant Eric Clark, who has kept the momentum rolling.
While Gormley never led Northeast to a win in the city championship, he did give St. Joe’s Prep fits during their annual games.
The man who replaced Whitey Sullivan did great things while coaching the Crusaders.
Competing with mostly neighborhood kids, he hung tough in the Catholic League Red Division, which meant his squads always had to play teams like Prep, La Salle and Cardinal O’Hara, which was a power at the time.
He won 73 games at Judge and twice was named Catholic League coach of the year.
An innovative mind who has gone on to do great things at Penn Charter, he has the Quakers in the mix every year for the Inter-Ac championship. Prior to leaving, he took the Crusaders to Ireland for a game.
The Raiders were known for having the best defense in the city during the early ’90s and the Ryan coach was a big reason for that. Those defenses came with great success, as he guided Ryan to four straight Catholic League championships during those seasons.
The Raiders beat everyone during that time, going 45-0-2 during a 47-game unbeaten streak in Catholic League play.
While he had arguably the most successful run of any coach over the past 25 years, he does lose some points for leaving Ryan in 1994 to take over the Cardinal Dougherty football team, before running back to the Raiders shortly before the start of football season. That year, he went unbeaten during the regular season, but saw Ryan’s unbeaten streak snapped in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of Bishop McDevitt.
Ended up with 123 wins during his career at Ryan.
A longtime assistant and former star football player at Frankford took over as head coach for seven seasons and enjoyed a lot of good times. Twice, he helped Frankford win the Public League championship.
Prior to that, he was a longtime assistant to Frankford legend Al Angelo and later Tom Mullineaux, after he was an assistant coach at Cardinal Dougherty.
Could have won a third Public League crown in 2007, but the Pioneers used an ineligible player that cost them four victories and a shot at the postseason. It would have been the third straight crown for Frankford.
The Vikings have enjoyed a lot of success in the past 25 years and Hinton was the one who got it rolling. In six seasons as head coach, he won 47 games and twice made the Public League championship.
Hinton also coached track at the school, and on top of building a winner at the school, he also got some of his players high Division I scholarships.
Another thing Hinton did well was groom coaches. He built a staff that included Chris Riley and Gormley, who both went on to coach Northeast.
Northeast alumni are big fans of Hinton. After dropping his first two Thanksgiving games to Central, he rebounded to coach Northeast past the Lancers in four straight games.
Archbishop Ryan/Father Judge
McArdle had the duty of rebuilding both football teams he coached, and he did a fine job at both of his stops.
He replaced his high school coach Glen Galeone at Ryan, and built the Raiders into a Catholic League Blue Division contender. The only reason he didn’t win a championship was because every year, the team that stood in Ryan’s way was Archbishop Wood, one of the best teams in the state. Every year, the Raiders would get closer to knocking off the Vikings, but they were never able to do it.
After leaving Ryan, he went to Judge, where he serves as an assistant athletic director. He’s had two regular seasons at Judge, and one odd year where the Crusaders played in the spring due to the pandemic. That year, the Crusaders played against suburban schools, and fared quite well.
Last year, Judge advanced to the 5A city championship before falling to Imhotep Charter. The Crusaders had a strong season, knocking off Roman Catholic and falling just short of beating St. Joe’s Prep.
Riley’s two coaching stints couldn’t have been more different, but he was a very good coach at both stops.
At Dougherty, he won five games in two years. That might not look good, but considering the Cardinals were used to going winless when he took over, five wins was an incredible accomplishment.
He followed that up by returning to his alma mater, where he coached for three years and won a Public League championship.
On top of being a very good head coach, he excels at coaching offensive lines.
The fiery and passionate coach stepped down after 2011, but he continues to coach the Northeast junior varsity softball team.
Two things jumped out at me while doing the football lists. First, there are so many great assistant coaches during this time. Bill Koch (Judge), Joe DiGrazio (Lincoln), Seth Shapiro (Northeast) and Joe Farina (Frankford) are some of the standouts, but there are so many. Northeast Philly football players definitely get good coaching.
Also, in 25 years, there’s a good chance many of the guys coaching now will be on a list like this. Hakeem Cooper (Lincoln), Damon Brockington (Frankford), Eric Clark (Northeast), Bill Murphy (Ryan) and McArdle are all young guys who are building special things. Most are new to their posts, but all have done great things in the early going. Looks like every school has found their guy.