John Hoban, Roman supporter, dies at 65

Posted: July 02, 2007

It's not often a guy can find a lifelong love as a toddler.

John Hoban not only experienced that level of good fortune, he was able to transform that passion into a family affair.

Hoban, 65, a star football player at Roman Catholic High (class of 1959), later a 14-season assistant basketball coach under William "Speedy" Morris and always an unabashed supporter of the school's athletic program, died Friday of heart problems.

His love for all things Cahillite began way back when his father, John Sr., was the right-hand-man football assistant under the legendary Joseph "Goldie" Graham. Together, they steered Roman to the 1947 Catholic and City championships.

Morris, a '60 Roman grad, said that John Sr., in his regular job, was a deliveryman for a local bread company. John Jr. would tag along on the truck and then hit Roman's practices. His favorite activity was distributing cakes and other goodies to the players.

"The bond with Roman was there early for John, and it always stayed with him," Morris said.

In adulthood, rare was the occasion when Hoban would miss a football, basketball or baseball game.

His brother Dan is also a Roman grad. His nephew Dan is the school's golf coach and PA announcer at football and basketball games, and Dan's brother Tim recently was a football-baseball star.

John Hoban was a first-team coaches' All-Catholic center as a 16-year-old in 1958. He became a charter member of Roman's Hall of Fame committee and was himself an inductee in '95. Also, he was a recipient of the award, named after Graham, for loyalty to the school.

Hoban and his wife Mary had four daughters. All became Roman fanatics, as did their husbands and 10 children.

"You'd see the grandkids all decked out in Roman garb from the time they were little," Morris said. "T-shirts down to their knees."

Hoban mostly handled scouting duties while working under Morris. The two remained great friends even after Morris became the coach at St. Joseph's Prep for the 2001-02 season.

"John hated the Prep," Morris said, laughing. "He grew up in Gesu parish [adjacent to the Prep]. He said the Jesuit priests always chased away him and his buddies when they were trying to play in the schoolyard. He never forgot that. He couldn't stand the Prep. He was not happy when I went there to coach."

Hoban was a total Catholic League fan. It was not unusual to see him at big games throughout the city and suburbs. Once he retired from the Philadelphia Gas Works, he was even a constant presence at Roman practices.

"John Hoban was Roman Catholic," said Dennis Seddon, the school's current hoops coach. "At the games he'd just watch. But away from the court he'd talk to the kids and give them support. He was a great son of Roman Catholic High."

Added Morris: "John was one of a kind. If there's a person out there more loyal to Roman, I'd like to meet him. But I don't see how that'd be possible."

Seddon recounted a special moment from this past season.

Like always, often with family members, Hoban traveled to western Maryland to watch the Cahillites compete in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament. However, he was feeling subpar and had to remain in the hotel for the semifinal with mighty DeMatha, of Hyattsville, Md.

Seddon said Hoban was given constant cell-phone updates by Roman's athletic director Dave Falcione.

"Dave was down at the end of our bench," Seddon said. "At game's end you could hear him yelling into the phone, 'We won! We won!'

"Through the years, we've had some great emotional battles with DeMatha. John wanted so much to see that game. When we got back to the hotel, everyone said he'd been crying when Dave told him we won."

Viewings will be held Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m., and Friday, 8:30 to 10:15 a.m., at the Clare McIlvaine Mundy Funeral Home, 7384 Ridge Avenue, in Roxborough. The funeral Mass will be Friday, 11 a.m., at St. John the Baptist Church, 146 Rector Street, in Manayunk. *

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