So he got the teaching job and took over a Haddonfield program that had been 5-24 in its first two years. Right out of college as a 21-year-old coach, Falana built the Bulldogs into an immediate winner, and things haven't changed in more than three decades.
Now in his 37th season as head coach, Falana took a 596-131-54 record into the weekend. That puts him on the verge of joining Shawnee's Brian Gibney in the 600-win soccer club.
Falana has guided Haddonfield to seven state titles, 14 South Jersey championships, 23 Colonial Conference crowns, and one South Jersey Soccer Coaches Tournament title.
Who knows what would have occurred had he not been certified in social studies?
"I was young and really wanted both jobs," he said.
When he began his first season in 1975, he was only three years older than some of his players.
"What I appreciate is that I had great kids who never questioned my authority even though I was 21 and some of them were 18," Falana said.
Maybe they didn't question him because they were too tired. In his early days, Falana put the team through triple-session workouts, where the only goal for the players was simple survival.
"Those workouts bonded the team," said Mark Schlitt, a pediatrician who was a sophomore in 1975 and whose son Rob is a member of the current Haddonfield team.
Then, laughing, he added, "As much as we loved him, we didn't during triple sessions."
Falana has displayed many strengths as a coach.
Haddonfield has always been strong on set pieces, something on which the Bulldogs work tirelessly. The team is usually among the fittest in South Jersey, and has always been built from the back, stressing defense first.
And another factor is that Haddonfield usually has capable goalies, the by-product of Falana's tutelage. Most coaches have been position players, and to have the insight of a keeper has been a major benefit.
Falana laughs when asked if he knew what he was doing when he took over.
"I thought I knew what I was doing," he said.
Actually he did, even at the young age.
There have been so many memories, but Falana says that winning the state titles stands out.
"That is why you play," he said.
Falana said it was also a thrill to coach his two sons, Kyle and Bryan, in the program. He thought about hanging it up to watch his daughter, Laurel, who is a senior at Haddonfield, play soccer. Laurel is the youngest of Joe and Cindy Falana's three children.
Yet Laurel persuaded her father that he should continue coaching.
So at 58 years old, has Falana changed?
Not really. The intensity level remains off the charts.
"He still has that edge to him," Schlitt said.
Another thing hasn't changed either.
"We would run through a wall for him," Schlitt said.
The current team would do the same.
"You would grow up wanting to play for Haddonfield and play for Coach Falana," said senior midfielder Connor Dugan, whose father, Jim, is an assistant coach on the team. "What Coach Falana does best is give players confidence, and we go out there expecting to win."
Falana said he has no timetable for coaching. He taught at Haddonfield for 16 years, went into private business for 10 years, and is in his 11th year as a math teacher at Pennsauken.
"I have a really good assistant in Jim Dugan, and I still enjoy coaching," he said. "And I still love to compete."
That is evident in a long body of work that has made Falana among the top coaches in South Jersey history, regardless of sport.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, email@example.com,
or @sjnard on Twitter.
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