GA's Fenerty reaches 500 mark

Posted: February 05, 2012

MOST FOLKS were predicting first half, if not the opening minute. But coach Jim Fenerty behaved himself for quite a while Saturday as Germantown Academy hosted Peddie School, of New Jersey, in Part II of Basketball Milestone Weekend.

And then, late in the third quarter, the impulses could no longer be repelled.

Jim Fenerty stood and dispensed some advice. Ah, all was right in his basketball world.

Depending upon your viewpoint, Fenerty now owns 500 or 501 victories in 31 seasons as a high school coach, with eight at the ol' Bishop Egan and 23 at GA.

Officially, the number is 501, but Fenerty was not present Friday night at GA as the Patriots edged Haverford School, 60-59, in Inter-Ac League action.

Last Tuesday morning, while teaching a class that included his daughter, Erin, Fenerty suffered a health scare that forced the postponement of that day's contest at Malvern Prep and required a 3-day stay at Abington Hospital.

All's well now, but the doctors were still hoping Fenerty would likewise stay home Saturday.

No way, he told himself. Following Friday night's game via text messages from multiple senders had pretty much driven him crazy, and he had no desire to miss the Senior Day festivities.

He promised his two favorite ladies - wife, Mary, who likes to watch from right behind the bench, and Erin, who sits at the midcourt table because she keeps the scorebook - he'd merely watch and let Mike Hannigan, the associate head coach and Friday night's boss, run the show.

"I didn't believe him for a second," Erin said, smiling. "But that's OK. That's where he belongs."

"They both knew I was lying," Jim said.

Anyway, GA won, 58-42, and the tears shed by Fenerty might have made a glass half-full (never half-empty).

Beforehand, the PA announcer said he wanted to congratulate Fenerty, "first, on being here today . . . [as in alive]," and then on his 500th win. Soon, the players and parents were encircling Fenerty at midcourt and Jim was having no trouble losing it.

"That basically said it all," Erin noted. "He wasn't holding it in. He loves GA and he loves coaching. He's so happy to be back."

Well after the game, sitting in a side room used by the Patriots for pregame and halftime meetings, Fenerty spoke of the roller-coaster ride he'd taken since Tuesday.

While he especially wanted to thank GA's school nurse, Lori Andress, who forced him to go to the hospital ["The Abington people said, 'Whoever told you to come here, they saved you.' "], he also enjoyed telling a story about his son, Jimmy, who now plays for Dickinson.

When Jim bagged win No. 400 in 2007, Jimmy, then a soph making his first varsity appearance, scored the final five points on a three-ball and a double-bonus conversion.

Not sure which stories to believe concerning his dad's health, Jimmy came home Friday for several hours. He wasn't around Saturday, as Dickinson was also playing.

"I keep telling Jimmy to go to law school," Dad said, "but he has this crazy idea about being a coach.

"[Friday] night, I was trying to be humble, saying that 500 is just a number. He didn't buy it for 1 minute. He said, 'You always told me if I wanted to be a coach, I should watch guys like Dan Dougherty and Speedy Morris and Bill Fox. Well, guess what?! . . . ' "

At this point, Jim Fenerty got quite choked up. He then settled down and tried to finish the story when . . . Emotional Delay, Part II.

Finally, he was able to add Jimmy's kicker: "Now you're in the same club!"

He added, "I told Jimmy, 'All right, my man.' I mean, Dan, Speedy, Bill, they've all been great to me. Good stuff."

In Saturday's game, guard Nick Lindner led GA with 20 points and five assists. Julian Moore notched 15 points while Greg Dotson (10) and James Drury hit two threes apiece.

At Egan, well known for struggling, Fenerty was 61-138. His GA mark is 440-184.

"I've been blessed all the way through my time at GA," Fenerty said. "To have GA take a shot on a guy from a school where the people probably were trying to get rid of me - probably for good reason - and then to give my kids this kind of education, I feel extremely fortunate."

So does Erin.

"The scariest moment?" she said. "When I heard the Malvern game was being postponed. I thought, 'No way my father would let that happen. This must be serious.' . . . We're so lucky to have such a wonderful support system. And I'm greatly happy he's back."

Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.

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