New CJ boys coach: “To lead this program is a dream come true”

Charlie Szabo is up for the challenge of a Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North boys basketball partial makeover.

Both Chaminade Julienne and Fenwick will have new varsity head coaches next season. Between them, former coaches Joe Staley (CJ) and Pat Kreke (Fenwick) led their respective programs for a combined 64 seasons.

“We went through this when (Joe) Petrocelli retired,” said Szabo, who was promoted this week to succeed Staley at CJ. “It was so odd to see Alter without him. It’s going to definitely be different to see CJ without Coach Staley and Fenwick without Coach Kreke.”

»» RELATED: Staley to retire as Eagles’ coach

A 1998 CJ grad who played basketball for Staley and football for Jim Place, Szabo has been a fixture with the Eagles boys program the last 15 years in multiple coaching positions. The head JV and varsity associate coach last season, he was an immediate favorite to inherit the head coach position after Staley revealed midway through last season it would be his last as an Eagles coach.

Szabo was inducted into CJ’s athletic hall of fame in 2011. He also was selected the District 15 Division II assistant coach of the year in 2010.

“It’s something I’ve been working for and wanted for a really long time,” he said. “Obviously, it’s an attractive job because of the name and reputation. Coach Staley was great to me and afforded me a lot of responsibility. He let me grow and prepare for this role. To lead this program is a dream come true.”

»» RELATED: It’s No. 1 CJ (D-II) vs. No. 1 Moeller (D-I)

CJ’s all-time winningest coach, Staley won 452 career games, all with the Eagles. His son, Joe Staley Jr., will remain on CJ’s coaching staff.

Kreke was not retained at Fenwick after 30 seasons and 380 career wins. The Falcons position has yet to be filled. The other two returning GCL North coaches are Eric Coulter of Alter and Carroll’s Tim Cogan. They both took over their respective programs in 2013, Coulter succeeding Petrocelli and Cogan jumping from the Fairmont girls.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CJ was 19-5 overall last season and won an outright Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North title (9-1), its first since 2015. The Eagles were 16-1 in late January and top ranked in the Division II Associated Press state poll.

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The Eagles lose three starters to graduation, but return two others and five of their top eight players.

“(Staley) left me a lot to work with and I’m grateful for that, too,” said Szabo.

• CJ senior Milton Gage, last season’s leading scorer (17.6 points), on Thursday committed to Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

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• CJ alum Christian Montague tore an ACL five minutes into last season’s opener as a starting sophomore point guard at Walsh. He’s rehabbing and expected to return to the Cavaliers lineup next season.

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