RBC's Montano has Changed with the Times
February 25, 2013Red Bank Catholic High School
WEST LONG BRANCH — This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Joe Montano can coach a little bit. You don’t win the Shore Conference Tournament six times, the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions twice and have the only undefeated season by a Shore Conference team in the TOC era (2000) if you can’t.
All of those postseason tournament victories, with the exception of Saturday’s 50-46 win over Point Boro for Shore Conference Tournament title No. 6, came during what is viewed as the heyday of the program from 1995-2007. In those days, Montano’s teams were a reflection of him in that they were hard-nosed, defensive-minded teams that were aggressive and took little, if any nonsense from anyone.
Those were the old days, when a coach could function a certain way and not have to worry about having a player shutting down mentally or parents getting involved like they often do today when things aren’t going the player’s way.
Now, in his 22nd season at the helm of the Caseys, Montano’s personality has not changed, but maybe his demeanor has a just a little over the years as the kids have changed over the years.
That begs a question. Has Montano, who can still work an official better than most, often to the point of looking pained on the sideline, finally mellowed a little at this point of his career?
“He’s a big teddy bear now compared to what he was,” former Caseys star and two-time Asbury Park Press Player of the Year Kristina Danella said via phone last week. “He’s very low key. I think it depends on the team he has and there’s different ways to communicate. Me and Copp (fellow-2008 graduate Kristina Coppolino), he would scream at. The players now, someone like Grace Fallon, screaming at her is not going to get her to respond.”
That’s coming from someone who is still in college. What about someone who starred for him, is out of college and in the working and coaching world herself?
“It’s a testament to how long he’s been coaching and has had to change for the different types of players,” said Lisa Kukoda, who graduated from RBC in 2004 and was an assistant under Montano from 2009-12 before taking over at Manasquan this winter. “Today’s player is different and I would guess that we were different in years prior to us. Maybe his coaching style has changed a bit as a result, but what I think is really important as I was coaching with and now against him is that he holds his values. He is always working in the best interest of the program. He believes what he believes in and the standards and expectations are never going to change.”
In talking to enough people close to the program, it becomes clear that Kukoda (formerly Lisa Kuchinski) is widely credited with getting Montano to calm down some thanks in part to her being a former player and already going in there with an understanding of how he operates.
If Kukoda is responsible for mellowing Montano out, she did a fine job. Montano has responded well to this group of kids and they to him as the Caseys moved to 24-1 on Saturday. They will enter the NJSIAA Tournament next week as the favorite to go back to the TOC out of Non-Public A for the first time since 2007 and will do so as a team that is not Montano’s most talented in recent years. What they are is a low-key, soft-spoken unit that can be described as cohesive and plays hard and for each other on both ends.
Kids have changed over the years, Montano has changed with them and as a result, these Caseys have had a special season that could certainly run well into March.
“My kids that come back think that I’ve lost my mind because my kids that come back say that I’m too soft,” Montano said. “I think the perception of my players is that I’m demanding, I expect 150 percent out of them all the time, but at the same time, I think they can expect that from me and know I will give them that type of effort. Bottom line, My job is to get them prepared for college, teach them the game, to interact with other kids and be part of a team. I think this team has gotten an ‘A’ as far as that goes.”