By Alicia Cook and Gladstone Harris
In the same week, the head coaches of the men's and women's basketball teams at Bloomfield College received high honors.
Bloomfield College men's basketball coach, Gerald Holmes, has been named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Coach of the Year, in results released by the league office Feb 27. Voted on by the conference's Sports Information Directors, the honor marks the third time in Coach Holmes' 16 seasons on the Bears sidelines he has received CACC Coach of the Year accolade.
"I am grateful for this award and it is a reflection of our entire program, not just myself as the head coach," Coach Holmes said of the recognition. On March 11 Coach Holmes reached his 300th career win. "It is made possible by the hard work and dedication of our players and assistant coaches."
The mastermind behind one of the East Region's elite programs, Coach Holmes has guided Bloomfield College to seven CACC Tournament championships in his 16 seasons, with the program earning seven trips to the NCAA Tournament during his tenure. Reaching the East Regional Final in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, Bloomfield College became the first CACC program (men's or women's) to capture an East Regional championship in '10-'11, earning the first berth in Division II Basketball's Elite Eight in conference history. A two-time All-Met Basketball Coach of the Year, Coach Holmes earned his first CACC Coach of the Year nod during the 2008-09 season and second during the 2013-14 campaign.
"Coach Holmes' continued success has been remarkable, and I am extremely happy for him that he has received this recognition," Bloomfield College athletic director, Sheila Wooten said. "He has year-in and year-out put together an amazing men's basketball program and one that contends in the region consistently and that's a testament to his hard work. I am very proud of what he and the other members of his program have accomplished throughout his time here, and he should be as well."
On March 1, NJ.com placed the College's women's basketball coach, Vanessa Watson, among the 50 greatest New Jersey coaches of all time. The list included all sports and on all levels. That means a Super Bowl winning coach would be ranked alongside a high school baseball manager.
"The pool of candidates includes some of the most innovative minds in the history of their sports, men and women who reached the highest levels for an extended period," stated the article.
Coach Watson was ranked #23 for her 31-year career with Shabazz High School in Newark. Posting a .869 (720-109) overall record while at Shabazz High School, Coach Watson is one of the most prestigious coaches in the history of the state. Over her final two seasons, Watson's teams went 66-2, and Shabazz did not drop a single game against a New Jersey opponent. Her championship pedigree includes six New Jersey Tournaments of Championship titles, 10 state championships, 18 state sectional championships, 17 Essex County championships, and 16 conference crowns. She also sent several players to Division I programs, most notably Matee Ajavon (Rutgers), who is a nine-year WNBA veteran currently playing for the Atlanta Dream.
"We are so privileged to have a coach of Vanessa Watson's caliber as part of the Bloomfield College family. Not only is she a good coach, but she is the most professional person I've ever worked with; a real class act," said Wooten. "I hope she can bring the same level of success to Bloomfield College that she brought to Shabazz."
Coach Watson retired from Shabazz in 2014 and then joined Delaware State University (DI) in 2015 as assistant coach, before arriving to Bloomfield College. She is a member of the Newark Athletic and New Jersey State Coaches Hall of Fames.
"The cornerstone for the success I have experienced has always revolved around the players,"Watson said last year. "Knowing them as people and understanding their dreams and goals, both on and off the court, are very important to me. I truly believe the players who are here and those who have committed to Bloomfield for next season have the ability to propel us to great heights. They want to be that championship team that we talk about five years from now. I want to help make that happen for them and for Bloomfield College."