ABSECON — Holy Spirit High School announced two new coaches to their staff last week. Dennis Smith will take over the girls’ basketball program and Chad Severs will man the helm of the boys’ soccer team.
Smith, a 1989 Holy Spirit graduate, takes the reins of the successful girls’ team from Larry DiGiovanni, who retired as coach in May. Under DiGiovanni, The Lady Spartans established themselves as perennial State Championship contenders, a fact not lost on Smith.
“This is a challenge I had been looking for after being away from Absecon for the last 10 years,” said Smith. “I like an up-tempo style of play and when I talked to the girls they seemed very excited. The way we will play means anywhere from eight to maybe 13 or 14 girls will see playing time, with clearly defined roles. As an assistant at Cherry Hill East for the past eight years, I’ve matured as a coach and coming back here brings me full circle. I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing what Larry started.”
Smith’s hiring was applauded by DiGiovanni and athletic director Keith Gorman.
“I saw a coach with a good practice regimen, which to me is the most important aspect of any coach,” said Gorman. “I had a chance to watch him when Cherry Hill East would come down here and scrimmage us. His enthusiasm and dedication was very apparent. I believe he is the right person to help build our program and keep it on a consistently high level.”
“He’s knowledgeable about the Cape-Atlantic League,” said DiGiovanni. “I believe he was the right choice to help Spirit maintain the excellence the program is known for.”
He said he will lean on DiGiovanni as well as his former head coach at Cherry Hill East Kim Keyack, as well as others for counsel.
“I will talk to a few coaches about certain things, like (boys coach) Jamie Gillespie and (Sacred Heart coach) Steve DiPatri, as well as Larry,” he said. “I believe that you can never get enough information or advice and as a coach, that helps with the growth process, both as a team and personally. Jamie, especially, has been extremely helpful during this process and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
Smith was an assistant to the athletic director in 1997-99, assistant football coach and also the public address announcer during the basketball season for over 10 years. He lives in Upper Township with his wife Jenna and son Drew.
Severs takes over a struggling boys soccer program in his first stint as a coach, but his resume is sterling. He is the CAL’s all-time leading scorer with 159 goals during his career at Ocean City High School. He played at Penn State where he was named All-Big 10. He plays professionally with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and will continue to play in the spring and summer before returning to coach in the fall.
“I’m looking forward to coaching a young group of players,” he said. “With the World Cup fresh in everyone’s mind, this is a great time to be a soccer fan. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time and have learned a lot from my various coaches.”