Jim Crawford, who is retiring as head basketball coach at Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, is being replaced by his son, Matthew Crawford.
Photo by James A. McBride
CHERRY HILL – Here in his classroom where he teaches freshman algebra, the winningest coach in Camden Catholic High School basketball reflects on his 35 years as head of the Fighting Irish, when the classroom was the court and the lessons were teamwork, shooting and life.
“It’s been a long, fun run,” he said.
Now Jim Crawford, with a 713-238 record in head coaching that began in 1977, is retiring and passing the torch to his son, Matt, a 1999 graduate of Camden Catholic who will lead the team in its first game of the 2013-14 season in December.
The school’s administration announced Jim’s retirement on Oct. 15.
“I discussed this plan a few years ago with my coaching staff (Robert ’80 and Joe Murtin ’79, Pete Dooner, and Msgr. Robert McDermott ’60) and we have been preparing for it ever since,” said the elder Crawford.
“Matt has been working with me for several years now and is well-equipped to continue the winning tradition of Camden Catholic basketball.”
Jim will remain with the team as an assistant and continue teaching in the school’s Mathematics Department, which he has done since 1976.
Matt’s succession to head coach continues a Crawford coaching pedigree that began with his grandfather and Jim’s father, also Jim Crawford, who coached for 40 years at Christ the King School in Haddonfield.
After playing for his father at Christ the King, Jim graduated in 1965, and played for an undefeated state championship team at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, Pennsauken, in 1969. He played for LaSalle University in 1973 and soon transitioned into coaching, becoming an assistant to head coach Msgr. McDermott in 1975, a year before he began teaching there.
In 1977, he took over the basketball program.
“Camden Catholic reached out to me right away with their arms, welcoming me and making me feel like a part of their family,” Jim recalled.
In his 35 years, Jim led the Fighting Irish to 10 conference championships, seven sectional championships, and three state championships (2001, 2003, 2010). He has also coached his teams to 20 or more wins per season for 23 straight seasons (1989-2011).
Throughout the years, the dedicated coach, who estimates that he has led almost 4,000 straight practices, stressed “hustle and attitude.”
The coach relishes not only the victories but also the bonds he formed with the players that stepped on the court for him, who always gave 100 percent.
“I like the Xs and Os of basketball, but what is even more rewarding is getting to know the kids, being a part of their lives and trying to put them in the right direction,” he said.
In addition to son Matt, Jim has also coached two other sons and four nephews. His son Kevin is also a coach at Pitman High School.
Jim’s individual achievements have included being named South Jersey Coach of the Year four times by the basketball club of South Jersey, and being inducted in seven different Halls of Fame.
Now, he is passing on the reins to his son, who has the chance to fill many more pages of the Crawford family legacy.
“Matt’s ready,” he said. “He’s surrounded by quality people.”
“My dad has built a very successful basketball program at Camden Catholic,” said Matt, who played for his father 1995-99. “But what the people at (the school) are most proud of is how hard his teams play, how his players conduct themselves, and how his teams represent our school in such a positive way. I look forward to continuing the tradition.”
Msgr. McDermott, pastor of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, recalled Crawford as a “tremendous coach who had great respect for his players and for basketball. In turn, he had great respect from his players.”
“To see Jim step down is truly a historic moment in Camden Catholic’s history,” said Marlene Grimes, the school’s director of athletics.
“However, the fact that he is remaining on staff, and that Matt will take over the program, is something we are all looking forward to. The Crawford legacy will continue, and for that we are excited,” she said.
“I consider it a blessing to have had the opportunity to coach each and every player over the past 35 years,” Jim said.
“I have a love for basketball and a passion for Camden Catholic. I hope I run into every former player, shake his hand and say thank you.”