Already a Legislator and Full-Time Rec Coordinator, Wimberly Takes Hackensack Coaching Job
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 • 10:38am
PATERSON, NJ – Benjie Wimberly is taking a third public job. He already serves as Paterson Public Schools’ full-time site coordinator for recreation services and as a newly-elected state Assemblyman. Now, Wimberly has taken the reins as head football coach at Hackensack High School.
That could create some scheduling challenges for Wimberly during football season while the state legislature is in session.
“If I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t have put myself in that position,’’ Wimberly said.
“We would trust that if Mr. Wimberly accepts this coaching position, he would not let it interfere with his responsibilities for our school district,’’ said Paterson Public Schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo.
After leading Paterson Catholic to seven state sectional titles in his 15 years, Wimberly’s coaching career came to an abrupt halt when the school shut down in 2010. He then shifted to politics, winning election to the Paterson City Council in May 2010 and left that post after winning a seat in the Assembly last November.
One of Paterson’s most popular public officials, Wimberly said he didn’t go looking for the new coaching job. People interested in Hackensack football reached out to him, he said.
“It’s not a job, it’s a passion,’’ Wimberly said of coaching. “I don’t fish. I don’t play golf. I work with kids. This is what I do.’’
Wimberly said he already examined his potential schedule before taking the Hackensack position. He pointed out that he previously coached at Paterson Catholic while working as recreation coordinator. But he wasn't an Assemblyman, also.
Wimberly serves on two Assembly committees – Budget along with Women and Children. The budget committee’s meetings pretty much take place in the spring and Wimberly said that won’t be a conflict with football. Many of his other Assembly committee meetings would be done in the mornings, he said.
With the exception of a few retirees, just about everyone in the legislature juggles a second job. Many are lawyers or hold other public sector positions. In fact, the Star-Ledger in 2011 reported that one third of New Jersey’s legislators hold other public jobs – a practice frowned upon by Gov. Chris Christie.
As for coaching, Wimberly pointed out that Sen. Richard Codey coached basketball in Essex County while he served as New Jersey’s governor. But Codey’s was a volunteer local recreation league, and not quite as demanding as being head coach of a high school football team.
Wimberly said that if he were still a city councilman he would not have taken the Hackensack job. “Sometimes we would meet three nights a week,’’ he said. “I couldn’t do that.’’
Wimberly said Paterson Public Schools won’t be shortchanged because those duties require work in the evenings and on weekends. Moreover, Wimberly said some of the coaching demands at Hackensack will be handled by his paid staff of assistant coaches. For example, he said, he wouldn’t have to oversee off-season weight training in the spring – during the peak time for his Assembly budget responsibilities - because Hackensack already has athletic department personnel who do that.
But Wimberly’s predecessor in Hackensack apparently believes the coaching job requires more of a commitment than a few hours after school.
“I hope Benjie is going to be there. It doesn’t begin at 3 p.m.,” the retired Hackensack coach, Mike Miello, said in an interview with northjersey.com. “You have to be there for the kids, to make sure they’re going to class and doing the right thing. They’re not bad kids, but they need to know someone is there for them.”
In that same northjersey.com article, the Hackensack principal, James Montesano, was quoted as saying that a football coach spends four hours a day, seven days per week with his players.
Paterson Public Schools pays $111,826.00, while his Assembly salary is $49,000. Hackensack will pay him $14,070.
“I’m sorry that his talents will go to another city,’’ said Paterson Public Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said. “I would have preferred to keep him here.’’
In fact, Wimberly said people have asked him why he didn’t take a head coaching position at Eastside or Kennedy highs schools in Paterson. “They already have coaches,’’ said Wimberly, adding that he supports the efforts of Ron Jackson at Kennedy and Jermain Johnson at Eastside.
The Hackensack Board of Education approved Wimberly’s appointment on Tuesday night. Wimberly said high school football practice would start right after classes end in June and continue through the fall. Last year, Hackensack finished 5-5.