If you walked into the gym at Mendham High School for their game against Millburn, the last home basketball game of the year, you might not have expected much. It was a mid-week matchup near the end of an underwhelming 10-and-12 season against an out-of-conference team—and normally would have drawn very few spectators. But forty-five minutes before the game was scheduled to start the parking lot filled and crowds of loud students streamed into the building. By ten minutes before tip-off, the gym looked like the site for one of the many playoff games Mendham had hosted throughout the years. It was packed, and the student section was already chanting in their whiteout shirts. Look closer and you could read the back of the shirts: Thank You Coach Baglin, It’s Been a Great Run: 685 Games Won, 2 State Titles, 9 County Tournaments, 16 Conference Championships, 6 Sectional Championships, Go Mendham.
This was Coach Jim Baglin’s last home game. Although he stepped down from his position of head coach four years ago, after thirty-three years, he continued to stay involved in the program as an assistant. Baglin would be taking full retirement in five days, leaving behind thirty-seven years of teaching, coaching and leading students at Mendham High School.
In May of 2012, Baglin coached his last basketball game as head coach and the statistics that appeared on the back of those whiteout shirts made it clear: Baglin was the most successful coach in Morris County history. It is this success, not his personal success, about which Baglin is most proud. “When I came to Mendham, basketball was not considered a state-level sport,” he explains. “I was really proud that I was able to develop a basketball program capable of competing on the state level.”
He goes on to say that as AD for Mendham he, “…developed an athletic program where we have sent the following teams to the state finals, Boys & Girls Soccer, Football, Boys & Girls Cross Country, Field Hockey, Volleyball, Boys & Girls Basketball, Boys & Girls Lacrosse, Baseball, Softball, Boys and Girls Tennis and have had individual state championships in Track & Wrestling. Over the last thirty years no school in New Jersey can boast that record.”
Thirty-seven years is a long time to remain in one job and Baglin claims that out of the many things he has seen over the years in athletics, some good and some bad, “the best is the rise and acceptance of women’s sports. It just never gets mentioned anymore, sports are for all the kids, not just boys.” He also notes the “rise of parental involvement” but adds that parents are the least of his problems, and he understands they love their kids.
Baglin also describes the support he received from his family, “especially my children who understood that my job was spending time with other people’s children”. He leaves with no regrets and says that Mendham was the best town in which to teach, coach and work as athletic director.
Mendham lost to Millburn that night. There was no grand announcement that marked this milestone in history, and except for a small reception after the game in another part of the school, you might not know this was the end of an era of a remarkable man at Mendham. Coach Baglin waved goodbye to the crowd that chanted, “Thank You Baglin,” and walked one last time out of the gym and into the locker room. Behind him, hanging overhead and forever marking his time at Mendham, were the many red and white banners from each of the championships he brought his school, accomplishments for which he will always be remembered.