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Successful Patriots help basketball coach through rough time

By Jeff Appelblatt

On the surface, almost everything about the 2016-17 season seemed perfect for the boys’ basketball team at Freehold Township High School.

The Patriots won the WOBM Classic on Toms River High School North’s home floor in the first month of the season, and they made it through the regular season without losing to a Shore Conference A North Division opponent.

But the regular season wasn’t totally perfect. Aside from a loss Jan. 27 to Christian Brothers Academy, Freehold Township head coach Brian Golub was struggling through his father’s illness.

As he tried to get through his family woes, he admits he wasn’t always part of his team’s success.

“It was a very long, rough season for me,” Golub said. “But it’s not about me. It’s about the kids. I missed some things this year.”

The team’s assistant coach, Todd Smith, agreed. The success the Patriots had this year was about the kids. It was about the camaraderie on the court, the offensive dominance of Stephen Staklinski and Ryan Zyskowski, the teamwork of Bobby Weise and Greg Billups and the focus of Ryan Cardone, Ja’Zeem Foster and the rest of the team.

However, Golub couldn’t overlook what Smith provided, including the times he filled in for him.

“Todd Smith did an unbelievable job for me,” Golub said. “He went above and beyond.”

“[Golub] and I have been coaching together 14 years. He’s been the coach. I’ve been the assistant. But we’ve also been friends. [And] I’ve always been confident in what we could do together,” Smith said. “We approach each season thinking about what we could do for the kids.

“This year, [Golub] gave me more responsibility, and the kids in the program responded to it. All the credit goes to the kids.”

The players on Freehold Township knew what their coach was going through, but the senior-heavy team also knew it needed to stay focused and make the coaches proud of the season.

“The way they played the game [and] the way they handled themselves, it was an atmosphere you wanted to be a part of,” Smith said.

Freehold Township’s second loss of the season came Feb. 19 in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. Marlboro High School, which is one of Freehold Township’s top rivals, was able to beat the Patriots. It was the third time the team’s played each other, but it was the first time of the year the Mustangs were able to outperform the Patriots.

“They played better than we did,” Golub said about a day that paved Marlboro’s path to the Shore Conference Tournament finals and left the Patriots regrouping.

Freehold Township bounced back. The team defeated Middletown High School South in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament. It defeated Trenton Central High School and Sayreville War Memorial High School March 1 and 3.

However, it wasn’t all wins for Golub. Sometime around the championship game March 7 in Freehold Township, the coach lost his father.

“My seniors volunteered and offered to be the pallbearers for me,” the coach said. “My entire program came out and supported me. What a classy and good group.

“I’ve been around doing this for a long time. Day-to-day stuff got me through it.”

The final shot hit by Hunterdon Central Regional High School’s Anthony McDowell — the shot that wound up being the game-winner — ended Freehold Township’s run in the state sectional. It was the second year in a row a basket by the opposing team in the final seconds eliminated the Patriots (last year, Colts Neck High School secured the win over Freehold Township).

 

This time, for as private as Golub claims to be, he couldn’t have been more grateful that everyone was there to help him get through such a rough time.

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