Jeff Jasper is the winningest high school girls basketball coach in New Jersey history and a lifelong friend of Dr. Rose Battaglia, the former Paramus Catholic coach and Hall of Famer who died on Sunday, Nov. 22 at age 91. Here, Jasper writes about Battaglia.
The gold standard of basketball. The one who paved the way, flipped the switch, lit the path for our game. With an approach that was part discipline and part love, she moved us. I know that there are only a few of us who know first-hand her drive for excellence, her focus to accept nothing short of acceptance for the game. A pioneer, trailblazer, mentor and friend to me.
She and I began as intense competitors and ended as lifelong friends. But that was not always the case. How could it be when in our first game she rattled us 93-15. How could it be when I worked her basketball camp and she referred to me as a flake. But it did. PV vs. PC was a delight. She loved it. I loved it. She was tough and disciplined and loved the game and her kids. Competition, she welcomed it. She and I spent 14 hours in a car ride back and forth to Rochester for a basketball camp. Fourteen hours, me and her — are you kidding? You learn lots about someone in a car. Her life, her thoughts and her compassion and caring. She let me in. Welcomed me in fact. Nurtured me, mentored me. Going to the State Finals, there was Rose greeting us at the door. Ushering us to locker rooms and media sessions. And, she was proud of us: proud that we represented Bergen County; right where she gained her fame. A real Hall of Famer!
She instilled the competitive juices to get better, to compete and to do it the right way. Fundamental basketball, that was the right way. Long before AAU and private instructors, she preached getting better was about repetition and concentration. Drill, drill, drill. Nothing succeeds like working at it.
Some of our battles on the court are legendary. Sold out Bergen Community College hours before tip-off. Loud, rocking: intensity: a game within the game. She was a motivator and role model.
Last week I texted her, knowing she was ill. In her way, she said she had visitors and said my name came up. She qualified and said, in a good way. Then she said, love you.
Love you too Rose.