When I learned of Ron Berman's resignation as Palmyra's girls basketball coach after a highly successful 16-year run earlier this week, I immediately planned to write a column.
Having covered Berman and his teams throughout his memorable tenure, which also included an 11-year stint as the boys coach at Palmyra during the 80s and 90s, I figured I could lend some insight into the kind of person and coach he is. And I think I could have.
But the people who've played for him and coached with him over the years can tell you more than I can. So with that in mind, I'm going to share this column with Ceci Richardsen, Kristi Costello, Katie O'Rourke and Lee Copeland, who generously passed along their thoughts on the man who is or has been both a friend and a mentor to them and many others.
Here then, are their takes on the Ron Berman they know and love:
Ceci Richardsen, Class of 2015: "I came into the Palmyra basketball program in 9th grade after playing the sport for as long as I can remember.
"After tearing my ACL halfway through my freshman season and tearing it again before my junior season, I only got the chance to play for about half of a season during my entire high school career. Through that time, Coach Berman included me in all team activities and always made me feel welcome. Coach Berman cared about me as a person, even though I was not able to contribute on the court. As difficult as it was to watch from the bench, Coach Berman created an environment that I wanted to be a part of, and that is why I stayed involved with the team.
"During my time at PHS, I learned a lot about basketball, but I also learned a lot about life. Coach Berman supported me through multiple injuries and showed me and my family nothing but kindness and encouragement. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to know him as a coach and as a mentor."
Kristi Costello, Palmyra field hockey coach and former basketball player: "Mr. Berman (as I always call him because he was my 7th grade teacher before my coach...) taught me that it doesn't take talent to hustle. That was a good message, because he and I both knew I didn't have basketball talent! If that man told me to run through a wall though - I would do it. He cared about me as a person, a student, and as a well-rounded athlete. He worked with me to allow me to play field hockey all year, while still playing for him on the basketball team. To this day, he still invites me back to the gym when the team needs alumni to play against. He let me run up and down the court with them - even though (at best) I was the second sub off the bench in high school.
"Make sure you know though - he was tough. He was really tough! As the program has gotten better, he hasn't had to instill nearly as much of the mental toughness in the recent players because they had the talent to go along with it. Our group though - we were a work in progress, so we at least knew how to be tough and how to hustle.
"My favorite story was...Abbey (Kohl) Robinson and I were pulled aside after a team meeting one day. He said that the media asked him what the team needed to be successful that year and he said he needed a pair of guards. Abbey and I looked at each other because we were pretty sure we were his "pair of guards"! He just walked away and let us think about it for a little - that's just an example of how he challenged us - yet he loved us and cared about us so we took it and we got better."
Katie O'Rourke, 2010 grad and current Palmyra assistant: "Coach Berman not only holds his players to extremely high standards athletically, but he also pushes them academically. It was standard for most or all team members to be on the honor roll every year. One of my favorite memories of Coach Berman happened last season (2014-2015).
"That year, there was one senior on our team who had never made the honor roll. We had a short team meeting after our Senior Night game and that particular player raised her hand and told Coach that she had made the honor roll for the first time. Coach Berman made it the whole Senior Night without getting emotional, but started crying right then and there. He explained how he proud he was because he knew how far she had come and how hard she worked to make that happen. It is such a small, simple moment but so extremely special. It is the perfect picture of how Coach Berman’s investment in his players stretched way beyond the basketball court."
Lee Copeland, 1988 grad and current girls middle school coach: "My senior year, my twin brother and I were co-captains of Ron's most successful boys team. We were trucking along when Coach Berman pulled us into his office one day. One of our JV players, who was somewhat of a lost soul without a great family life, had skipped a practice and forged an excuse note that he gave to the coaching staff. Coach Berman brought us in and said, 'If this were either of you that did this, I would kick you off the team. Immediately. But this kid needs the structure and discipline of basketball, and he needs to be here with us. What do you think?'
"We quickly agreed. This kid was a notorious drill killer, which always frustrates good players, but I never looked at this kid the same way again. I always kept this lesson in mind whenever I had to make cuts at the junior high level. I always thought 'Who needs this the most?' I always took a marginal student, behavior problem over the kid that was going to be successful without sports. A great lesson."