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Gaels, BCL helped each other grow

February 29, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

The end is near for Cokey Robertson's coaching career.

Near, but not yet here.

Despite all the hoopla and celebration surrounding St. Maria Goretti's game against Bishop Walsh tonight - Robertson's last home game as the Gaels' boys basketball coach - there will still be at least one game for Robertson to coach.

Robertson leads the Gaels into the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament for the final time Monday, when the Gaels will take on St. Frances at Loyola College at 3:30 p.m.

Goretti has won the BCL title four times, the last coming in 2001 when the Gaels beat Towson Catholic - a team led by NBA star Carmelo Anthony - 59-53 in the championship game. Matt Tanner and Rodney Gibson were Goretti's main stars that year and Tanner won the MVP award.

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The Gaels' entry into the BCL started innocently enough, as Robertson began to schedule schools such as Loyola Blakefield and Mount St. Joseph on an independent basis in the early 1980s. In 1984, at the behest of former Loyola coach Jerry Savage and Cardinal Gibbons coach Ray Mullis, Goretti became a full-flegded member of the league.

It didn't take long for the Gaels to make an impact on the league, thanks in large part to Rodney Monroe, who gained All-American honors in 1987 after Goretti posted a 35-5 record.

"I got to meet (Cokey) at Mount St. Mary's camps and we established a friendship in the early 80s," said Savage. "We had played each other and we'd always run into him at the ACIT (Alhambra tournament in Cumberland). We got to be real good friends ... in fact, great friends with a great relationship. I have always enjoyed his company."

Savage vividly remembered a game in 1987 when Loyola and Goretti were tied for the league lead and playing for first place.

"We were tied and Rodney hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer that beat us," Savage said. "They went on to beat us in the finals of the tournament and went on to win the Metro Classic.

"The league is really going to miss Cokey and the competitiveness of his teams and what he adds to the league. His teams were always ready to play."

Retired Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci said he and Robertson weren't on the same page with one another early in their careers.

"I don't think we really liked one another the first two, three years," said Amatucci, who is still at Calvert Hall as a guidance counselor.

However, a friendship evolved and on Goretti's trip to Calvert Hall earlier this season, the two talked about Robertson's thoughts on retiring and how Amatucci was coping with not coaching.

"I told Cokey, 'My engine wasn't turning over anymore,'" said Amatucci. "I was OK with retirement and still watched the games.

"You look at Cokey as one of the great coaches in the state and the Catholic League, flat out. It was always a lesson. If you weren't prepared to play Cokey, you were in trouble. I just hope the players that have played for him realize they were playing for such a special guy."

Jack DeGele has been commissioner of the Baltimore Catholic League since 2000, but his relationship with Robertson goes back into the 70s when DeGele was in the college coaching ranks.

"Cokey brought integrity with him," said DeGele. "He was a gentleman, a great coach. There were years when he didn't always have the greatest talent, but he did wonders with what he had. And just as important, he has always been respectful of the kids."

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