St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Joe Whalen hasn’t let Multiple Sclerosis define him, not at any time since his summer 2021 diagnosis. In fact, it was something few people outside the program even knew he had by the time his Trojans had won their first GMC Tournament title under his wing, and their third straight overall.
But ultimately, MS does require taking care of one’s self. And that’s the decision Whalen has now made, stepping down as the head coach of the STA program.
He actually made the decision during the season. He wanted to announce it before the GMC Tournament Finals, so there was no going back. Because a coach always has that lingering question in his or her mind: Is it the right time to leave? Do I have one more in me?
In the end, he decided to wait until after the season, though his players knew sooner, in varying stages, starting with the seniors like Jessica Cooper and Nia Clemons, D-1 recruits who are going to Albany and Caldwell, respectively.
Whalen debuted in the COVID-shortened season, which saw the Trojans go 9-5, 7-0 in the GMC Red, but falling to Monroe on their home floor in the final of the four-team GMC Somogyi Family Pod.
What followed were back-to-back 20-win seasons: 22-4 last year, 22-7 this year, with GMC Tournament titles both seasons. That’s a total 53-16 record for Whalen in three seasons, and a 35-1 record in Red Division play, the lone loss coming also to Monroe, last year, on the road, in the regular season. They didn’t lose a single Red Division home game under Whalen’s tenure.
Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko got a chance to talk with Whalen as he departs Aquinas, and gets set to leave the keys to a successor who is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Click below to listen to the interview: