Longtime Deptford resident Steve Solomone passed away earlier this month, leaving behind a legacy of winning, personality and caring to all those who met him.
The former Gloucester County College (now Rowan College of South Jersey) men’s basketball coach amassed a 301-48 career record with the Roadrunners from 1991 to 2001.
In his most impressive season, Solomone coached the team to a perfect 30-0 record in the 1993-1994 season while also capturing the NJCAA Division III National Championship.
The college’s Executive Director for Athletics Brian Rowan, who also played for Solomone, said his impact and presence went beyond just basketball.
“Coach was somebody that always found the positive at the end of the day,” Rowan noted. “He taught all of us as players to play hard and play the right way, but at the end of the day, he always found a positive way to end it.
“He taught so many lessons over the years and he helped so many players, not only in basketball, but in life,” he added. “I think that’s really a big part of his legacy; how many players he helped over the years become good citizens, become good family men, advance their education … just in so many areas.”
According to Ronald Solomone, Steve’s son, his dad made sure to keep in touch with former players past their playing days.
“Every stop along his coaching career, the kids there always loved him,” Ronald said. “From his very first team at Gloucester County College, it wasn’t any different. He did a great job worrying about them academically, and when they would go on to another school after GCC, he would still follow them and be available if they needed him for sports, academics, life.”
Ronald said his dad also tried to understand the struggles of his players while at GCC, to help see to it that they matured during a very important time in their lives.
“If the kids got in trouble, some coaches might get rid of players,” Ronald said. “But he really wanted to understand the why.”
Much of the reason for Solomone’s success in connecting with his players, Ronald explained, was due to his outgoing and kind personality.
“He built great relationships with his players of course,” the younger Solomone revealed. “But it extended to athletic directors, guidance counselors, administrators, professors … The bond he molded at that school was far beyond just his players — it was everyone.”
As for his coaching style, Steve Solomone had a unique way of often kneeling on all fours while coaching from the sideline. Going into each season, his goal was always the same.
“Each year, his main thing was that he wanted to win on the defensive end,” said Ronald. “He wanted to be one of the top five defenses every year, in terms of fewest points allowed, and he wanted that regionally and nationally. He believed if he could have one of the best defenses, he would be in contention for winning the region and nation every year.”
The coach’s philosophy paid off in a big way during his time at GCC. His aforementioned career record indicates an already accomplished leader, but Solomone also won six NJCAA Region 19 championships while coaching eight All Americans during his decade with the college.
Solomone was a member of three basketball halls of fame — the Rowan College Roadrunner Hall of Fame, the Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame — and often returned to the Roadrunner Athletic Complex in recent years before the pandemic.
His appearance was always something administrators, coaches, players and others looked forward to.
“He would come back quite a bit to our games and keep in touch with various parts of our school, and speak to our teams for motivation well after his coaching days were done,” Rowan said.
“He was a well-known figure on our campus and amongst basketball people in South Jersey … Whenever he came around, it was an event for us. He’d tell all kinds of great stories and make it a big night when we got to see him.”