It was 1976, and Kevin McEvoy was just a young Seton Hall University student running track.
He’d been recruited out of St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen where he was the Parochial “A” State 60-yard and 120-yard High Hurdle Champion in 1972 and set a record that still stands today. But on one sunny afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a Champion of America after winning the Shuttle Hurdle Relays at the Penn Relays. It was a fitting beginning to a career that is ending in similar fashion.
After 35 years with the East Brunswick School District, where he taught social studies and United States History and coached track and soccer, Coach Mac is set to retire this year and will be leaving just weeks after one of his own athletes, Sam Mattis, duplicated his feat by winning the Penn Relays, this time in discus.
“It’s crazy, it really is,” said McEvoy when asked about the coincidence.
Coach Mac started his career in 1977 as a social studies teacher and track and soccer coach before moving to the high school in 1985, where he taught U.S. History I and II, wrote curriculum such as “Rock and Roll: A Unique Cultural Phenomenon” and “The Holocaust and Its Architectural Design: 1939 to 1945” and touched the lives of thousands of students.
“I’m gonna miss the laughter,” he said during a moment of reflection. “In my class, we work hard but we have fun. So the lesson plans, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I’m not gonna miss that. When we go off on something and everybody’s having a good time…I prided myself on teaching kids values—respect, kindness—when you get into the spontaneity of the conversation in the classroom, that kind of stuff. That’s over. I won’t be doing that anymore.”
While he was a first class teacher, Coach Mac began to distinguish himself on the track early on, and his list of accomplishments is long. To begin, there are 10 Division I track athletes from EBHS competing at the college and university level, with four more getting ready to start in the fall. His overall record is 318-102 with 18 undefeated seasons and he recently won back-to-back Group IV State Championships.
Also during his tenure, there have been 40 county GMC individual champions, 76 GMC Relay champions, 101 All-County GMC Team members, nine state champions, one Eastern States Individual Champion, one Eastern States Relay Champion, 10 county GMC Coach of the Year titles, five GMC Sportsman of the Year titles, nine GMC Individual team titles, nine GMC Relay team titles, and three Group IV Central Jersey Sectional Team titles. This year, he was named Coach of the Year by the Star-Ledger and was inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame.
“I’m closing the book, putting the book back on the shelf,” he said. “Am I gonna miss it? Sure I’m gonna miss it, but I’m not gonna miss it, but I’m gonna miss it, but I’m not gonna miss it. I fully understand when I look in the mirror that it’s time, time for a younger generation of coaches. Could I stay another year? Yeah, but it’s concluded.”
With a record like his, whoever steps in to replace Coach Mac will have some big shoes to fill. But, McEvoy doesn’t want to leave his successor without some help: “Be consistent. And be respectful,” he advises. “That’s it and you’ll do fine. If you demonstrate that respect for the kid, the kid’s gonna give it back.”
That advice rings as true in the classroom as it does on the track. In fact, despite a long resume of athletic accomplishments, it might be the classroom and the students that he will miss most.
“Just as rewarding as winning the county championship is finding that some kid is clerking for Thurgood Marshall—back in 1982—or Steve Putterman, the late Steve Putterman, who graduated here in the late 80s and was a doctor doing work in Africa. He was in a plane crash. He’s gone. I can count the kids on two hands that are gone.”
Being in the district for more than three decades means that Coach Mac will be leaving behind not only a legacy, but also friends, including those he calls “boss.”
“Coach Mac has been an integral part of the athletic department since 1977, in particular the track programs,” said Athletic Director Frank Noppenberger. “He has coached over 75 seasons, from soccer in 1977 at Hammarskjold junior high to head coach of boys winter track. Mr. Mac has the unique ability to be friendly with the athletes yet still maintain a professional relationship. It was his knowledge of track and motivational skills that made him such a successful coach. He will be missed, but his influence will long be remembered as many of his former athletes are successful business people, coaches or educators.”
Noppenberger is one of those people that Coach Mac points to as an integral part of his success. Along with EBHS Principal Robert Murphy, the pair encouraged, supported and helped create an environment where educators like McEvoy could thrive.
“Mr. Murphy doesn’t go around and observe, he knows what’s going on, he knows what I’m doing in the classroom, and he’s always been fantastic, it been godlike. He’s always been supportive,” said McEvoy. "To have in your profession two key immediate facilitators that have your back, it’s been beautiful. I don’t know what it's like to have a principal you hate. I don’t know what its like to hate your job and it’s because of those guys.”
McEvoy’s tenure with East Brunswick will end at graduation, when he will address the graduating class (he was selected by students this year to do so), and he is looking forward to a new chapter. He plans on staying in town, volunteering, and maybe even coming to watch track meets from the spectator’s side of the fence. He also plans on spending time enjoying one of his hobbies.
“Real cars and toy cars. I’ve got two classic cars and collection of slot cars. I have a big, big, big collection of slot cars. Those two hobbies, real and toy, keep me busy. Also, I feel that if I truly, truly, truly get bored, I’ll take the resume and first thing I would do is I would walk into Zimmerlli Museum and say, ‘say how can I help,' or I’d walk into Robert Wood Johnson and ask how can I help."