EAST ROCKHILL >> The last person Jenkintown girls basketball coach Jim Romano ever wants to talk about is himself.
He didn’t really have a choice Monday night, not after he had coached his team to a win for the 600th time in his illustrious career. Now in his 36th season, all at Jenkintown, Romano has been through almost every up and down possible and still loves every minute of it.
Romano has coached record-setting scorers, mother and daughters, sisters and anyone else who showed up in the gym every winter and he’d rather talk about all of them ahead of himself.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to coach at Jenkintown for 36 years and all the players I’ve had all these years were just tremendous young ladies and they’ve been hard-working all the way through,” Romano said. “They’ve made me a better coach through the years. Even this group this year, they’re a joy to coach and I think I have the best coaching job in the United States to be honest.”
What made Romano happiest about Monday’s victory, a 66-23 win at Faith Christian Academy, was that he got the milestone victory out of the way in the season’s second full week. This year’s team is a veteran bunch, with most of the Drakes in their third year playing together and coming off a District 1-A title and state semifinal appearance.
Romano called this year’s group “very driven,” and he was glad to get No. 600 out of the way so he could get back to helping them continue to improve and chase their goals for the season.
There have been a lot of very good teams in Romano’s tenure at Jenkintown, which given the school district’s tiny size, is an accomplishment in itself. Again, Romano chose to downplay his role in all of it.
“We have a youth league that plants the seed to see if they want to continue at a young age, that’s one thing and the parents have been great,” Romano said. “They’re very supportive of the program, they take the girls to AAU practices and sacrifice their time for the program. That’s what makes our program what it is. It’s a community affair.”
That Monday’s milestone win came with major contributions from the Kremp family was also not a surprise. Twins Jennifer and Ashley Kremp, now senior guards for the undersized but scrappy Drakes, combined for 24 points, six assists and seven steals against Faith Christian, earning their place in Jenkintown lore.
Their older sister Madison played in Romano’s 500th win in 2013 and the trio of sisters followed in the footsteps of their mother, Chrissy (Harris) Kremp, who played for Romano at the start of his tenure.
“In the back of our heads, we knew tonight was the game we could do it but at the beginning of the game, he just told us to play hard like we had been since the start of the year, keep our heads up and keep pushing the ball,” Jennifer Kremp said. “In the pregame talk we said it means a lot to him, but also to us because we’ve been a part of it too. Myself, Ashley and Amelia (Mulvaney), we’ve been together with him all four years and we’re really proud to be a part of this with him.”
Romano, who grew up in Northeast Philly, lives a couple blocks away from the high school in Jenkintown. As much as he talked about the sacrifices others have made for the program, Romano’s made plenty of his own.
His son Jimmy, like many current Jenkintown athletes, played three sports and went on to a football career at Jenkintown. He coached his daughter Megan for four years, watching her score 1,410 points before continuing her career at Elizabethtown but gave up some chances to see her play to remain with the Drakes.
“When she graduated, they all thought I would stop and go see her play collegiately but I started this way before she was even thought of,” Romano said. “Being around these young people who are so into playing and into their academics, it keeps me young and it’s almost therapy at times.”
Next to him every step of the way, Romano has had a pair of faithful assistants. At home, it’s his wife Ginnie, who often keeps the scorebook at Drakes home games
“To have a family that supports me all the way through, my wife has understood on many a nights,” Romano said. “It takes a lot of time away from your family. It’s something my wife understands and she’s on board.”
At Jenkintown, it’s David Seitz, the school’s unofficial statistician, assistant athletic director and historian. Seitz and Romano are such a fixture that they were inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame on the same night.
“Dave’s been with me the whole way through,” Romano said. “There are so many people behind the scenes. George Kolb, now I coach the twins (juniors Mia and Natalie), he’s a Jenkintown graduate and has had his family come through the programs. (George) Dorshimer, his daughters Emma (the school’s all-time girls scoring leader) and Molly played for me. The Westkaempers, Ruby played for me and now Katie plays for me. It’s a really cool place.”
The Drakes usually have about 15 players in the program between JV and varsity every year, and very rarely do they have size to match up with bigger teams. Jenkintown makes up for it by sharing the ball, rebounding and playing aggressive defense.
As the Jenkintown contingent was getting ready to leave Monday, Romano took one last look around, made sure all his players were accounted for and followed them out to the bus. There was a game to prepare for on Tuesday and his attention was already on trying to get the next win.
“He’s always bringing us up and making us feel good about how we’re playing or what we’re doing,” Jennifer Kremp said. “We’re all happy to be on his team and making him this successful because without him, we wouldn’t be successful. He always says without us, he wouldn’t be successful so it’s a mutual respect for each other. It’s just been a lot of fun.”
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