Roxbury High School’s Gary Irwin Retires Coaching Reigns After Amazing 33-Year Run 

By: Jerry Del Priore 


Roxbury High School’s Boys’ Soccer Head Coach Gary Irwin felt it was the right time to step down. 


Afterall, he said he and his boys had accomplished so much during his 33-year fruitful coaching career at the high school: 348 wins, one state, one county and two conference titles during that time span, which he said started back in 1987. 


And let us not forget the countless student-athletes who went onto grace the collegiate pitches across the nation. 


First, there is Doug Brooks, the 1995 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year. Then, Tim Babbitt, a 2003 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) All-Conference team member who played at Rowan, and Michael Distefano, the single-season boy’s soccer scoring record leader who played at Big East Conference’s Providence College, among other players. 


Furthermore, Irwin didn’t want his impending retirement to distract from the 2021 season, so he did not make an official announcement. That came from Roxbury Athletic Director Stuart Mason– a former goalkeeper under Irwin and Division I Delaware netminder–who let the cat out of the proverbial bag. 


Mason invited former players to the Gales’ last regular season game against Mount Olive as a way to honor the great coach and educator. They won, 2-0, and over 50 ex-Gales showed up for the contest. But Irwin said he did not want the spotlight shined on him, as to not take away any attention from the team.


However, it was the administration’s support, not to mention the respect and admiration of his ex-players, that left him with a profound sense of accomplishments and appreciation. 


“I’ve been blessed with tremendous administrators throughout my years as a coach and teacher at Roxbury,” he said. “Hey, you can’t do this by yourself. I’m very at peace with my retirement. I’m comfortable with it.” 


When asked what his secret to the program’s success was, Irwin deflected the credit to the countless talented, selfless players that he has helped guide over the years, who unequivocally bought into the Roxbury Soccer program’s team-first family attitude. 


“It’s about the boys, not me,” Irwin said. “The boys’ development as student-athletes meant more to me than the wins. They turned me into we. They coined the term family. It’s almost an impossible thing to do today, but they played as one unit. I would like to think that I’ve been successful, but I attribute it to the boys buying into the system. It’s about them.”


And it busted through again in 2021, as the Gaels finished with a 18-3 overall record and went 10-0 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). It was another impressive season, which ended after Roxbury lost to Pascack Valley, 2-1, in the NJSIAA Tournament, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 Finals. 


But when asked which season provides him with his fondest memory, Irwin said it was the time the Gales, ranked 18th, knocked off powerhouse Delbarton to win the 2012 Morris County Championship.


“Nobody gave us a shot,” he recollected. “That sticks out in my mind the most.” 


For now, Irwin will sit back and relish in the moments that made Roxbury Soccer and its players matter in life and on the pitch while contemplating what is next for him. 


“Roxbury High School Soccer means something, ” Irwin said in earnest. “I’m really proud of the program. Maybe I will find my way back into soccer.”


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