Basketball icon Jim Spanarkel and former HS football coach/Montclair AD Ron Anello to be honored at Friends of Mercier Sportsmen’s Father-Son Beefsteak on April 15

Jim Spanarkel, left, and Spero Dedes converse while announcing a basketball game for CBS.

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ  — It could have been while playing one of the endless pickup games with 1970s Hudson Catholic teammate Mike O’Koren at the old St. Joseph Courts behind St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in their native Jersey City. 

Or, perhaps it was later inside Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University where he would become an All-American while leading the Blue Devils to the 1978 NCAA Tournament final.

And, it could also have also been as a very adept NBA shooting guard with the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks where his passion for the game of basketball simply continued.

Nowadays, it’s sitting alongside his broadcast partner on telecasts of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament while providing expert commentary during the latest edition of ‘March Madness.’

He already had etched his mark as an Emmy Award-winning color analyst while working alongside play-by-play man Ian Eagle for Nets telecasts on the YES Network.

Through it all, a basketball life encompassing more than a half century has seen Jim Spanarkel shine both on and off the hardwood both as an outstanding player at all levels and as a first-rate TV analyst of the game he loves.

Now, he’s about to be the latest recipient of the prestigious Peter A. Carlesimo Memorial Sportsman of the Year award, while noteworthy high school football coach and athletic director Ron Anello will be recipient of the Msgr. Edward J. Larkin Award of Distinction as the Friends of Mercier Sportsmen hold their 2024 Father-Son Beefsteak on Monday evening, April 15, at The Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange.

Cocktails are at 6 p.m. and dinner follows at 7.

There have been several honorees through the years with Worrall Community Newspapers and connections, such as sportswriter and baseball TV analyst Tom Verducci from Glen Ridge (2018), distance runner Tom Fleming of Bloomfield (2017), former Our Lady of the Valley coach Ted Fiore (2015), Seton Hall Prep baseball coach Mike Sheppard, Jr.; Fred Hill from East Orange (2005), former Seton Hall University basketball coach PJ Carlesimo (1990), former Seton Hall Prep basketball coach Frank “Finn” Tracey (1987), college basketball TV analyst Bill Raftery of West Orange (1985), Seton Hall Prep president the Msgr. Michael E. Kelly (1982), former Glen Ridge football coach Bill Horey (1981) and former Bloomfield High School basketball coach George Cella (1975).

This year’s event highlights two men who have maintained the pinnacle of character in addition to success, in and out of the world of athletics.

Jim Spanarkel is shown during his playing days for Duke University, where he enjoyed a standout career.

Spanarkel is a true renaissance man in sports and business as, in addition to his extensive work as an analyst for both NBA and college basketball telecasts, he has also been a longtime senior vice-president in investments for Merrill Lynch.   

“The Friends of Mercier Sportsmen are thrilled to honor Jim Spanarkel as this year’s Carlesimo award winner,” said William Evans, this year’s dinner chairman who is also the executive director of the Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation. “He is one of New Jersey’s most accomplished homegrown athletes who distinguished himself at every level in life and sport.

 “Jim starred as a Hudson Catholic basketball standout, achieved at the highest levels as a Duke All-America, and was the Blue Devils first 2,000-point scorer.  

“His impressive achievements in the NBA, as a first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers, and also later playing with the Dallas Mavericks, led to his role as a dynamic basketball analyst for both NBA and NCAA telecasts. Jim has also managed a successful long-term career in banking and financial services and has done it all with class and style.”

Montclair’s Anello was a longtime, successful head football coach at West Essex and then Clifton, including guiding the Mustangs to a state sectional playoff championship in 2006. He also served as athletic director at both Wallkill Valley and Ramapo high schools and is currently serving in his second year as the ‘interim’ AD and as one of the assistant football coaches at Montclair High School where he was once an outstanding lineman while playing for legendary coach Butch Fortunato, a Carlesimo Sportsman of the Year award recipient in 1978.      

“Ron Anello represents all that we seek to recognize with our Larkin Award honoree in his commitment to youth development, sportsmanship and achievement as coach, athletic director, educator and role model,” said Evans. “Ron is a widely respected coach and administrator in the state of New Jersey, where he won a state football championship at Clifton and coached his teams at Clifton and West Essex to a 93-72-2 record.

“Ron has also been an accomplished award-winning athletics director at Ramapo, Wallkill Valley and he is now back at his alma mater, Montclair High.”

Spanarkel teamed with O’Koren to form an incredible 1-2 punch for great Hudson Catholic teams before they graduated high school in 1975 and embarked on successful college careers in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the former heading to play for coach Bill Foster at Duke and the latter joining legendary coach Dean Smith and the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Combining with other standout underclassmen. including center Mike Gminski and forwards Eugene Banks and Kenny Dennard, Spanarkel spearheaded the backcourt for the youthful 1978 Duke Blue Devils who advanced all the way to the NCAA championship game where they fell, 94-88, to a high-powered Kentucky team coached by Joe B. Hall and led by prolific scorer Jack Givens who poured in 41 points in the contest.

An All-American in 1979 and an Academic All-American in both 1978 and ‘79, Spanarkel was also Duke’s MVP his final three seasons plus was a team captain as a junior and senior.

A superb all-around athlete, he also played two seasons for Duke’s baseball team.

After the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft, Spanarkel played in Philly for one season before spending the next four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and was the team’s leading scorer in the 1980-81 season.

He and wife, Janet Martz McPherson, have been married since 1982 and have four children: James, Bridget, Stephanie and Andrew.  

Anello has had much success as both a football coach and athletic administrator. At West Essex, he rebuilt a Knights program that had been struggling mightily and guided them to the North 2, Group 3 playoff final in 1994. At Clifton, his 2006 North 1, Group 4 sectional champs snapped a 33-year title drought for the proud Passaic County gridiron program.

During his time as athletic director at Ramapo High School from 2011 to 2021, he was named as a Bergen County Athletic Director of the Year while overseeing Raiders sports, which had been ranked as being part of the No. 1 athletic program in the state for two consecutive school years – 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.   

As a player, he excelled as a superb lineman at Montclair High and collegiately at Trenton State where he was named the 1980 National Football Foundation, Delaware Valley Chapter’s Collegiate Scholar-Leader Athlete.

Along with numerous local, regional, state and national honors during his fine coaching career, Anello has long served as president of the Essex-Hudson Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

Ron and wife Debbie have been married for 38 years and have two children, Gabriel and Brittany.

Tickets for The Friends of Mercier Sportsmen Dinner on Monday, April 15, are charged. To make a reservation, email Zele payments can be made, or to use a credit card, call John Jerbasi at 973-610-9011.To pay by check, make it payable to: “Friends of Mercier Sportsmen Inc.” and mail to Jerbasi at 65 Horseneck Road, Denville, N.J. 07834-2828.


Mercier Carlesimo Sportsman of the Year & Msgr. Larkin Awards:


2023: Jon “Boog” Sciambi, ESPN

          Larkin Award: Mark Corino

2022:  Lenny Coleman- MLB’s National League President

            Larkin Award: Steve Tober

2019: Matt Loughlin- NJ Devils play by play voice

            Larkin Award: Rich Hansen

2018: Tom Verducci- Sports Illustrated & FOX Baseball

            Larkin Award: Dave Giarrusso

2017: Zack DeOssie- NY Giants long snapper

            Larkin Award: Tom Fleming

2015: John Farrell- manager, Boston Red Sox

            Larkin Award: Ted Fiore

2014: Eric LeGrand- inspirational Rutgers lineman- founder LeGrand Foundation

            Larkin Award: Peter von Hoffmann

2013: Joe Quinlan- St. Peter’s University director of athletics

            Larkin Award: Niall Handley

2012: Harry Carson- NY Giants Hall of Fame linebacker

            Larkin Award: Rich SanFillipo

2011: Jerry Walker- Seton Hall Univ. Hall of Fame, St. Anthony great

           Larkin Award: Michael Sammon

2010: Graig Nettles- NY Yankees third baseman

           Larkin Award: Rick Giancola

2009: Bart Oates- NY Giants Pro Bowl center

           Larkin Award: Ed Lebida

2008: Jerry Izenberg- Star-Ledger columnist

           Larkin Award: Mike Sheppard, Jr.

2007: Anthony Fasano- Notre Dame and NFL tight end

          Larkin Award: Major Jennings

2006: Fred Dwyer- Manhattan College track coach

           Larkin Award: Pat Dyer

2005: Fred Hill- baseball coach Rutgers

           Larkin Award: Fr. Edwin Leahy, OSB

2004: Jack Powers- executive director of NIT

           Larkin Award: Chris Johnson

2003: Carl Banks- NY Giants linebacker

           Larkin Award: Lou Racioppe

2001: Michael Strahan- NY Giants defensive lineman

2000: Rick Cerone- NY Yankees catcher

            Larkin Award: Hugh Moriarty

1999: Terry Shea- Rutgers football coach

           Larkin Award: John Finnegan

1998: Larry Doby- Cleveland Indians baseball Hall of Famer

           Larkin Award: Bob Farrell

1997: Willis Reed- NY Knicks and VP NJ Nets

1996: John MacLean- NJ Devils Stanley Cup champion player

           Larkin Award- Ollie Gelston

1995: Phil Rizzuto- NY Yankees Hall of Famer

1994: Kelly Tripucka- NBA Detroit Pistons, Notre Dame Bloomfield HS

1993: Ottis Anderson- NY Giants running back, Super Bowl MVP

1992: Bob Hurley- St. Anthony Hall of Fame coach

1991: George Young- NY Giants general manager

1990: P.J. Carlesimo- Seton Hall University and NBA coach

1989: Bruce Parker- Montclair High School Hall of Fame coach

1988: Russ Helwig- Essex Fells CC golf pro & NJ state champ

1987: Frank ‘Finn’ Tracey- Seton Hall Prep basketball coach

1986: Frank Tripucka- Denver Broncos, Notre Dame & Bloomfield QB

1985: Bill Raftery- Seton Hall University basketball coach, CBS analyst

1984: John McMullen- owner NJ Devils

1983: Aubrey Lewis- Notre Dame & Montclair football & track great

1982: Msgr. Michael E. Kelly- Seton Hall Prep athletic director

1981: William Horey- Glen Ridge football coach

1980: Gil Gibbs- Montclair High lacrosse and basketball coach

1979: Joe Garvey- Essex Cath. & West Essex basketball coach, IC sports

1978: Butch Fortunato- Montclair High football coach and AD

1977: Howard Finney- Montclair Cobras youth football

1976: Bill Dioguardi- Montclair State athletic director

1975: George Cella- Bloomfield High basketball coach

1974: Peter Carlesimo- NIT chief executive, Fordham AD

1973: Rev. Francis Burla- Immaculate Conception athletic moderator

1972: Angelo Bertelli- Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner

1971: Yogi Berra- NY Yankees Hall of Fame catcher

1970: Clary Anderson- Montclair High football and baseball coach                

 Photos Courtesy of Steve Tober and Duke University Athletics