By TOM WILLIAMS
Paul Baruffi, one of the most successful basketball coaches in South Jersey history, confirmed today that he will not return for his 21st season as coach of the Ocean City High School girls basketball team.
His final game was a win over Egg Harbor Township on Saturday, finishing the COVID-19 season with a 6-5 record and ending his remarkable career with a record of 429-129, exactly 300 wins above .500.
“A veteran coach told me a long time ago that you will know when it is time,” Baruffi said. “I actually was thinking about it at the end of last season. The way it ended with not being able to play in the state final and once I learned about the shortened season this year, I decided to stay on. It wouldn’t have been a situation to put a new coach in. Also, if I can’t give 100 percent, I’m not hanging on. At this time I don’t think the players would be getting that from me.”
Baruffi is currently third among Cape-Atlantic League girls basketball coaches, trailing only Steve DiPatri of Wildwood Catholic and Dave Troiano, the retired coach from Wildwood. Baruffi has a 54-18 record in the NJSIAA Tournament. His teams won eight South Jersey championships, including last season, the most by any CAL girls coach. His last five teams played in South Jersey finals, winning four. And a total of 11 of his teams reached the South Jersey championship game. The 2013 team won a state championship, the only one in OCHS girls basketball history.
His teams were 16-6 in the CAL Tournament, winning the championship six times, more than any other girls coach.
“My fondest memories are all the team achievements, the great players, families and the support of the community,” Baruffi said. “But beating Christ The King is something I will never forget.” New York’s Christ The King is considered one of the greatest girls basketball programs in the country. Baruffi’s Raiders defeated them in Prime Events Girls Shootout at Holy Spirit in 2009. The box score is HERE. And video highlights of that game, plus a Baruffi interview, are HERE.
He was also one of the most successful coaches of any sport at OCHS, as the following chart indicates.
Baruffi, a successful multi-sport athlete at Vineland High School who started out at OCHS as the boys JV basketball coach, has also been a longtime assistant coach in football and outdoor track. He indicated that will likely be coming to an end soon, as well. “I will be teaching in the fall,” he said, “and plan on coaching one more year of freshman football.”
Baruffi was not only a successful basketball coach but a strong leader who surrounded himself with talented and dedicated assistants. He was intense and focused and brought those qualities to all of his teams. He succeeded Pat Dougherty and Dr. Chris Lentz as OCHS girls coach and that trio produced more than 50 years of success.
Paul Baruffi leaves behind two great decades of basketball. He has been a very special coach.
“When I started 20 years ago”, he said, “I just wanted to establish a good basketball program. It never crossed my mind how many years it would be. It is my hope that our program has earned the respect of the basketball community. There is a great group coming back next season who, I believe, will continue to represent Ocean City well.”
The photos below captured some highlights of his coaching career.
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