Coach Ron Wister


Future Photo

  • Head Coach, Haddon Township High School, 1990-current
  • 1994 Inductee, South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame, Player
  • drafted by Philadelphia 76ers, 1981, 9th Rd, 202nd pick NBA Draft
  • Temple University, Varsity, 1977-1981
  • St. Joe's (Camden) High School, 1974-1977

Wister Brings Out Haddon Twp's Best  
Coach Wister vs. Ralph Sampson, 1979!


Wister Brings Out Haddon Twp's Best

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Courier-Post Staff

Ron Wister is one of the best big men ever to have played in South Jersey. The 6-foot-11 Wister starred at St. Joseph's High School in Camden and Temple University before being drafted by the Sixers.

So it's ironic that Wister, the tallest coach in South Jersey, is coaching one of the smallest teams this season.

Wister's starting center for the Haddon Township High School boys' basketball team is Bryan Fredrich, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall - or almost a foot shorter than his coach.

However, Wister wouldn't trade in his undersized team for more height. He'd rather have the heart of his current Hawks.

"It would be nice to have a 6-8 or 6-9 guy, but this has been my most enjoyable season," said Wister, who is in his 14th season coaching the Hawks. "The players have really made it fun and easy for me. It reminds me when I played at Temple, and we would bust on each other."

It isn't a stretch to suggest the fun the Hawks are having is an integral reason why they are enjoying one of their best seasons under Wister.  Haddon Township has made the postseason with a 9-7 record, including Tuesday's loss to Haddonfield.

The Hawks secured a playoff berth for the third time under Wister last week when Fredrich made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Nick Jeanette for a 55-54 win over Haddon Heights.

"We were jumping all over the floor," Wister said. "It was fun."

You can tell in Wister's voice that he's really enjoying coaching this team, which includes the starting five of Fredrich, Jeanette, Pat MacNamara, Tom Dickinson and Mike Heck.

It is really refreshing listening to a coach who likes being around his players.

"I talk to some coaches who are having great years and they tell me they can't wait for the season to be over," Wister said. "For me, I enjoy every day."

Maybe it's because Wister played at a high level as a four-year starter at Temple from 1977 to 1981 that he truly understands the relationships with his players will be remembered far longer than the wins.

That is why Wister looks forward to playing Collingswood, No. 15 in the Courier-Post Top 20, Thursday, just two days after playing No. 6 Haddonfield. Wister and Collingswood coach Joe McLoughlin have been friends for more than 20 years - Wister was the roommate of McLoughlin's sharp-shooting brother, Jimmy, for two years at Temple.

"Joe is a good buddy," said Wister, a teacher at Haddon Township who got his start in coaching and teaching at Collingswood, where he met his wife, Barbara. "It is nice to see him having so much success."

It is nice to see Wister have this success, too. And while having a good time.

"This team is really a nice group," Wister said. "They might not be the most talented, but they care for each other."

These rare relationships between the players are fostered by Wister, which makes him one of the area's best coaches - and one of the best big men ever in South Jersey.

Reach Kevin Callahan at


Note:  Coach Wister referenced in this 1979 Sports Illustrated article about Ralph Sampson of UVA....

His Future is Up in the Air

It's too early to tell for sure, but Ralph Sampson, Virginia's giant freshman, could rule the game

By Larry Keith

Issue date: December 17, 1979

Sports Illustrated Flashback Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But this one is tall as a chimney, skinny as tinsel and as agile as a reindeer making a four-point landing on the roof of an A-frame. In his bag of goodies are dunks and skyhooks, turnaround jumpers and behind-the-back dribbles, rejected shots and intercepted passes. Merry Christmas, Virginia.

One minute and 39 seconds into a scoreless game against John Hopkins two week ago, the Virginia Cavaliers' 7' 4", 207-pound freshman center leaped toward the ceiling of University Hall, caught a high lob pass and slammed it through the basket. As the scoreboard flashed a bright red "2," the sellout crowd of 9,000 roared with delight. Ralph Sampson had arrived.

Since that electrifying moment, Sampson has emerged as the Cavaliers' leading scorer, rebounder, field gold shooter, shot blocker and ball stealer. He has led his team to four straight victories while inspiring lavish praise from opposing coaches. Sampson is everything he was supposed to be, which is good, and not close to what he is going to be, which is even better. And, oh yes, because his mother is a seamstress he even knows how to make his own clothes.

Sampson's college debut was one of the most eagerly awaited and closely watched coming-out-parties in recent history. As a high school player 56 miles away in Harrisonburg, he had led his team to two state AA championships, earned unanimous All-America honors, starred in postseason All-Star Games and made the Pan Am Games team. Through it all he had college coaches clamoring for his attention and drooling over his ability.

In his first four appearances, Sampson has been especially impressive on defense, where he has been as intimidating as an 88"-tall player with an 88" arm span can be. The starting centers who opposed him were rendered almost useless. Together, they had only 12 points and nine rebounds.

After boringly easy wins over Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech and Randolph-Macon, Sampson and the Cavaliers survived their first road test last week by beating Temple 58-52 in Philadelphia's Palestra. Sampson had 12 points, 13 rebounds and nine block; his counterpart, 6' 11" Ron Wister, had six points, two rebounds and one block. "When Sampson puts on 30 pounds he'll be unbelievable," said Wister.

Sampson established his authority and showed off his versatility in the opening half minute when he blocked Temple's first shot and then raced downcourt to take a pass for a fast-break layup. A few minutes later he scored his second basket with a high lead over the defense and a spectacular dunk. In the second half he thrilled the crowd again when he pulled down a rebound and maneuvered out of danger with a spinaround dribble.

Clearly, Sampson is not an elongated stumblebum. Every game has provided a vivid display of his potentional greatness. Against Johns Hopkins he stole a pass, dribbled through traffic and passed for a layup. Against Georgia Tech he stopped a two-man fast-break by surrounding the ballhandler before he could shoot or pass. Against Randolph-Macon he canned jump shots from 12, 15 and 16 feet. And after every performance the visiting coach was all agog.

"We were hoping he would hit his head on the way in to the arena and be out for the game," said John Amen of Johns Hopkins. "He has a great shooting touch." Georgia Tech coach Dwane Morrison compared him favorably with the young Kareerm Abdul-Jabbar. "I had the privilege of coaching against Alcindor when he was a sophomore and to me they play similarly," he said. "This youngster's a better outside shooter and he plays better defense out on the ball." Randolph-Macon's Hal Nunnally came up with a more inventive comparision. "We knew we couldn't challenge Sampson," he said. "The Dominican Republic doesn't challenge the United States to a war. That's about how smart it would be to go inside on Sampson."

About the only thing hindering Sampson thus far has been his teammates' inability to penetrate opponents' zones and give them the ball. For the first time in their undistinguished history the Cavaliers have been winning more on talent than on execution.

The most talented Virginian, of course, is Sampson. "Some great players take away from those around him, but Ralph add," says guard Jeff Lamp, who led the ACC in scoring last year with a 22.9-point average. Lamp has struggled so far -- 40% shooting and a 10-point average -- but he isn't worried. "He's going to take a lot of defensive pressure off me, so I'll have more open jump shots," Lamp says. "He'll probably score 15 to 20 points a game himself, but he's going to help us the most with his rebounds, assists, shot blocking, outlet passes and intimidation."

Virginia coach Terry Holland hoped for nothing less when he signed Sampson to a scholarship last spring. After Sampson chose the Cavaliers over such established powers as Kentucky, North Carolina and Virgina Tech, Holland said "Thank God he's coming to Virginia" and began entertaining thoughts of a national championship. "The first time I ever saw Ralph was at the opening game of his junior year in high school," Holland says. "My assistant coach and I were punching each other all the way back home. We couldn't believe he was only an hour away. He wasn't awesome, but you could see his potential. He has a chance to be the best who ever played."

Holland is not the only person around Charlottesville who feels that way, of course. Even before Sampson announced that he would enroll, someone painted RALPH'S HOUSE in big black letters on the roof of University Hall. Since his arrival he has been the subject of T shirts and bumper stickers, and a local restaurant named an eight-ounce turkey and roast beef sandwich after him. As a result, Holland is fighting an uphill battle when he tries to temper the public's soaring expectations.

Before the season began, the coach made it a point to tell everyone who would listen that Sampson couldn't possibly be as good as they expected. "People have seen high school highlight films of Ralph blocking every shot, getting every rebound and scoring every time he shoots," Holland says. "He can never live up to that." Once, however, when the coach's downplaying was misunderstood and an October newspaper headline blared HOLLAND SAYS RALPH BAD IN EARLY GOING, Holland wanted to sue. "I'm just trying to take the pressure off this hear," he says. "We're a nice team and maybe we deserve to be in the Top 20."

Virginia is much more that just nice, and Holland knows this better than anyone. For one thing, Sampson is more accomplished than even Holland had hoped. The coach had originally intended to take advantage of his size and "nail him to the lane," but after watching Sampson in practice, Holland decided to allow him more mobility. "Ralph's a better all-around player than I thought he would be," Holland says. "He is so good at playing a complete game that I've decided to let him come out to the high post sometimes and move around in the offense. I'm sure there will be occasions when I'll say 'What the hell is he doing out there,' but he has more than just height. He's quick and he can shoot and he can pass."

Sampson also sees himself as a player with several dimensions. "I know people expect me to be the dominant force and help Virginia win the ACC, but I just want to play my own game," he says. "I don't worry about scoring. The most important thing I can do is get the rebound and start the fast break." Even more than that, however, Sampson enjoys those plays that allow him to show off his outside shooting and ball handling skills. "I really would like to be a 7' 4" guard," he says.

Sampson isn't comfortable talking about himself. He is about as likely to give a reporter a revealing answer to a question as he is to retaliate against an opponent's pushing and shoving. Both require an expenditure of emotion and feeling he doesn't care to offer. Although he is often compared to Abdul-Jabbar, their closest similarity at the moment is that they run upcourt in the same loping manner, with thumbs pointed up and hands cupped at the chest. It took Sampson four games to score as many points, 56, as Abdul-Jabbar did in his college debut against USC.

But, as Holland pointed out last week, Sampson is "green and growing. I'm looking forward to the time he finally flowers." But until that happens, the Ralph Sampson who has already sprouted will be plenty good enough.

Issue date: December 17, 1979