NEPA Sports Nation

Al Callejas Jr. takes over for father

By Tom Robinson,

The closer Al Callejas Sr. moved to the end of his head coaching career, the more Al Callejas Jr. began to understand it was time to resume his.

Just weeks after Callejas Sr. retired on the night of a state semifinal loss, Holy Cross made the expected move of naming Callejas Jr. as his replacement as head boys basketball coach.

The move was shared with team members during homeroom at school Tuesday morning.

“I didn’t get into this thinking I was going to be a head coach,” Callejas Jr. said of serving as one of his father’s assistants for the past decade. “I was perfectly satisfied with being an assistant and helping out.”

Callejas Sr. had been the only boys basketball head coach in the school’s 16-year history. He was diagnosed with lung cancer during the 2021-22 season, but continued, earning District 2 Coach of the Year honors the past two seasons. The Crusaders won Lackawanna League Division 3 and District 2 Class 2A titles this season before being the district’s last team standing in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.

“I didn’t really have this as an end goal until recently,” Callejas Jr. said. “Last year, with my Dad going through things, I started thinking about the possibility and I kind of knew this year was his last run.

“As it got further into the year, after discussing it with my wife and family, I just really wanted to do it.”

Callejas Jr. is familiar to and with the players he will coach and the setting in which he will coach them.

Callejas Sr. coached Bishop O’Hara for 15 seasons at the same Dunmore location before Holy Cross was formed by the merger of that school and Bishop Hannan from Scranton. Callejas Jr. led Bishop O’Hara to the state championship game as a junior in 1996 and went on to play at the University of Scranton where he was one of the most accurate shooters in the history of that storied program.

“I’ve been in that gym with him since I was 12 years old,” said Callejas Jr., a first-grade teacher at Valley View for the past 15 years and the father of two daughters. “I’ve seen the amount of passion and effort he’s put in to being a teacher there and building this program.

“I just felt I couldn’t pass it up. I owe it to him. The school’s been great to me.”

It is the school where Callejas Jr. will resume a head coaching career. He was 23-5 at Pocono Mountain East in 2005-06, but left after that season because of a job change.

“As we got through this year, it started becoming more of a dream and a possibility that I really wanted to do,” he said.

Callejas Jr. thanked principal Ben Tolerico and the rest or the Holy Cross administration for their belief in him.

Junior varsity coach Corey Joyce and freshman coach Kyler Kovaleski have already committed to remaining on the staff.

Callejas Sr. led Holy Cross to the state tournament in 15 of 16 seasons. The only exception was when the team sat out the 2021 postseason because of a COVID outbreak.

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