HILLSBOROUGH: Veteran coach Parham excited to be at HHS

By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
Over the last five years, John “Lennie” Parham had a rooting interest in the emergence of the Hillsborough High School boys basketball team as a parent.
Now the veteran college and high school coach is the new Raiders head coach.
“I’m excited,” Parham said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Parham has started to familiarize himself with what the Raiders have returning to their program. He is no stranger to the Raiders and their history. His oldest son, Jalen, graduated in 2014 after helping Hillsborough win its first Somerset County Tournament championship under Ian Progin, who resigned after 12 years at the helm.
“Ian did a good job,” Parham said. “Jalen liked playing for him. He did a good job, and they’re respected in the county and around the state. We’re trying to keep it at a high level.”
Parham’s other son, Jackson, is still coming up through the program. He will be a sophomore at HHS, and Parham has coached both of his sons on AAU teams.
“That helped Jackson a bit,” Parham said. “This won’t be the first time. I didn’t treat him any differently than anyone else.”
Jackson’s top sport is football. Parham was a three-sport star at Washington state’s Medical Lake High School, where he was inducted in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame after scoring more than 1,000 points and grabbing more than 1,000 rebounds. He played two years at Spokane Community College where he led the team to the league championship and a perfect record. He played two years at Gonzaga University, and once had a three-point play with one second left that helped the Bulldogs edge Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga was just beginning to rise during Parham’s days.
“John Stockton put them on the map,” he said. “He graduated in 1985-86. Back in the ‘80s, there were only 48 teams in the NCAA tournament so we sometimes were on the bubble.”
In his first coaching role, Parham agreed to help the Gonzaga women’s coach before he moved to East Stroudsburg University — where Jalen redshirted last year — to serve as graduate assistant for two years. Over 14 years, he coached as an assistant in college, as he went from East Stroudsburg to William Paterson to Drew to Northern Arizona and then to Drake University. His last college assistant job was with Ben Howland, who he had coached with at Northern Arizona, at the University of Pittsburgh before he came back to New Jersey to coach at the high school level.
“When I left college, I became the head coach at Plainfield,” Parham said. “I enjoyed that and getting the opportunity to coach at the high school level.
“I enjoy coaching basketball,” he said. “I enjoyed it in college. I enjoyed it at Plainfield.”
In 2004, he took Plainfield to the Group IV state final before they lost to Lenape. Parham stepped away from coaching high school to be an administrator. For the last nine years, he was athletic director at Dumont High School and then at New Brunswick. This year, he is Dean of Students at Asbury Park High School, and looking forward to getting back on the sidelines, particularly at the high school level.
“The big difference is you have a chance to develop young men,” Parham said. “In college, some guys only stay one or two years. In high school, you see them freshman year on to senior year. You get a chance to develop them as a whole. Some guys in college are more self-sufficient. Some are more high maintenance and you have to spend a lot of time with them. In high school, you spend a lot of time with everybody. Being a role model for these young men at both levels growing up, that’s also important.”
Parham has had a chance to start to get to know his new team better during the summer league. It’s an early look at the group he will be developing.
“I’ve been working with them the last three weeks,” Parham said. “We have a lot of young kids coming up. A lot of kids left from graduation the last few years. It’s an opportunity for the guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes, some of the veterans, to play more. It’s a chance to help develop the younger guys.”
Parham is trying to get to know their strengths and weaknesses as quickly as possible. The offseason is crucial for a new coach.
“Summer league is great,” Parham said. “It gives me a chance to evaluate everybody. It’s a great opportunity to do that, and it’s a great opportunity for younger guys to play against older more veteran guys and see that they have to work on. A lot of them haven’t played together. It’s a chance to know each other on and off the court.”
Having some knowledge of the sorts of student-athletes at Hillsborough is a plus, and Parham isn’t walking in blind to what the league is like. He understands the competition in the league and group that the Raiders will face.
“I think it helps being familiar with what type of kids you have there,” Parham said. “I probably know about 10 of them that grew up with my youngest son.
“I’m familiar with the league — Bridgewater, Montgomery, Ridge, Watchung. It’s a good league and conference and county. We have our hands full.”
Parham has a wealth of coaching experience to call on as he heads into his newest high school job. He has a vision of how his team should play, and is hoping to make that a staple of the Raiders.
“I want to make sure we’re playing hard and playing together as a team, sharing the ball,” Parham said. “I like to play up tempo. I don’t know how fast we can play yet. I have to evaluate our talent. It’s important to share the ball, screening and definitely defending. That’s our foundation.”
Lennie Parham has watched the Raiders succeed from the stands in recent years. What he has seen and from the young men that he already knows, he has confidence that Hillsborough can sustain its success as he leads them forward.
“They’ve had success so there’s an opportunity for kids to make sure they can keep it at a high level,” Parham said. “The kids have good basketball knowledge. They want to work hard. They care. If they care, that’s a good start.” 