Legendary Wildwood basketball coach passes

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A nor’easter made Friday a rather dark and gloomy day in the Wildwoods. It only got darker and gloomier as news of the passing of a legendary local basketball coach spread through the community.

Bernie McCracken, the head coach of multiple championship boys basketball teams at Wildwood High School, passed away in Florida due to complications from pneumonia, according to several people in the Wildwoods community.

Although he hadn’t been on a bench since the early 1980s, Mr. McCracken is still regarded as one of the top basketball coaches in Cape-Atlantic League history. He coached the Warriors to five Cape-Atlantic League championships, four South Jersey titles and one state championship over two different stints as head coach. He was first the Warrior head coach from the early 1960s to the early 1970s before returning to the bench from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

Mr. McCracken, a longtime highly respected mathematics teacher at Wildwood, also served as an assistant coach under Ray Lynch for three South Jersey champion and one state champion Warrior basketball teams in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Known as a staunch disciplinarian and creative tactician, Mr. McCracken was head coach at Wildwood for a total of 16 seasons. He is one of only two boys basketball coaches in CAL history, along with Ocean City’s Dixie Howell, with at least 250 career wins and less than 100 career losses. McCracken’s teams went 256-88 during his career, his win total still 12th best in CAL history.

While Mr. McCracken most recently resided in Lakeland, Fla., he often returned to the area and attended a handful of Wildwood High School basketball and baseball games each season in recent years to watch his grandsons, Jared and Tyler DeGroff and Zak Barrett, compete. Tyler DeGroff and Barrett both graduated from Wildwood last June. Barrett finished his basketball career with more than 1,000 career points.

(See this week’s editions of the Leader and Gazettes for more coverage of this story.)

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