Krause: Ridley’s new position at Tech is a victory for the good guys

Who says good things don’t ever happen to good people? Jim Ridley is living proof that they often do.Ridley, who has taught, coached and administrated in the Lynn school system for over a quarter of a century, has just been appointed director at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute – a promotion that is not only well-deserved, but long overdue.Ridley is, and always has been, one of Lynn’s shining lights. If there’s work to be done, get Jim Ridley on board. He’ll do more than show up. He’ll be an effective member of your team – whatever that team is.Not surprisingly, Ridley values teamwork, and says the concept may be one reason why athletic coaches often end up being principals (predecessors Al Malagrifa and Bart Conlon were also coaches).”As a coach,” he says, “you have to build a team. One person can’t run the whole thing. We understand it’s a team effort. You have to get the best out of everyone.”If I thought I’d be able to do everything myself, I’d be setting myself up for failure,” he said.Ridley was Tech’s basketball coach in the 1980s and ’90s, succeeding Russ Brennan, who was his coach when he attended the old Lynn Trade. He had to give that job up when he became an assistant principal (and later principal) at Breed, and the person who succeeded him, assistant Marvin Avery, picked up where Ridley left off and has made the school a perennial Division 3 powerhouse.But just because Ridley had to give up varsity coaching doesn’t mean he stopped coaching altogether. In fact, he may be busier now than when he simply coached at Tech.Officially, he serves as the director for the Massachusetts Thundercats, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball program. But in fact, he organizes the 17-and-under girls team, plans the tournament, and assists Avery, who is the head coach of the team.Ridley, whose daughter, Helen, was a standout player for both Classical and Quinnipiac, also started the North Shore Girls Summer League.”When Helen was playing at Classical, we’d travel up to Endicott, or Strike One,” he said. “But North Shore Community College had gym time, so we decided to have the league there, and it became very successful.”Eight years later, Ridley is still involved in the summer league, the AAU team and a fall league. For this he donates his time – even though there’s money involved with the fall league.”But,” he says, “I put it back into the Lynn girls basketball boosters at Classical, or the AAU.”Ridley says the city approached him last year when it appeared as if outgoing director Brian Coughlin would not come back.”I said I’d be interested,” Ridley said. “But he came back, and that was that.”However, he was approached again in January, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to take the position – and leave Breed – in the middle of the school year.”But I thought about it, and realized that this opportunity might only come up once,” he said. “So I was very interested.”He says it’ll be hard to leave Breed, and that the new position will be a challenge. But he says he’s up for it.”Because we’re a vocational school that has to pass the (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests, that’s a big challenge right there.”Kids come here to learn a trade,” he said. “But the state tells us in order to graduate, you have to pass MCAS. We have to give them enough hours in the shop to justifying someone hiring them, and they also need enough hours in the classroom to be able to pass the test.”And then, there are more and more kids who want to go into higher education, and that presents a third challenge.”Hey. Nobody said it was going to be easy. But if anyone can walk into Tech in the middle of the school year (he starts after the Presidents Day vacation week) and make a difference, it’s Jim Ridley.Congratulations are in order. Ridley’s truly one of the good guys, and today, the good guys have won a round.Steve Krause is sports editor of The Item.

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