John McTague ‘66: Husband, Father, Grandfather, Prep Graduate, and Basketball Superfan

Part SHP basketball superfan. Part loving husband, father, and grandfather. A wholly distinguished Seton Hall Prep alumnus. John McTague is a proud graduate of The Prep class of 1966. He has seen The Prep from its beginnings, and still maintains strong ties to the school.

Since Mr. McTague lives in Maplewood, we were able to coordinate an in-person discussion. Luckily, Maplewood is just two stops from Mountain Station. Mr. McTague met me right off the train and we walked to Starbucks. From our first handshake to our last, I can say with confidence a new bond was formed.

Our conversation began with a discussion of Seton Hall Prep, its values, and Mr. McTague’s experience. He is a grateful and proud graduate of SHP to say the least. Coming from Blessed Sacrament grammar school in Elizabeth, NJ, where he grew up, his mother pushed him to go to The Prep. The values of brotherhood and compassion have stuck with Mr. McTague and the class of 1966 to this day. Mr. McTague and twenty other 1966 graduates meet four times a year for lunch, where they have lots of fun sharing different stories and their new life experiences. Yet, one integral aspect of Seton Hall Prep that Mr. McTague truly considers a gift is Elizabeth Ann Seton, who at the time when Mr. McTague was a student, was not yet a saint. The Prep reinforced a firm belief system in his mind that is attributed to The Prep and his devotion to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Upon graduating from SHP, Mr. McTague knew that his plans were college. Coming from a humble background, he was a first-generation college student and graduate. He attended Mount St. Mary’s college in Emmitsburg, MD, which provided for him a nurturing environment akin to The Prep. Soon after graduating, Mr. McTague married his high school sweetheart with whom he has been married for over 52 years and they are the proud parents of two loving daughters. He always had a passion for his job based on his love of history, economics and current events which led him to pursue a successful career in foreign exchange trading at several major international banks in New York City for over four decades. Retiring in 2012 at the young age of 63, Mr. McTague found a lot more time to pursue his interests. These include exercising; gardening; reading historical books; focusing on his seven grandkids; getting involved with the church as a lector, Eucharistic minister, board member of St. Patrick Pro-Cathedral and St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Newark; and becoming closer to SHP through basketball.

Mr. McTague is, quite frankly, a basketball encyclopedia. When he was a little boy, he attended as many high school basketball games as he could. Elizabeth happened to have a rich basketball tradition because of the conglomerate of high schools in the area. In fact, he played basketball in grammar school and on his local CYO team. Fast forward to the present day and he is a mainstay in our SHP basketball tradition. He has immense respect for Coach Williams and the entire coaching staff, which according to Mr. McTague, all carry the legacy of Bob Farrell (Mr. McTague’s favorite coach). The 2022-23 season has been a gift for Mr. McTague as well. He constantly monitors the team and attends as many games as possible, sitting courtside usually next to a SHP celebrity! Mr. McTague is particularly fond of our players, the captains of the ship. He highlighted Ethan Maynard ’23, who had a breakout year, Darius Phillips ’23, Shawn Lyght ’23, and Jackson Bleecker ’23. The young stars, such as Jayden Harrington ’25, were classified by Mr. McTague as the “new wave.” The most recent game Mr. McTague attended (in relation to our discussion) was the ECT finals, in which The Prep defeated Arts High School. Mr. McTague thought the matchup was going to be a closer battle, but the Pirates played fundamental basketball with exceptional defense.

We then discussed the history of SHP basketball in establishing itself as one of the powerhouses in the state. Mr. McTague loves history, and he noted that SHP was always in the thick of tournaments for several decades. Since the Korean War, there have only been three coaches, highlighting the longevity of the program and successful systems that have been implemented. Beneath the success, however, The Prep has played such a critical role in transforming the lives of young men. According to Mr. McTague, four years of exposure to SHP and playing any sport is a special experience that resonates forever. The values and beliefs prove to be integral. The faculty, coaches, and even the priests all contribute in their own, unique manner to provide that experience.

Mr. McTague also had some thoughts regarding high school sports generally. He enjoys high school sports because of the nostalgia, the coachability of the players, and the lack of an egotistical attitude that can  sometimes find at the college or professional level. Of course, high school sports have changed immensely from when he was a student. At that time, soccer and lacrosse were not available; football, basketball, and baseball were the most popular sports at the school. The concept of students transferring was not existent back then, nor was the three-point shot. Today, Mr. McTague enjoys not only basketball but also high school football, soccer, and lacrosse games.

It was a pleasure speaking with Mr. McTague. As I mentioned in my previous alumni interview, I find it very fulfilling hearing the stories of individuals who have seen and done it all. In my opinion, Mr. McTague embodies true success. That is, coming from a humble background and doing whatever it takes to give back, elevate, and pursue passions. Before we left the happening Starbucks next to the Maplewood Train Station, Mr. McTague said to me with a smile, “Hazard Zet Forward,” the SHP motto he has lived by all his life.