Substitute by Day, Historian by Night


With an unwavering smile and an exuberant persona, Will Harrigan, Morris Hills substitute teacher, strolls into the library with thoughts of the 63 year history of Morris Hills basketball on his mind. Mr. Harrigan created a 96 page report detailing the history the Morris Hills basketball team with everything from coaching records to every game score to every player who has ever scored a point for the varsity team. Many already know of Mr. Harrigan’s ventures within Morris Hills, for which he even admits he has become pretty famous, but few know that Mr. Harrigan’s passion for the game runs much deeper than his 96 page report on Morris Hills basketball.

Mr. Harrigan graduated from Roxbury High school five years ago and made himself known as the unofficial athletics historian, when he researched all the Roxbury championship teams that did not have a banner to represent their championship season. These championship teams were not only basketball teams, but teams of all sports. He had to look through yearbooks dating back to 1903, Roxbury High School’s opening year, and go to the local library in order to look through microfilm for newspaper clippings. He found 9 missing championship teams and 30 missing conference championships, which led to all the banners being hung in September 2011.

Mr. Harrigan then attended New Jersey City University and majored in history. He received a certification to be a history teacher and began as a substitute at Morris Hills in November 2015. But Mr. Harrigan is not just a substitute teacher; he works as freelance sports writer and has written for twelve different publications including The Star Ledger and the Rockaway newspaper, The Citizen.

In his free time, which he says is limited, Mr. Harrigan spends time on what he calls his basketball project. His basketball project is his in-depth reports on the history of basketball teams all across the county. He has created reports for ten out of the twenty seven schools in Morris County, detailing the exact history of their basketball teams. He scoured school yearbooks for scores of basketball games and had several visits to libraries looking through microfilm for box scores and individual player stats. For Morris Hills, Mr. Harrigan estimates he has spent about 200 to 300 hours researching all the information for the report. Even with his tireless hours of work, Mr. Harrigan wants no compensation, saying, “I love basketball and I want to get involved with the sport and I see this as a way to get involved with the sport, but the actual books belong to the Morris Hills community.”

Morris Hills’ varsityarsity basketball coach, Mr. Maclay, is the owner of the hard copy of Mr. Harrigan’s report and he was enthused by all of Mr. Harrigan’s hard work and effort. Mr. Maclay hopes to publish Mr. Harrigan’s report online for all of the Morris Hills community. “I think tradition is really important in a program and I think it’s important for our kids to understand we have a history even though we don’t have any banners in the gymnasium,” Mr. Maclay stated.

Mr. Harrigan’s work has even caught the attention of Mr. Haraka, the Athletics Supervisor at Morris Hills, who stated, “The amount of work he put in was tremendous. I thought it was great to be able to go back and get all of that information.”

Mr. Harrigan has also impressed the Morris Hills community with his self-described almost-photographic memory and Mr. Maclay commented, “He would drop little hints about odd facts about our school [basketball team].”

Mr. Harrigan commented on his memorization of stats, “Once I get going talking about Morris Hills basketball I don’t stop. It becomes entertaining.”

Mr. Harrigan’s says his undeniable passion for high school basketball stems from his father, who was a high school basketball coach, but Mr. Harrigan also says, “It’s a numbers game and I’m a numbers guy, but high school basketball is treated as seriously and as legitimately as the college game. It transcends high school.”