When Tim Stevens stepped down after nine years as head basketball coach at West Windsor-Plainsboro North, he wanted to take some down time away from basketball.

That plan never had a chance.  

The long-time mentor was immediately asked to join Lawrenceville's Notre Dame High School staff as an assistant. He took the position and enjoyed it, as he was still able to coach without the stress of doing so many other things the top man must do.

But by season’s end, an opening came up for both a head boys hoops coach and an athletic director. Notre Dame got its AD when Nate Webber left the same position at Steinert to officially take over the ND athletic department June 17.

Stevens was named to the basketball position 10 days earlier on June 7, meaning his “down time” was, well, not very long.

His reason for wanting to run a program after just one year as an assistant had to do with the seniors he inherits, who have had a tough few years.

Their freshman season ended early due to COVID-19, their sophomore year hardly got off the ground as numerous games were canceled because of COVID, and their junior year was spent trying to gain cohesion with one another in their first full season together.  

The Irish finished 12-14 last winter but graduated just four seniors and have a load of experience returning. The last thing they needed was someone completely new to the program coming in and starting all over.

“With what these kids have gone through the last three years, we wanted to try to keep things as consistent as possible,” Stevens said. “That’s why I decided to put my name in. My plan wasn’t to get back into head coaching so quickly. But it’s a great group coming back, there’s eight seniors coming back. It’s just a group that’s gone through so much.

“As far as keeping consistency in playing style, I do bring my own style. But as far as sets and plays, it’s not gonna be a total rebuild where they have to learn a whole new system. Most of the coaching staff is returning as well, which will be key to keeping that consistency.”

Those coaches, who Stevens says, “are a great group to work with,” include Paul Cutaneo, Kevin Drulis and Mike McQuarrie.

Stevens, whose oldest daughter recently received First Holy Communion in St. Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, played CYO basketball for St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, through eighth grade in the early 1990s. He went on to play for Hamilton West and has a lengthy coaching resume.

From 2002-03 to 2010-11, Stevens was an assistant at West Windsor-Plainsboro South. He took the head job at WW-P North in 2011 and remained there for nine years before going to Notre Dame. His best year was 2017-18, when the Northern Knights went 15-9 and reached the quarterfinals of the state sectional and county tournaments.

Stevens looked at his one year as Irish assistant as a nice break from the rigors of being head man – but admitted that after nearly a decade in that role, it was tough to adjust.  

“It’s funny, because there’s aspects like being at practice and being on the sidelines, where I want to step up and kind of lead as I did for the last nine years,” Stevens said. “But the time that gets freed up as an assistant – especially in the off-season – it was nice to have a year to be with my kids and my wife.”

And yet, there is always something deep inside that a coach can’t get rid of after being the main man.  

“Once you’re a head coach you always have that piece of it, you’ll always have that hunger to lead a program,” Stevens said. “It was a pretty easy decision once the opportunity presented itself to throw my hat in the ring and see what happens.”

The veteran coach not only brings his basketball knowledge to the Irish, but his faith as well.

“[Faith] will be a big part of what we do,” he said. “Pre-game prayers and things like that have always been a big part of what I do. Obviously, it looks a lot different when you’re at a Catholic school as opposed to a public school.

“I’m excited to bring my faith into my coaching. It’s an exciting opportunity to instill those values into our program, which are already so strong throughout the Notre Dame community.”

As is the athletic tradition, which is one of the reasons Webber decided to leave his post at Steinert to head up the Notre Dame athletic program.

“I look forward to joining the Notre Dame family,” Webber said in a press release, “and am excited to work toward enhancing the experiences of students and athletes at Notre Dame.”

Webber has more than 25 years of experience in the fields of education and high school athletics. While at Nottingham High School, Hamilton, Webber was a teacher, vice-principal and athletic director, and also coached basketball, track and football.

After leaving Nottingham, he remained in the Hamilton school district as principal for McGalliard Elementary School for three years. He went to Steinert in 2015 and promptly earned the 2016 New Jersey Principal of the Year Award from the state’s PTA organization. Webber eventually had the urge to return to athletics and became Steinert’s AD two years ago.

He is now taking on a new challenge.

“I am very excited that Nate Webber is joining the ND team,” Notre Dame President Ken Jennings said in a prepared statement. “Nate brings a tremendous amount of experience to the position, and he is a person who will support the mission of Notre Dame High School.”

Principal Joanna Barlow added in the same press release that “Mr. Webber is a passionate, dedicated educator with a wealth of experience to share. His unwavering faith and belief in the potential of student-athletes to excel in all areas is contagious.”

Stevens never worked directly with Webber but does know him from their encounters on the basketball courts. He is happy to have him as his boss.  

“When I was at South, he was still head coach at Nottingham,” Stevens said. “I didn’t know him very well, but I know his reputation and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with him. It’s always great to have another basketball guy in your corner helping you out as your athletic director. We’re very fortunate to have him on board.”