How a CYO basketball coach in West Chester 'won' the NFL's Coach of the Year award

Steve Stefanski is a managing principal based in Conshohocken, PA. But he recently was in the newspaper for another reason. 


Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns was named Coach of the Year for the second time. But his cousin Steve was mistakenly announced as the winner.


It was a school night and the NFL Honors show was dragging on last Thursday when the Stefanskis told their four children that it was time to get ready for bed. “One more award,” Steve Stefanski said he told his kids. “If it’s Coach of the Year, you get to watch it. If it’s not, tough luck. You’ll catch it in the morning.”

The kids were in luck. The next award was the Coach of the Year, which Uncle Kevin — better known as Kevin Stefanski, head coach of the Cleveland Browns — was a finalist for.

“My wife was filming,” Steve Stefanski said. “But then she stopped filming. She kind of panicked a little when she heard ‘Steven.’ ”

The presenter — actor Justin Hartley — misread the card and announced “Steven Stefanski” as the Associated Press Coach of the Year. Hartley was quickly corrected and announced Kevin Stefanski’s name. But it was too late. Steve Stefanski, an assistant CYO basketball coach at Saints Peter and Paul Church in West Chester, was the NFL’s Coach of the Year.

“My one son and I were just jumping up and down,” Stefanski said. “I just kept saying, ‘I won. I won.’ Because frankly, I was the winner there.”

It didn’t take long for Stefanski’s phone to ring. It was his cousin, who was not at the ceremony in Las Vegas. Kevin Stefanski won the award for the second time, but he had to share the honor this time.

“I told him, ‘I did it.’ He had to know first that I was the real winner,” Steve Stefanski said. “I told him, ‘Hard work pays off,’ which he appreciated.”


The fifth brother

Kevin and Steve Stefanski were born six months apart, spent every summer down the Shore, and are the godfathers of each other’s children. Steve Stefanski grew up in Exton and went to Bishop Shanahan High. Kevin Stefanski, 41, grew up in Wayne and played football at St. Joseph’s Prep and Penn.

“I have three brothers, and Steve is probably the fifth brother in the family,” Kevin Stefanski said. “His friends are my friends and vice versa. He was a fixture at our house growing up, and it would drive my mom crazy because Steve played hockey. His hockey bag made its way into our garage, and it smelled so horrible. He was relegated to the garage at times.”

Twenty years later, Kevin Stefanski is one of the NFL’s premier coaches. For Steve Stefanski, his cousin will always be the guy he found a different job with every summer in Ocean City, N.J., and shoots only three-pointers in basketball.

“He’s still my cousin,” he said. “I don’t look at him like he’s this coach. It’s really cool. He’s the guy I was putting awnings up with and running morning sports at Ocean City Rec and things like that.”

Steve Stefanski’s goal with his CYO team is that every child has enough fun that the player wants to play another season. Different pressures, he said, between him and his cousin. Three years ago, the team was 0-10, but the CYO squad has a winning record this season. Things are moving in the right direction, Stefanski said. It’s Coach of the Year-type stuff.

“Exactly,” Stefanski said.

The gang of 10-year-olds — which includes son Colin — can run “stack” and that other inbounds play that Stefanski believes is in every CYO playbook.

Read the full article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.