It felt like a good time for a spring edition of the Thursday Thoughts. Coaching changes are starting to be finalized and there is plenty of news & notes since Hollis-Brookline & Oyster River closed out the season back in March.
It’s also time to talk about the tremendous amount of feedback I received from our March 15th final Thursday Thoughts column which talked about the increasing issue of parent behavior in high school sports.
Today we will dive into all of that and more…including why Division IV might be broken without immediate changes to the schedule.
Our column today is sponsored by our longtime partners at Sentinel Title Services.
My column about parent behavior towards coaches struck a nerve with a lot of people……
Part II of our annual Final Thursday column (Click to read the column) became the most read article in the 10-year history of our website, even gaining a second life when a reader in Iowa re-tweeted it and encouraged high school & college coaches to read what was going in New Hampshire.
In the days after March 15th I heard from well over fifty coaches, many of whom are no longer in coaching, but wanted to reach out to share their thoughts on the column and the issue it exposed.
The general consensus was this was a long time coming.
The column repeatedly asked ‘How did we get here?’ Today let’s focus on where we go from here.
How do we support coaches and players by holding parents to the same standard of conduct students are held to at games?
I’ve seen athletic directors standing at the bottom of the student sections countless times monitoring their behavior at games but never once have I seen an AD speak to a parent about theirs. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m saying I’ve never seen it.
The behavior of parents not only affects the player on the floor but in some cases their future as well. Two prominent Division I coaches in our state told me that every time a college coach calls to inquire about one of their players they, without fail, will ask ‘How are the parents? Are they supportive?’
College coaches don’t want the headache and with so many different players on their recruiting radar, they will steer away from a player whose parents might cause issues for their program.
So again the question today is where we go from here, because I can tell you that I do not want to write that column every two years. There has to be a uniform way to handle any issues between a coach, player and the parents.
A simple solution would seem to involve four steps.
Pretty simple right?
Parents need to understand they may not get the answer they want, but they’re going to get the truth. Many coaches include the player in the meeting with parents because often times the player is unaware the parent is attacking their coach.
We are talking about people’s jobs here as well as their professional reputation. There’s no room for anonymous emails or letters, which should be ignored and discarded.
The other needed step is for administrators to hold parents to the same level of conduct at games they are holding the students to. If a student cannot control themselves at a game they are asked to leave. This should be no different with parents.
Let’s remember who this is all about…the kids. If they’ve earned their way on to the floor their only concern should be their teammates and coaching staff. Not what is be yelled from the stands.
Jennifer Chick-Ruth is apparently a hit with college coaches too…..
‘The Franchise’ has been busy editing and creating recruiting videos for players since the season ended in March. Those videos have resulted in increased interest from college coaches for several of the players below.
If you are interested in Jen’s services for the player or players in your home send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A huge thank you to Jon Kesty and there is now a Help Wanted sign in the window
The 2018 basketball season was the last campaign for our terrific videographer Jon Kesty at NHsportspage.
‘The Great’ Jon Kesty will be focusing even more of his time on his passion; helping people in need. Jon works with people that are dealing with mental challenges as well as Substance Use Disorder at the Westbridge Treatment center (Westbridge Website)
He has dedicated himself to this cause and helping others in need after tragically losing his daughter Summy in 2012 at the age of 23.
Summy was an honor roll athlete at Bishop Brady before becoming an award-winning graphic design artist at the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, Massachusetts. Jon often shares her story as what he calls ‘the new face of addiction’, and he works tirelessly with people who need help.
Jon has been working 65 hours a week and then covering games, your teams and kids, in his off hours, often staying up until well past midnight so the video was ready for our readers first thing in the morning.
This is a pretty incredible person and although it’s a huge loss for our team of Pete, Jennifer, Justin, Eliot & I we all applaud Jon for what he is doing for people in New Hampshire, a state which happens to have a terrible problem with Opioids and other addictions.
I can remember one night after Merrimack advanced to Durham with a quarterfinal win over Spaulding, standing around waiting for Jon long after I was done the post-game interview with the Merrimack kids.
Jon was talking to a police officer and as they remained the last two people in the gym that night with the custodians trying to get them out of the building I knew exactly what they were talking about as McIsaac & I waited for him.
Helping people is Jon’s passion and he’s not only doing it for so many people in need, he’s doing it for his daughter as well.
Jon is irreplaceable but we will begin the 2018-19 school year with a new team member. If you are interested in working with us as a videographer please reach out to me at email@example.com
Coaching comings & goings………………
Windham athletic director Bill Raycraft had hoped to keep the name of his new basketball coach a secret until May 30th but the when a coach with two Division I titles on his resume returns to New Hampshire it’s going to be hard to keep quiet.
Former Salem head coach EJ Perry returns to New Hampshire basketball after serving as football & volleyball coach at Andover High School (MA). The program he inherits at Windham has struggled to make a dent in basketball since the school opened in 2009 but Perry is a Home Run hire for the Jaguars.
Perry walks in Day 1 and immediately ranks as one of the best coaches in the state. Legendary for his intensity (Perry once was so excited to get to a practice at Salem he left not only his car running in the parking lot but his car door wide open), EJ knows the game and has won title games on the biggest stage. I can still remember he & former Memorial head coach Mike Fitzpatrick calling out each others sets in the Final Four in Durham during my second year of NHsportspage.
Windham is going to struggle with the move to Division I next season (remember Timberlane & Goffstown are going with them) but what you’ll likely see is athletes, who otherwise might have taken the winter off, coming out to play for him.
The missing piece to Hollis-Brookline’s 2018 Division II championship team was 6’3 senior point guard Jonathan Brackett, who did not come out for the basketball team in his sophomore & junior seasons. All the recruiting Perry needs to do is in the hallways of Windham high school and if you’ve ever spoken to him you understand how hard his sales pitch will be to turn down.
Another big hiring should be made official soon as word around the Mascenic program is that John Langlois will be named as the Vikings new head coach by AD Kevin Rines.
Mascenic, who has advanced to quarterfinals twice in the past seven seasons, parted ways with head coach Jay Starr, who led the program to a championship as a player. Starr is a good coach who will surely be on the sidelines soon at another school if he chooses to but the program decided to go in a different direction after a second straight first round exit against 10th seeded Belmont.
Mascenic has been a good Division III program but has never gotten over the hump and advanced to the Final Four even with all-state performers like Brett Stauffeneker and Daimon Gibson.
Langlois has been a controversial figure at times in stops at Newmarket, Somersworth, Bedford and Campbell but his ability to get the most out of his teams is unquestioned. Langlois is excellent when it comes to changing defenses (his game-plan in the 2015 Division III semifinals against undefeated Pelham got his Campbell team thisclose to pulling of an all-time upset) and he is taking over a team with the pieces to win immediately.
All-state guard Sammy Stauffeneker will be a junior and poised for a run at Player of the Year while classmate Zach Barthel showed flashes a year ago and Jake Zina returns to the starting lineup (Watch out..Greg Madore of the alma mater is being trained by former long-time Dover head coach Mike Romps over the summer…let the rest of the division beware..)
The search for Dave Keefe’s successor at Manchester Central doesn’t have the buzz that came with Keefe (two-time Division I championship coach) replacing Doc Wheeler (5-time Division I championship coach) two years ago but it’s intriguing none the less.
Kevin Bonney, an assistant under Keefe a year ago who led Alvirne to a final four appearance as head coach, would have been a very good choice but he did not apply for the job. Campbell coach Sudi Lett will go for the job and as an alumnus will be a solid candidate.
Goffstown will also be looking for a new coach after Mike Gasper stepped down after the season. Gasper is a very good basketball coach; he served as a longtime assistant under Merrimack’s Tim Goodridge and took the Grizzlies to the quarterfinals a year ago.
The chemistry of this years Goffstown team never felt right though and the new coach coming will have a tall task ahead of him with the move up to Division I.
You are going to hear a lot about the need for the Heal System in Division I & Division IV in the near future so let’s just start discussing it now………
It’s going to be an interesting transition for Windham, Timberlane & Goffstown this December when they begin play in Division I. None of the three schools are particularly happy to be moving up in basketball and Division I coaches aren’t that excited to see them coming in.
You see Division I has always been unique in that with 19 teams every team played each other one time. There were never complaints about scheduling (we are getting to you Division IV, sit tight) and there was never a sense that a team was seeded higher than it deserved.
That’s all about to change.
While Goffstown & Windham are big time football programs they are going to struggle for a few years in their new division. That might mean we end up with two 12-6 teams with very different resumes.
Say Nashua South plays the seacoast teams (Portsmouth, Exeter, Winnacunnet, Dover & Spaulding) while Nashua North finishes with the same record and doesn’t play all those teams but faces Windham, Goffstown and Timberlane instead? There goes your schedule balance.
The state of Maine uses the Heal Point System for their standings (An explanation of the Heal System) and it needs to be examined for Division I and Division IV.
Division IV..the division I love so much, the division McIsaac once referred to me as the ‘John the Baptist’ of…is badly in need of the Heal System and a scheduling overhaul.
The elite teams in the division; Derryfield, Littleton, Newmarket, Epping and Woodsville also are five of the largest schools and the gap between the bigger schools and the smaller ones is growing larger.
Schools like Colebrook, Lisbon and Groveton are struggling to compete with half the students of some of the larger ones. You’ll see smaller schools have a special class come through that competes and maybe even wins a title like Groveton in 2017 and Pittsfield this past season, but even those teams will drop back to the pack because of their enrollment numbers.
When you have 300 students versus 500 students that might not mean a lot, Conant has always been middle of the pack enrollment wise in Division III and seems to do pretty well, but when you have only 120 students in the entire school you’re going to have a hard time putting five players on the floor that can compete with the best teams in the division.
What you end up with is a lot of 40 point games and since the tournament format switched to home games in the quarterfinal round teams have been happy to go 16-2 and get the pass to Plymouth State.
With a Heal System in place teams would be rewarded for playing a tougher schedule and it takes a lot of the incentive out of beating up on the weaker teams in the division.
Let’s use Littleton as an example…………now first of all Trevor Howard is playing the schedule he is given, this isn’t an indictment on coaches or athletic directors, it’s simply a way to keep this division from turning into a barrage of blowouts. Scratch that…continuing to be a barrage of blowouts…we’re already there.
Littleton and Derryfield should play each other twice a year. It’s a drive up & down 93 and these are two teams who go to Plymouth every year. Rob Bradley & Trevor are two terrific coaches with a ton of respect for one another…let’s set it up…
Littleton should also play Berlin twice a year. The Mountaineers and Crusaders play every pre-season, why is Berlin driving all the way out to places like Prospect Mountain when they can play Littleton home & away?
Littleton keeps their two games with White Mountains (Mike Curtis’ team will be a top 5 team in the pre-season in Division III), plays Woodsville twice a year (not once...) and plays one game annually with Newmarket and Epping.
It feels like Groveton has a tremendous rivalry with Littleton but they’ve only beaten them one time in the last seven years. Keep those games coming but we need more top level teams squaring off.
In the scenario I have laid out Littleton would have 12 competitive games and 6 games where they will be favored by at least 30 points, as opposed to the schedule as it stands today where they might have 3 competitive games from here until March.
Woodsville follows suit and plays Groveton twice, Littleton twice and 2 games with Epping & Moultonborough every year…and so on.
The Heal System rewards scheduling up and the basketball coaches can continue to assign the two cross-over games for the elite North country teams to face the elite southern teams.
The issue here is the same teams are going to be near the top of the standings for the next 10 years unless there is a significant population spike. Many of those teams do not face each other (Pittsfield did not play Derryfield…Groveton doesn’t play Woodsville) but yet teams are climbing all over each other to play Concord Christian and Pittsburg-Canaan…we need a change.
To keep the schedule the way it is (Littleton is not going to win a single North Country game by less than 12 points all season long and most will be by 35) is to ask everyone to sit tight until March when the same familiar names arrive in Plymouth.
Isn’t there a better alternative for my favorite division?
Please tell me there is…
PS: I’m not remotely over losing to McIsaacs team by two points when we had three shots to take the lead in the last forty seconds….thanks for asking.