The coaching carousel has taken a big turn through Section 10 boys basketball for the 2019-20 season.
More than a third of the 23 schools slated to field varsity teams this winter will be headed by first-year coaches. Of the three Northern Athletic Conference divisions, the East is being impacted the most with half the eight squads competing under new leadership.
At Brushton-Moira, Matt Mitchell takes over after longtime coach Randy Todd II concluded his tenure at the end of last season. At Parishville-Hopkinton, Canton Central graduate Steve LaRose becomes the third varsity coach in four years for the Panthers. St. Regis Falls welcomes the third coach in three years as Jeremy Cox takes over the helm, and at Colton-Pierrepont, Nathan Pike will be guiding a Colts’ program that hasn’t fielded a varsity squad since the middle of the 2017-18 season.
Both the Central and West Divisions feature a pair of first-year head coaches this season with Ron LaFrance now on the bench at Salmon River and John Free at Gouverneur, while Dylan Klock is now in charge at Hermon-DeKalb and Wes Schofel at Morristown.
“We’ll have some struggles at first until the players buy into the new system and my style of coaching,” said LaRose, who moved back to the North Country after spending 10 years in North Carolina where he honed his coaching skills.
“I look at our team and I see that we are very athletic and the kids have a high basketball IQ. It’s going to be a tough division but I think we’ll be competitive,” he added.
The Panthers feature an even mix of capable veterans and promising newcomers as they look to improve on last year’s record of 4-13. Leading returnees include seniors Tanner Rosenbarker (guard) and Harrison Snell (forward), along with juniors Peyton Snell (guard) and Burt Chevier (forward). Sophomore point guard Lawson Snell is expected to play a key role as a varsity newcomer.
At Brushton-Moira, Mitchell should field a diverse squad, with Ajay Martin joining Parker Bassett in the low post, while Logan Bassett should see plenty of time running the offensive show for the Panthers. Add in the speed of Wayne Palmer III, James Durant and Tanner Martin, along with the outside shooting of Justin Kennedy, Eli Russell and Kalub Langdon and Mitchell’s crew could make some noise in a tough NAC East Division.
“This is my first year as the (Brushton-Moira) boys varsity coach,” said Mitchell, who served as head coach of the Panthers varsity girls team two seasons ago. “We lost some key players from last year, but with the three returning players (Eli Russell, Parker Bassett and Logan Bassett) and the talented group coming up from JV, I feel like we will be a pretty competitive team this season.”
Cox, who was a solid power forward for the Saints during his high school years, will be aided in his first campaign by the return of five veterans; seniors Coalby Cox, Cody Reuss and Blake Mulverhill, junior Dawson White and sophomore guard Derek Prevost. Joining the veteran group will be a promising group of newcomers; seniors Robbie Mayville and Hunter Fefee, junior Trevor Austin, sophomore Arthur Greguire and freshman Nate Roach.
“I expect there to be some growing pains with myself and the newcomers both getting used to the varsity level,” stated the elder Cox. “However, I expect this team to adapt to the team concept and new strategies we have in place very quickly, and be competitive early on in the season.”
The Colts may lack varsity playing experience but boast strong athleticism led by seniors Aiden Knight and Timmy Farns. Sophomores Teddy Farns and Michael Schwartfigure are showing great potential along with freshman Harlee Besio.
LaFrance takes over after longtime boys coach Shawn Martin moved over to direct the Salmon River girls varsity team.
LaFrance is “hopeful” by what he has seen from his charges thus far and is “looking forward to a very exciting season here at Salmon River.”
The Shamrocks look to improve upon last year’s seven-win season with a solid cast of eight returning players, including seniors Clayton Jones and Cayden Sunday, sophomore Rarennenhawi “Hawi” Francis-Cook, along with juniors PJ Ghostlaw and Logan Lebehn.
“We have some pretty good guards who will push the ball up the floor and settled into a balanced offense with our big men and slashers,” LaFrance said.
Wes Schofell takes over for longtime coach Larry Kanaly as the Green Rockets look to bounce back from a winless 2018-19 campaign, led by Cael Woodcock, Austin Colby, Ashton Colby, Austin Stark, Carson Beggs, Matt Wright, Masen LaPiene and Kade Marshall.
At H-D, Klock has called up four players from last year’s junior varsity West Division champions in Jacob Coller, Art Carr, Jacob Spencer and Adam Lynch. Returnees include Zach Denesha, Jaidyen Carrow, Eric Bogard and Peyton Hamilton.