Give DeStefano a (jump) shot

Dec. 14, 2006, midnight | By Jason Meer | 17 years, 2 months ago

New coach needs stability in order to combat years of boys' basketball mediocrity

"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary," said new boys' varsity basketball coach Mark DeStefano, quoting NCAA coaching legend John Wooden.

Wasting no time during his first meeting with the team last May, DeStefano encouraged his players to embrace a winning attitude.

With the opening of DeStefano's first season, the time has come to ensure that he will be given the opportunity to turn his hard work into a winning team. In the past, Athletic Director Dale Miller has used a "three-year model" to evaluate coaches, giving managers three years to develop coaching plans before critiquing their work.

Its success is evident - with the arrival of capable coaches, both the baseball and softball teams transformed from county doormats to thriving teams. If Miller wants boys' basketball to return to renown, he will give his new coach the same time frame.

DeStefano joins Blair after having had success at Walter Johnson, which had a 54-39 record in his four seasons.

Miller recognizes that DeStefano has a lot of work ahead to pull the basketball program out of the scrap heap - a task reminiscent of that facing John MacDonald when he took over the varsity baseball team in 1991. By MacDonald's third year, the team's record had improved considerably, peaking in 2001 with a 15-4 record and a division championship.

Another recent success story is that of varsity softball coach Louis Hoelman. Since Hoelman took charge in 2001, the team has become one of the best in the county, finishing 16-2 last season. Miller remembers that Hoelman's preparation-intensive program brought success by his third season.

Like MacDonald and Hoelman before him, DeStefano inherits a team that is unfamiliar with his coaching style. Though DeStefano and former coach Orlando Larracuente run similar up-tempo offenses and press defenses, DeStefano's new fitness requirements will take some getting used to for the players. DeStefano expects his players to run a seven-minute mile, do 10 repetitions of a 185-pound bench press and have a 24-inch vertical jump. Senior swingman Matt McClain says DeStefano's style has already helped the team make progress, noting that the coach has the team working together.

DeStefano's teamwork-oriented philosophy echoes the team-building efforts that have also precipitated the revival of baseball and softball. Baseball players compete with the Takoma Park Blazers in the Montgomery County Baseball Association during the summer and fall seasons and hold team clinics during the winter. Likewise, many softball players play for the Takoma Fire and have daily offseason workouts at Hoelman's behest.

Admittedly, Larracuente was never given the standard three-year chance to build his team. However, according to Miller, Larracuente differed from DeStefano in that he had only lukewarm support from the players and parents. In fact, in the last months of Larracuente's tenure, five players left the team for unknown reasons. But now, DeStefano's passion has already won him points with the players and the community, according to McClain.

Even though DeStefano has made all the right moves in building his program so far, it may take a few years before their record improves. Furthermore, this year's squad is senior-dominated, with most of the players having been led by three coaches in four years. Until DeStefano has a few years to train a new team using his rigorous conditioning system, dreams of Blair's nine state championships and 11 state tournaments before 1979 will be just that - dreams.

Instead, Blair will have DeStefano's optimism and zeal to rest their hopes on. If given the chance to lay a foundation and establish tenure, DeStefano can set the groundwork for boys' basketball to join Blair's handful of respected teams.

Jason Meer. Jason Meer is a RISING SENIOR who needs to get more sleep. When awake, he finds time to facebook, watch SportsCenter and World Poker Tour, and listen to varied musicians from Chamillionaire to Sigur Ros to Kelly Clarkson. If you see a red-haired guy walking … More »

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