New coach hopes to turn the program around
The Blair Athletic Department hired Mark Destefano as the varsity basketball coach. Destafano, who replaces Orlando Larracuente, held a players meeting to discuss his plans for the program on Thursday.
Destefano has deep roots in coaching high school basketball. His father was the long time coach at Kennedy and his uncles Paul and James are head coaches at St. Johns High School and Gallaudet High School respectively. His experience includes stints as the junior varsity coach at both Kennedy and Springbrook, a head coaching position at Walter Johnson and most recently as an assistant at St. Johns. Destefano finished his four seasons at Walter Johnson with a 54-39 record, the best winning percentage (.580) in school history. He remembers those years as having a "good run" and cited personal reasons for leaving the program.
Under Larracuente the Blazers posted an 8-36 record, a mark which Destafano believes he can improve upon. Speaking about his new position, Destafano said, "It is a great opportunity and great place to be. There's a lot of desire to do well; I grew up in the area and Blairs program has won nine state titles, the most in Montgomery County." Quickly he added, "We'll have to work for it."
During his initial meeting with players, Destefano reportedly stressed the importance of hard work in his coaching scheme. He described his pet peeve as "Lack of effort!" and explained that, "I can excuse everything if it's done at a hundred percent. You should play so hard you make mistakes." To emphasize his dedication to work, he distributed a hand out that established minimum athletic expectations for his players, including a seven-minute mile, 10 repetitions of 185-pound bench press (for seniors) and a 24-inch vertical jump.
His demand for a physically fit team spawns from his personal preference of running a fast pace game. "I prefer a full court pressure defense and an up tempo offense," Destafano said.
Though he admits it is too early to determine what style he will establish with the Blazers, he is unconcerned with the team's personnel, including their lack of a true big man. "Dominant teams in Montgomery County don't have a great post presence," Destefano said. He inferred that the lack of big men in the conference was due to private prep school recruiting.
Destefano also intends to improve the performance of his athletes off the court as well. "Our players have to have a high level of academic performance but also be good citizens. That has to be a priority," he explained.
Destafano's level of care for his players' success was one quality that Athletic Director Dale Miller alluded to as a significant factor in his hiring. "In his interview, he seemed sincere and passionate about the school and the athletes." Miller said. Miller added that his qualifications and great recommendations also helped him get the position.
To conclude the meeting, he shared with all in attendance his quote of the day. Reiterating his belief in hard work he choose 10-time NCAA basketball championship coach John Wooden's words to drive the message home: "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."
Phillip Allen. Phillip Allen is a CAP junior who basically is a fascinating kid. Though he possesses little writing ability he was accepted to both the Communication Arts Program and now Silver Chips Online. He follows the Washington Redskins, Wizards and Nationals religiously. He plays soccer (for ... More »