Sunday, November 22, 2009

McKenna's My Early Pick for Coach of the Year

1/24/10
I continue to be impressed by the job that Winnacunnet Head Coach Jay McKenna does with his Warrior basketball team. The guy flat out gets the most out of his players. That team plays so hard for him it's unreal. He has them playing smart, team basketball and tough, hard nosed defense. What like most about what he has done with his team is that they play the game the right way. They play hard and they keep their mouths shut.

More importantly, McKenna has led them to a 5-1 record so far, with the only loss coming in overtime to Trinity. They've beaten South on the road, Memorial on the road in a blowout, they blew out Salem, and they also beat Pinkerton. That's pretty impressive for any team. But it's even more impressive because on paper, Winnacunnet is a middle of the pack team in Class L at best. Preseason I had them ranked in the 11-14 range.

They graduated a lot of talent off last year's team, including Jared Gillis (24 points last year vs. Central and he was the heart and soul of the team) Ryan Dubois (Mr. Versatility hit game winning shot vs. Exeter in the tournament), Nate Vincent and Nathan Roe. And oh yeah, there was that Ratcliffe kid who played last year but not this year.

So who's left this year? Well their two best players are senior guards Ryan Dunn and Jesse Gould. Dunn is a three year starter at the point. This is Gould's first year as a starter, but he had some big scoring games off the bench last season. After I watched him drop 16 on Memorial in the quarterfinals last year I knew he'd be a breakout player this season. Then there's Harry Knowles. A very good player. But McKenna didn't know whether he'd be on the team until right before the season started. And he was very rusty when I saw Winnacunnet in preseason scrimmages, apparently still in football mode.

But other than those three, Winnacunnet doesn't have a ton of talent. They have a group of tough, scrappy role players. This group includes Nick McGrail, Shawn Munson, Steve Cronan and Cody Rahn.

The Warriors are not a very fast team. They're not the most athletic. And other than the 6'5" built-like-lineman Rahn, they don't have much size. But they're very scrappy. They'll fight and claw you for the full 32 minutes. They're also a very disciplined team. And although they're not the fastest team, they just play so hard out there that they actually force a lot of turnovers off of their full court press and half court trap. They flock to the ball and get right in your face on defense. And they're very unselfish on offense.

This is all a credit to the coaching of McKenna. And while Gould may score the most points, the two most valuable Warriors are Dunn and McGrail. These two kids are only 5'9", 5'10" at the most, and they're not the fastest or most athletic guards around, especially McGrail. But these two players are both an extension of Coach McKenna out on the floor. McKenna has turned these two kids into such leaders out there it's incredible. They're two of the smartest players in the state, basketball IQ-wise. Both are disciplined, unselfish, fearless and play extremely hard.

And watching McKenna interact with the two of them it is clear that they have bought into the system he has put in place. It's as if Winnacunnet has three coaches. One on the bench, and two on the court.

McKenna has his two leaders, they have bought into the system. They play their butts off and they play the game the right way. All of this in turn rubs off on the rest of the team. The result is everyone playing hard, playing in-your-face defense, diving on the floor for loose balls, setting hard screens and making the extra pass. In turn all of that results in a 5-1 record for the Warriors.

All of this goes back to the leadership and coaching of McKenna. It's only 6 games into the season. But right now he's my pick for the Class L Coach of the year.

I know that some might be picking West's Sam Carey for the award right now. And while he has done a great job with that team, West has more talent than Winnacunnet does. West is the fastest, most athletic team in NH. And they have the Player of the Year to this point, Richard Valentin. True, the Blue Knights don't have much experience, other than Valentin the only other West player to get varsity minutes last year was Sammy Abdalla and he didn't play much. And while they have speed and athleticism to burn, they lacked discipline when I saw them play in the QCIBT. They were a MUCH more disciplined squad when I saw them play Trinity last Friday. That is a credit to Coach Carey.

So for those reasons I would vote Coach Carey second, Coach McKenna first for Class L Coach of the year. Of course, there is still a long way to go in the 2009-2010 basketball season. And West plays at Winnacunnet on Groundhog Day. That should be quite the chess match.

30 comments:

  1. bg? coach migs? wow. definetly bg

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  2. Migneult is a very good coach. But with the players he has, he should be 6-0.

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  3. Yes but it was he who jelled every one together through summer until now

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  4. Either Carey or McKenna, both have down a great job with kids on and off the court

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  5. I think it can sometimes be harder to take a lot of talented players who get their egos massaged daily in the media, and have them play together as a team, than it is to take a lot of less talented individuals and have them gel together. Mig or Carey seem more likely to me.

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  6. How about coaching staff's? Mignault has assembled the best in the state.Marty Edwards,Pete Smilikas,and Brian Tenhave.Marty is the TRUSTED asst. who runs a great jv program,and is a calming influence on the bench.Pete is the wise old sage who teaches the kids basic fundamentals of hoops.Tenhave is the kid of the group,runs a top notch freshman program and is not afraid to share his opinions with this bunch.It is a great coaching staff,2nd to none in my opinion.It is a credit to Mignault for putting together such a fine staff.He knows these guys have his back.

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  7. in my opinion a little early for this conversation. Would wait till 10 games in at least.

    Too many names in the hat right now, all deserving at this point.

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  8. Totally agree with 11:43 am on this one. It is WAY TOO EARLY to start talking about Coach of the Year or All State teams. You jumped the gun on this one Jeremy. There's at least 6 or 7 coaches in L right now you could talk about for the COY award. McKenna along with Carey along with Migs along with Goodridge along with Keefe along with Fitzpatrick along with Romps along with....... you get the picture??

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  9. The problem is there is not a good judge of the competition yet. Some teams have had easy schedules - their coaches look brilliant at this stage. Other's have had touch schedules and look like their slipping. Any of these teams could have a complete reversal of fortune the remaining 15 or so games left...

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  10. Exactly. That's why I don't even look at a team's record as of yet.

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  11. how about joe kegler of bedford, after losing fahmy and green they were basically expected to lose every game for the next two years, and now there sitting on the top of class I

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  12. Kegler has to be the early favorite in Class I, with Jim Mulvey close behind.

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  13. How about Alosa, he lost 7 of 8 in his rotation from last year!

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  14. Heaney from Souhegan personally resurrected a program that had back to back 2-16 seasons before he arrived - now 11-12 wins isnt looking out of the question.

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  15. January 25 9:23
    I dont think you have a clue what you are talking about! Talent does not win games, teamwork does. If McKenna can put a team of "less talented players" on the court night in and night out and win the games he is winning then I am pretty damn sure he is up here for COY. BG might have all the talent in the state but their egos will catch up with them as the tournament comes along, just wait.

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  16. Throw in EJ Perry and Mark Dunham for knocking off BG!

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  17. Jim Mulvey should have a claim to the 1/2 season COY. Joe Kegler as well.

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  18. Yeah I would probably give the nod to Mulvey too, that team comes out and plays hard defense night in and night out, and hes doing it with their offensive production coming for two talented, but still really young sophomores who played sparingly last year

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  19. i agree i would give it to mulvey, he has such a young team and yet he has them working hard day in and day out, playing hard nosed defense, and the players play with class. he has 2 sophomores starting and playing very well and really knows the game. he puts in more time than any other cfoach in the state for sure.

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  20. It might be hard for other coaches to vote for Mulvey after he ripped the OR coach (for really no reason)in the paper. Also his team is young but it is also loaded.

    How about the OR coach? Team is doing well with a school half the size of Portsmouth? They only lost by 1 to Portsmouth and have some big wins.


    Too early to really pick

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  21. Jim Mulvey is a great coach no questions about that. He has the biggest or 2nd biggest school in I and reloads every year. The way he ripped the OR coach in the paper isnt that unusual. Jim has a thing for speaking his mind about other coaches. Other than a little arrogance he is a very good coach and scouts better than anyone in the state.

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  22. how is portsmouth loaded?? the only reason why they are good is because jim mulvey knows how to form players and play the game the right way. thats why he should win coach of the year because he taught his players how to play the game. he didnt RIP the OR coach, he said he didn understand his decision during the game and it was reasonable because that probably did change the game. and yes he does scout teams very well...he shut down miford with a zone when they are probably the best shooting team in the state. jeremy, what are your thoughts on jim mulvey? is it the players he has or is it him coaching??

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  23. Mulvey scout????If you call sending someone to tape a game scouting it sounds like his cameraman does it better than anybody not him, to me sending someone to tape a game is dirty pool.......

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  24. Portsmouth is loaded. He did rip the OR coach (To say anything else is trying to deceive people just watch the tape). He is a good coach. Milford shut down Milford.

    all facts

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  25. Portsmouth has some pretty good talent. But they're a young team. On paper they should be ranked somewhere in the 4-8 range in Class I. So the fact that that they're #1 right now has to reflect on some good coaching by Mulvey. And they do deserve the #1 spot for now. They've won 6 games in a row. Four of those 6 wins came against Pelham, Oyster River, Milford and Pembroke. Two of those wins came on the road, and one of the other wins in that stretch was an 18 point blowout of a good Kingswood team. The Clippers are playing good ball right now. And just 4 weeks ago they were playing in the 7th place game of the Oyster River Holiday Classic. That's A LOT of progress the team has made in the last month if you ask me.

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  26. Is it true that Coach Migs was suspended for the game against Merrimack?

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