Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beattie Steps Down at Winnacunnet - A Tribute to a NH Coaching Legend

One of the most heralded coaching careers in New Hampshire high school sports has come to a close. Ed Beattie informed his returning players on Tuesday that he was stepping down as head coach of the Winnacunnet girls basketball team. He coached the team for the last 31 years, leading the Warriors to 5 straight Division I (Class L) championships from 2007-2011 and a nation-best 84 game winning streak.

"Ed stepped down yesterday" said Winnacunnet Athletic Director Carol Dozibrin.

High school basketball season in NH begins in just a few short weeks, but as of right now the Winnacunnet and Manchester Memorial girls jobs are open. Memorial A.D. Jack Quirk left his position as the Crusaders girls coach just last week to accept the boys coaching position at the school. Both Winnacunnet and Memorial have made the D-I semi-finals each of the past 2 years, so these are 2 pretty big girls jobs that are open.

Beattie's assistant coach at WHS, Cassie Turcotte has to be considered one of the favorites to be his replacement.

Coach Beattie could not be reached for comment. However the NH Notebook conducted exclusive interviews with four distinguished individuals on Wednesday who all have close ties to Beattie - Tiffany Ruffin and Samantha Corcoran (who both played for Beattie), plus Londonderry girls coach John Fagula and Coe Brown girls coach Dave Hartnett. The rest of this article serves as a tribute to a NH coaching legend.

Tiffany Ruffin
"The news of Coach Beattie retiring is sad. He has been so instrumental in my growth and saw talent in my raw abilities as a freshman. Coach Beattie molded me into a basketball player. He was the one who taught me how to change speed and change direction (side note, if any of you have seen me play in college that is the only way I survive. I am not the strongest, fastest or most talented but I can change speed and change direction due to Coach Beattie). He taught me how to play outside of my comfort zone. Coach was the first to tell me I wasn't working hard enough. He challenged me every day. The phrase 'double…GO!' still gives me nightmares.

Coach Beattie broke me down, built me up and made me stronger. He called me out and shut me up more than any coach. I wish I had the time to thank him every day for all the work he put into building my basketball abilities. I played hard for him in high school and he deserved that. Winning state championships was never a question, I knew the team was going to do whatever we had to do to get the job done for each other and him. The celebrations and basking in the great moments we had were exciting times but seeing his face at the end of our journey was well worth all the work.

He took me on college visits when my dad could not be there; he has been one of the most influential people in my life. Those who haven’t had the opportunity to be coached by Coach Beattie are losing the chance to learn from one of the best. I consider myself lucky and blessed to be one of the many to have been mentored by him. The bond I have built with him and his family is irreplaceable. I am honored to be a part of the legacy he has built at Winnacunnet. This may be selfish of me, but at least now Coach and his family will be in Boston for more of my games! Can't wait to see you there Coach!"

Tiffany Ruffin is currently a junior guard on the Boston College women's basketball team. She is the best player to ever play at Winnacunnet, and one of the best girls basketball players to ever come out of NH. She played for WHS from 2006-2010, winning state titles each season.

Samantha Corcoran
"I was fortunate to have Ed Beattie as both a teacher and a coach. Whether you were in his classroom on in his gym, there was just one way of doing things and that was the right way. And for him, the right way meant you give it everything you've got. He didn't demand 100% perfection, just 100% effort. It's funny how those two things go together. You don't start a school year with an "A" in the classroom, no more than you start a season with a championship. That's the lesson he taught me. The "A" on the test or 3 straight perfect seasons or 5 straight D1 championships are not easy, but when you put the work in and you see it pay off, it makes it that much more gratifying knowing that you earned it. It may have seemed easy, after the fact, to the casual observer, but believe me it wasn't.

I remember being extremely intimidated my freshman year, and not just because I was the only freshman on the varsity team, but also because of Coach Beattie's reputation for being hard on his players. He definitely held to his reputation and pushed me harder than any coach I ever had. It was during my freshman year that he gave me the nickname "Gilligan," which was then shortened to "Gil." He gave it to me, because in Coach Beattie's mind, I was always on my own island, "Gilligan's Island," or in other words "spacey." "Get off the island Gil" was a common phrase he said countless times throughout four years of practices.

Coach Beattie was the person I dreaded most at the start of basketball season, and the one I thanked at the end. I remember my senior year during a practice he criticized me for something and I rolled my eyes and muttered something under my breath and he said to me, "Go ahead Sam, you can talk all the smack you want about me, I know when you're mad at me, but just remember, if you do what I say, you'll win, and not only win, but put another banner in this gymnasium." And sure enough, he was right... again.

Ed Beattie was a well known coach and teacher throughout the state, and left an impact on the Winnacunnet community that will always be remembered. Those four championship teams I was a part of will always be very special to me. It took time, dedication, passion, and heart, and Coach Beattie possesses all of those qualities. He was not just my coach or my teacher, he was a mentor, and taught me that success doesn't just happen. Not in the classroom, not on the basketball court and not in life. I wish him all the best, and I can't thank him enough for those four years."

Samantha Corcoran played for Beattie from 2007-2011, winning state titles in each season. During her senior season she was the best player on a Winnacunnet team that went undefeated despite graduating 4 starters (including Ruffin). She is now a sophomore on the Curry College women's basketball team.

John Fagula
"Ed and I have coached against each other since the 80's, he has stuck around for a long time. Away from the court our families know each other well, and I consider him a close friend. I just think that over the last few years he has faced a similar situation to what I faced at Nashua back in the 90's when we won 120 straight games. The pressure to win gets to be too much and the expectations are too high. No matter what you do, it's never enough. It gets to the point when you're expected to win every game. Then people ask you why the game was so close if you only win by a few points. Two years ago when his team beat us in the finals it was a really good game and a big crowd was watching. I walked over before the 4th quarter and told him we were giving them a good show. He told me, 'Nope, I'm supposed to win by much more than this.' But at the same time if you win in a blowout then the other team gets pissed off at you, it's a lose-lose situation. I think that pressure weighed on Ed a lot.

He also mentioned to me that one of their players recently had a father pass away, and that really took its toll on their team. That's something tough to deal with, but he did a great job of keeping things together with the team.

Our teams met in the finals at least 5 or 6 times. I remember the first time we met in the finals, it was back in the mid-80's. Both of our teams were undefeated going into the game, since at the time now all of the teams played each other during the season. I had a younger team and he had an older team. In the beginning of the game they stomped all over us and went up by 27 points late in the 1st half. Then we made some adjustments, and started to do a better job of handling their pressure. We came back and tied the game up, and then had a shot rim out on us at the buzzer that would have won it. So we came back from down 27 to force overtime. I thought that was pretty impressive, especially this was back when there was no 3-point shots. They ended up beating us in overtime. But it was one of those games where both teams were frustrated at the end. They were frustrated they lost such a big lead, and we were frustrated that we came back from down by so many points but still lost. Ever since then, neither one of us lets up on the other if we have a big lead because we know from experience those big comebacks can happen. That game was a classic."

John Fagula is a NH coaching legend. He won 11 Class L state titles at Nashua High during a 20 year span, including 5 straight championships from 1985-1989. In 1986 his team was the #1 ranked team in the entire country by USA Today. Then in the early 90's he won 4 titles in 5 years. Fagula has coached over 50 scholarship players, including Stefanie Murphy, Kara Leary and Savanna Butterfield. Fagula has won over 500 games in his career, and now enters his 11th season as the girls basketball coach at Londonderry High.

David Hartnett
"You just don't see coaches stay for 31 years anymore in this state. Nowadays with the parents, time constraints, financial constraints, etc. it just doesn't happen for coaches to stick around that long. That's why it is a testament to Ed, as well as Jack Ford (long time Winnacunnet boys coach who passed away in 2010) that both of them stayed and coached at Winnacunnet for so long.

He was a systems coach. He played up-tempo, pressing basketball. He made the kids accountable, he made them tougher and they responded to him. He always go the most out of his talent. He's had some very talented teams over the last few years, but before that there was a few years when he didn't have as much talent but they were still very good. At that time I was coaching youth teams in the area. I would bring the girls to the games and tell them, 'see how hard they're playing, that's what it means to play for Winnacunnet.'

He influenced the whole community. He'll be missed, no question about it. Whoever goes in there now will have some big shoes to fill. I wish him the best of luck."

David Hartnett has been a long time fixture in the Winnacunnet basketball community. He coached many of the girls who were on the Warriors' 2010 and 2011 championship teams all coming up through the youth basketball ranks. He coached the Exeter Hawks AAU team, which went to AAU Nationals where they finished 18th in 2007, 5th in 2008 and 4th in 2009. Included on those Hawks teams were Samantha Corcoran, Kirsten O'Neil, Anna Sullivan, Aviana Morrison, Megan Hartnett, Michaela Withee and Alexa Mutch who all won state titles at Winnacunnet. Hartnett is now entering his second season as coach of the Coe Brown girls basketball team. The Bears went 16-4 in his first season at the helm.

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