Friday, October 12, 2012

Quirk to Coach Memorial Boys, Awaits Decision on Wenyin

Manchester Memorial Athletic Director Jack Quirk has been hired as the new boys basketball coach at Memorial. He replaces Mike Fitzpatrick, who stepped down in late August to take the coaching job at Bedford High (as first reported by the NH Notebook).

"It became official on Tuesday when the school board approved it" said Quirk.

In addition to being A.D., Quirk has spent the past 9 years as the girls basketball coach at Memorial.

"I didn't have anything else to prove with coaching the girls" explained Quirk, whose Crusaders reached the Division I semi-finals in each of the past 2 seasons. "It was time to do something different."

The Memorial boys job became vacant in late August when Mike Fitzpatrick stepped down as coach to take the same position at Bedford High (as first reported by the NH Notebook). Fitzpatrick was the team's coach for the past 4 seasons, including a D-I title game appearance in his first season at the helm in 2008-2009.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Fitzpatrick" Quirk told the NH Notebook. "He did a great job here."

With a strong core of returning players including Tong Akot, Zoubel Iradakunda, Kabongo Ngalakoluni, Oumaru Kante, Tyler Kelley and Joel Mayola this is a team that should be one of the favorites this season in D-I. But Fitzpatrick cited a lack of commitment during summer league games as a reason for his decision to leave Memorial for Bedford.

"I can understand why Mike was upset about the summer league" Quirk said. "They paid a lot of money to be in that league, and then there was 3 or 4 games where the didn't even have enough kids show up to play the game."

Many of those kids were choosing to play AAU basketball instead of high school summer league. Not only that, but virtually every kid on the Memorial boys basketball roster plays for the Bishop Elite AAU program, which is directed by Memorial JV coach Sudi Lett.

"From what I gather the kids were caught in the middle of having 2 different masters" said Quirk. "Mike didn't like it."

Lett was rumored to be one of the other candidates for the boys basketball position before Coach Quirk was hired.

"City Athletic Director Dave Gosselin made the decision to hire me" said Quirk. "And I know that after that Sudi sent him a letter. I'm not sure what the content of the letter was, so I'm not sure as of yet whether Sudi will stay on as the school's JV coach."

The other issue the Memorial boys had last year was with kids on the team not showing up for class and not showing up for practice at times.

"That will be a little different now, because I am closer to the situation since I am the A.D. and work right here in the school" Quirk said. "I see the kids in school every day, and with one click I can see their attendance records and their academic records. That's not a slight to Coach Fitzpatrick, it's jut that it would have been too much work for him to gain access to that information."

This isn't the first time Quirk has coached on the boys side by any means.

"I was the boys coach here at Memorial for about 10 years" Quirk explained. I want to say it was from 1983-1993. Then I coached at the junior college level at Hesser before switching over and coaching the Memorial girls."

Quirk doesn't plan on changing his coaching style now that he is switching back over to coaching the boys.

"I've always been of the philosophy that you don't run a particular offense or defense" said Quirk. "You look at what you have for talent and adapt based on that."

Quirk knows he has some talent to work with at Memorial and is anxious to get started with his new team.

"I met with the team on Wednesday of this week and we had an open gym then as well" Coach Quirk went on. "It was a good turnout, with at least 25-30 kids at the open gym."

Things are up in the air still with one player, however. Majak Wenyin is a 6-foot-6 guard who can shoot the ball well from the outside and also drive to the basket. He was a senior last season at Memorial but applied with the NHIAA for an extra year of eligibility.

"Majak is a good kid, he went through the appeals process and met with the NHIAA 2 weeks ago" said Quirk. "He missed one year of high school when he was a sophomore because he was out in Utah when he had some family stuff going on. He didn't play basketball that year, and is now enrolled as a full-time student at Memorial this year, since he doesn't have enough credits to graduate yet. We should hear the verdict from the NHIAA soon. I think the NHIAA's only concern is that Majak is 19 year old so they might feel like he gives us a competitive advantage."

Memorial will be a good team either way, but if Wenyin is granted the year of eligibility they will be legit title contenders in D-I, no question about it.

Meanwhile, the Memorial girls basketball team is now seeking a new coach, with Quirk stepping down to take the boys job.

"I actually think there will be more applicants for the girls job than there was with the boys" explained Quirk. "I started getting inquiries about it 3 weeks ago, I guess some people just assumed I was going to get the boys job."

The Memorial girls have been one of the top teams in D-I for the past 3 years. They just graduated first team all-state player Amra Elezovic, who is now playing at Uass Lowell. The top returning players for the Lady Crusaders are Allie Hartford and Danielle Fletcher. Hartford has started every game at point guard since she was a freshman.

"I told the girls right in the beginning when I first put my name in for the boys job" Quirk said. "I didn't want them to find out from someone else. Allie and Danielle were going to be our captains, so I had talks with both of them individually after I officially took the job."

So now we wait - to see if Wenyin gets his extra year, to see if Lett stays on as Memorial's JV coach, to see who gets the Memorial girls job and to see how all of these new coaches do in their new positions. Should be an interesting winter!

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