New Britain High boys basketball coach Stan Glowiak could have easily hung up his clipboard prior to this season.
His oldest son Brian is captain of the University of Hartford team and having quite an impact. Stan could have hitched his wagon to the Hawks. His younger son Steven, a sophomore at Berlin, will be starting at guard. Stan could have planned his winter around the Hartford and Berlin schedules, but he chose to lend his years of expertise in basketball and leadership to a new group of Hurricanes.
We all know what kind of talent Stan has coached in his years on the New Britain bench. He built a powerhouse that featured Tebucky Jones and Malcolm Yelling. Tebucky's brother Shon and later Roosevelt Lee were two of the most talented basketball players the city has ever seen.
He had a superb Division I (Siena) player in Austin Andrews, 6-7 Eastern European import Darius Lugauskas and 6-8 Jon Plefka who went on to play for Bobby Knight at Texas Tech. He had his son Brian, who holds all New Britain's three-point shooting records, and perhaps the program's finest point guard in Alexis Hernandez. More recently, he harnessed the talents of Windsor transfer Anthony Madden and power forward Daryl Velez.
But when Stan surveyed the talent that he had coming in this season, he saw a group of players willing to put aside their individualism to forge a team. There are no superstars. There is no true center; he lacks height. Yet Stan has bounce in his step, perhaps as much as he's had going into any one of his most productive seasons.
Wednesday's opener against Bristol Central was ample evidence why Stan is still relishing his role. Never before in my 12-plus years of my covering the team have I seen so many capable players doing so many of the right things from the very start of the season.
Point guards Phil Smith and Robert Bryant seem perfectly willing to eschew three-point shots to deliver timely passes. Both are quick and aggressive on defense, and make good decisions when they penetrate the lane.
Stan says that Darius Watson, a 6-4 sophomore who exhibited exceptional post moves as a freshman in varsity waters last year, will be playing some guard and forward as well as center. Central was even more height-challenged than New Britain so Watson was asked to reprise last year's role. The result was 23 points and nine rebounds.
Quashon Moore (6 steals) was at the heart of a defense that bounced back from a lackluster first half to chill the Central offense in the second half. Raheem McKinley played a lot taller than his 6-2 frame because he was willing to play the role that Stan designated for him. The 17 points he scored should convince him that the coach knows his stuff.
Shooting guard Justin Mercak needs to refine his jumper. The rotation was off on his first few shots but he had the backspin going early in the fourth quarter when he knocked down two treys that virtually ended Central's hope of making new coach Tim Barrette's debut a success.
The match-ups indicated that this wasn't a great spot for shooting junior guard Robert McKinnon, but McKinnon made the most of his playing time. He drained a three-pointer and played intelligently.
Mike Szuba, a 6-3 senior, provided some front-court strength off the bench. Evens St. Juste also came off the pines and played well, as did first-year senior Josh Hudson, who will be playing college football next fall.
Robert Mayer, formerly the head man at Plainville and an assistant on successful teams at St. Thomas Aquinas and Berlin, is a welcome addition to an outstanding coaching staff.
Does it sound like a winning combination? Absolutely. Nobody is picking the 'Canes to be playing on championship Saturday in March, but as Stan says, by tournament time they may surprise some people.
Stan has said over and over how much he likes this group, and if they continue to follow his guidance, we all know that chemistry and unity can propel a team beyond expectations. This New Britain team is going to be fun to watch.