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The Bedford/Thomas coaching casualty hits home

Brad Kreick was asked whether or not there have been any unexpected surprises during his foray into the high school head coaching world that began nearly four years ago.

“It’s generally been what I expected,” the Bishop Guertin High School girls basketball coach said. “What’s taken more energy and commitment on my part is to have constant, ongoing communication with the kids so they know why they’re being pushed.”

Kreick was in the position late this week of seeing a coach he had developed a huge, healthy rivalry with, Bedford’s Sue Thomas, lose her job just a few weeks into the current season. Thomas had built a successful program, the Bulldogs being in four of the last six Division I finals, winning one title.

When a coach loses a job like this, usually mum’s the word as to why, officially. But Bedford school officials did not hold back publicly their reasoning: Thomas in their opinion was too tough on her players, they rebelled, and in their opinion a change had to be made. They even went so far as to say there had been similar issues in the past but that they worked through them with Thomas.

It was stunning. You can bet coaches around the region, no matter what the sport,and including Kreick, cringed when they heard or read that.

But the day after Kreick’s Cardinals had dismantled a young Bedford team by a 58-26 score that was the exception rather than the rule to the rivalry, the Bulldogs practice or words spoken at it didn’t go very well, allegedly upsetting some players and/or parents. Done deal.

“I really enjoyed the rivalry with Sue and the two programs,” Kreick said. “Sure, you had a little of the tension that any rivalry has, but the vast majority of the time we treated it with the positve incentives and respect we felt were really good for girls basketball.”

What if Kreick’s Cardinals had been on the flip side of a score like that with Bedford? Let’s face it, when you’re coaching at Bishop Guertin High School, no matter what the sport, the reputation is the parents who pay the freight also want a big part of the say in what you do. That may or may not be the case, but it is the image that’s out there.

“I’d heard horror stories from other situations,” Kreick said. “But we’ve been really, really lucky that the parents of the kids we’ve had for the most part have been very supportive and let us coach their kids. I don’t know if that will be the case forever, but it’s been that way so far.”

Don’t mistake that for the impression that Kreick or his assistants back down. Winning certainly, certainly makes his words easier for his players and their parents to respect and follow.

Let’s give you an example: In a game with Manchester Memorial last year, the Cardinals had a comfortable lead but the Crusaders, considered a contender, had a couple of easy baskets. A quick BG timeout was called and Kreick gave his team a simple message: play defense or you sit. The easy hoops stopped.

Kreick knows that this is a different era.

“It’s a different environment than it was 10 plus years ago,” he said. “Sometimes changes develop and become a big part of things, sometimes they don’t.

“We don’t, as a staff, shy away from coaching kids really hard, holding them accountable. … At the same time, we do appreciate and recognize, you can push kids very hard but you also let them know you have their best interest at heart , and as long as they play hard, they know that you’re in it with them.”

It’s a fine line. Kreick also knows that teams within a program change from year to year, and the personality of a team changes and coaches have to adapt to that. Bedford was the perfect example; Thomas had a fairly young team where players who sat a year ago were now getting quality minutes. After her last win, a 44-26 win over Nashua South on Dec. 18, Thomas was asked about her team’s upcoming game with Guertin slated for three nights later.

“We’ll get through that,” she said. “We’ll have our young kids see what they’re all about. They’re a great team.”

In other words, it’s probably going to be a learning experience more than a competitive one, which was unusual for that rivalry. But correct.

Evidently, the lesson learned wasn’t a pleasant one for Thomas or her players.

It’s unfortunate. Thomas, in victory or defeat, always made sure to give her team credit in interviews.

Look, we don’t know all the words said, all the issues, all the meetings, whatever was said or not said. That’s always the case. Everyone will have opinions, but one can only speculate on the truth – and we will not do that here. Yours truly always felt the upset loss to BG in last year’s semis put Thomas on the hot seat with parents, etc., just from a results standpoint.

But regardless, you can bet her abrupt dismissal and the frank administrative admission why has to be very alarming in general with high school coaches around the state.

“It’s a different time,” Kreick acknowledged. “To see someone with all that success exit stage left abruptly is very surprising. In the reality of today, it’s disconcerting, more or less.”

Very much so.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.