Nashua North hires highly regarded girls hoop coach
There are more comings and goings in local high school girls basketball coaching circles.
Nashua High School North has named former – and highly successful – Monadnock Regional coach Curt Dutilley as its new girls basketball coach, as his Board of Education approval was official late last week.
That’s a big plus for the area, and now here’s what could be conceived as a big minus – Merrimack girls basketball coach Courtney Cheetham has surprisingly stepped down.
First, Dutilley. He left the Monadnock job last spring because he was moving out of the area, and luckily for the Titans, whose vacancy occurred when Christina Bean stepped down in August, Nashua was his destination. He really didn’t think he’d be coaching this year.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Dutilley said. “My wife and I moved to Nashua a few weeks ago and I was confident that I was not coaching basketball this season because of the move. I figured there would not be any openings at this time of year.”
He saw the North advertisement in the nick of time and applied before the job window closed.
Dutilley has been a very successful coach in seven years at Monadnock Regional and Fall Mountain Regional prior to that. He led the Huskies to two Division III titles in the last three years, including, ironically, a win last March over Fall Mountain. In all seven seasons at Monadnock, his teams made the tournament.
He coached the Fall Mountain girls to the semifinal appearances in five years, and in the early 2000s was the boys hoop coach at ConVal, his first head job. In 2000 his ConVal team lost by three points in the Class I title game to Goffstown.
“He definitely has a lot of experience,” Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras said. “He’s coached soccer, girls track, girls basketball, boys basketball, he has a wealth of knowledge. He has a passion for the game, and caring and concern for the kids”
“I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to helping the program achieve at the highest level,” Dutilley said in an email. “The foundation for success is there, the athletic department led by AD Lisa Gingras has been incredible to work with in my short time getting integrated into the program.”
Dutilley is now getting to know his players.
“The athletes are motivated and ready to work hard this coming season,” he said. “I am looking forward to the challenge and hope to provide all the kids a high quality athletic experience that will help them achieve on the court and develop critical skills and habits that will be of value throughout their lives.”
Gingras is looking for a long term solution for both the North and South girls programs. Former Panthers boys JV/varsity assistant John Bourgeois was an internal hire a couple of weeks ago for the South girls. And getting Dutilley, with his resume, has to be considered a coup.
“Hopefully he’ll be around a long time,” Gingras said, noting that Dutilley is also currently coaching cross country at Pennichuck Junior High. “The biggest thing is not just his basketball but what he’s going to do for the culture and the girls.”
That’s the good news. The bad news is the departure of Cheetham, who, after four seasons on the job, it seems felt the girls in the program needed a new voice. She expressed those thoughts to Merrimack AD Mike Soucy over the summer but Soucy asked her to take some more time and think about it. She did, and by the end of last week made it official.
The Tomahawks were always a tough opponent, even for a team like four-time Division I champion Bishop Guertin. Cheetham’s Tomahawks were consistent quarterfinal teams, but they got a bad break two years ago when after a 15-3 regular season fell into BG’s bracket after the Cards had a few losses to out of state teams and were seeded fifth. Last year she did one of her best jobs in guiding a young Tomahawks team to a 9-9 mark, losing to Division I runnerup Portsmouth in the prelims.
“I love Merrimack, I love those kids,” she said. “It’s extremely difficult to leave them. … I often think coaches leave programs because they are in rough shape, but ours is better than ever.”
That makes it even more of a surprise. When Cheetham took over, she was the fourth Tomahawks coach in five years, and this year they will have 10 of 11 returning, and last year’s JV team went undefeated.
“The program has not yet reached its peak,” she said.
So why not stay and see it try to get there? Cheetham has coached arguably the program’s best player, Theresa Twardosky, since she was 12.
But it seems she had become disenchanted with high school coaching and wants to focus on the younger levels.
“I’m hoping that a fresh face, perhaps one the kids are less comfortable with, can bring (the Tomahawks) to SNHU (the semis and finals site),” she said. “I’m not sure there’s much more I can teach them. They deserve a fresh perspective, and a new voice that hopefully has new skills to help them grow.”
Now Soucy reluctantly embarks on a search for her replacement.
“Obviously my goal was to retain her as our head coach,” he said. “We’re grateful of the time, energy, and effort Courtney put into rebuilding our girls basketball program. She was a tremendous teacher and great role model for our girls.”
Cheetham has not determined her basketball future. She coaches in AAU, and also wants to get involved with younger players. She feels that many coaches at the high school level “aren’t really in it for the kids, and it’s hard to be a part of that. I’m hoping this move allows me to make an impact on more communities, in youth sports, regardless of what town.”
Cheetham says she will use the winter to learn from other coaches in terms of developing skill and culture. She’s running skills clinics for kids “and trying to use the game to teach other life lessons. So far it’s been fun.”
But replacing her won’t be for Soucy & Co.
“Her imprint will be firmly on our program for years,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”
In addition to Gingras being named Division I AD and overall state AD of the Year, Milford’s Marc Maurais captured the Division II award….
Keep in mind that The Battle of the Bridge gets into full mode next week, but field hockey has been moved out of the usual Saturday varsity tripleheader. The Titans and Panthers will instead square off next Monday at 5:30 at Stellos. On Saturday, Oct. 5, there will be a North-South girls-boys soccer twinbill beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Stellos. That pushes the Merrimack-Bishop Guertin football game that night back to a later than usual 7:30 p.m. start…
Campbell is having another great boy-girl soccer season. The Cougar boys are 6-0-1 and have two big Tuesdays ahead. Today they host 6-0 Belmont, and next Tuesday host Gilford, currently 7-0. The Cougar girls are 5-1, their lone loss to current unbeaten Bishop Brady.