It’s a new era for Nashua North, South girls basketball
NASHUA – It’s the last few winters, and a long varsity/JV boys basketball practice at Nashua South is over and the girls teams are about to take the floor.
But John Bourgeois isn’t going anywhere.
No, the then-Panthers boys JV coach and varsity assistant wants to stay, watch a few drills, and continue to get a feel for how things are done, no matter who the girls coach is, and he’s seen a few.
Shift to another seen an hour west of here. It’s late summer, and Curt Dutilley, who stepped down after winning a girls hoop title at Monadnock Regional is wondering what the next couple of months will bring.
Original plans to move to South Carolina where he would work as an insurance contractor have fallen through, but he and his wife may have a solution as they were trying in vain to sell their Keene area house. She just got word her position in the health field transferred to the Nashua area,where the couple’s son, Josh, already lives.
Problem solved. And even more so when Dutilley, who has coached high school basketball for several years, and won two Division III girls hoop titles in three seasons at Modanock, looked on line and saw a posting for both the Nashua North and South girls head hoop positions. He got his application in on the last day possible.
Welcome to the new era for high school girls basketball in the Nashua system, which begins when South hosts Portsmouth on Tuesday and North visits Goffstown on Friday. Bourgeois was hired to take the South position and be the Panthers’ fourth head coach in the last four seasons, and Dutilley took the North job. Both coaches are looking to embark on a new direction for two programs that won 11 games between them last year.
“I think it’s an exciting time right now,” Bourgeois said. “There’s been talk in the community how inconsistent the girls program has been.”
Dutilley and Bourgeois see a common bond. They want to keep their best athletes in the system, especially as they share some middle school territory.
“We talk on a regular basis,” Dutilley said. “It’s in our best interest to protect the kids coming into the public high school and not drifting off somewhere else. We have a midle school in common, Elm Street, that’s a huge population. It’s important for both of us, so we need to work together.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Curt and I to kind of bring that excitement back to Nashua basketball,” he said. “I think the best opportunity comes from getting the lower levels and the youth programs something to look forward to. … We’re trying to get more people interested in the sport, but it’s pretty hard to do that when there’s a new coach every year.
“I’ve spoke with Curt. We’re going to do the best we can to bring that opportunity back to Nashua.”
Dutilley, a Stevens grad, started coaching right out of high school in early 1980s. He went from coaching as an assistant at Stevens to a 10-year role as the Lebanon boys hoop JV coach and assistant to coaching legend Lang Metcalf after moving there.
“I was blessed to have him as a mentor for that decade and really learn the game, and obviously he gave me more responsibility as we moved along,” Dutilley said.
Then he moved down to Keene, and the only open hoop position in the area was the ConVal boys. In his third year, his team lost to Goffstown in the 2000 Division II finals by three points.
But his commute was time consuming, and Josh was in middle school, so Dutilley took a couple of years off.
Until Fall Mountain Regional called, that is. Would he want to be their girls hoop coach?
“They had a rich tradition, but had been struggling,” Dutilley said. “But we built that up, went to a couple of semifinals, and built a deep program.”
But in his role in the insurance business, he was sent frequently to Florida, and coaching at FM was too time consuming again.
Next, his good friend, Todd Walker, told him about a position that was open at nearby Monadnock.
“I said, ‘Here’s the deal,’,” Dutilley said. “I’ll put my name in if you be the assistant, we’ll do it together.’ And that’s what we did for the next seven years.”
Then the opportunity to move to the Nashua area was too good to pass up.
“We had outgrown Keene, were there 22 years and were looking to get out,” he said. “We moved Sept. 1, and I said, ‘Hey I’m not coaching this year, that’s going to be a problem.'”
And now this area is perfect. He has a partial Celtics season ticket package and doesn’t have to make the long trip to Boston from Keene. And any flights he needs to take for his work are about 20 minutes away in Manchester. And Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras got him to immediately help out the district by coaching cross country this past fall at Pennichuck Junior High.
Plus, North is the largest school he’s coached at. He has his own equipment manager, games recorded on Huddle, has an extra gym to avoid practice conflicts, etc. “The resources are phenominal,” he said. “My wife has been joking that I’ve never had the creature comforts.”
Dutilley is excited about the prospects, the athleticism of his team, and knows he just needs to implement his system and see his young team, that doesn’t return any regular starters, refine its skills. He has the larger numbers of the city rather than the country, and thus looks forward to a deeper roster and less reliant on one or two players.
“We’re in a metropolitan area where they’ve been competing against other sizable schools as they’ve been growing up, which is a big difference,” Dutilley said. “In the western part of the state we were kind of landlocked.”
Dutilley has had a history of trying to expose his players to higher levels. At Lebanon he and Metcalf would take the boys teams to Bobby Knight’s Indiana University summer camp and play the Croatia national team. At Monadnock, they went to the University of North Carolina camp and played against 5,000 student Carmel, Ind. At Fall Mountain they played Christ The King in a Christmas tournament in New York City.
“Everywhere I’ve been – boys, girls, Division II, Division III,” Dutilley said, ” it’s basketball.”
Bourgeois is a 2009 Nashua South grad, and played for the coach he ended up working for, Panthers boys hoop coach Nate Mazerolle.
He didn’t play in college at Rivier University, and realized he missed the game. But he got an opportunity to help out his friend Matt Seehan with the freshman program as a coach at South, and was also able to be around the varsity program.
Thus Bourgeois caught coaching bug. He went to coaching clinics, read any book he could, and learned as much as he could from Mazerolle.
“I learned how to communicate to the players, and it was really interesting how he organized his whole program,” Bourgeois said. “I really learned a ton from Nate. I was young, I made mistakes, so I tried to learn as much as I could and ask a ton of questions. I wasn’t a 40-year expereienced head coach so I wanted to learn as much as I could.”
And he knew he wanted to be a head coach. He just wasn’t sure it would be coaching the girls.
“The last three or four years, I was watching the coaching turnover on the girls side,” Bourgeois said. “And then the last year or two I thought, ‘Hey, this might be a good opportunity to kind of come over and help them and teach them some things I’ve learned in my coaching career.”
Bourgeois has made the switch from coaching boys to girls just this year; Dutilley did it several years ago and it was an adjustment.
“I think the first two years for me, most definitely,” Dutilley said. “The biggest thing was, though, I was changing as a coach every decade. I was the firey, crazy guy, then in my 30s a little calmer, and now I’m in my 50s and I’m just Mr. Mellow most of the time.”
Bourgeois has gotten some help in making the transition, leaning on his staff which has coached girls, including South varsity field hockey and girls lacrosse coach Ciki McIntire.
‘I’m actually very happy with what I’ve learned so far,” he said. “Some things are different, but really, both groups are competitive. They both want to be out there, they both want to learn, they both dive on the floor…
“(McIntire) has been a big part of really helping me. … Ciki’s awesome. I don’t know if there’s one specific thing she’s told me. She really leads by example. The way she communicates to the players is something I watch and emulate.”
In fact, Bourgeois went to a few of the Panther field hockey games and practices in the fall, just to observe.
As one can see, Bourgeois leaves no stone unturned and considers himself a detail coach. He’s basically learning his players now and what makes them tick, or as he would say, “what motivates them…. Learn as much about them as I can so I can better coach them, just as I would with the boys.”