The most precarious stage of the season is approaching for Northern Essex Community College men’s basketball coach Darren Stratton.
The first semester’s phase of games is about over with the young Knights (only one non-freshman on the squad) standing at a respectable 6-6, but Stratton, who is in his 13th year as head coach (179-60 before this year) is understandably nervous about the upcoming winter break between games.
This is when semester grades are released and the 40-year-old Stratton finds out if all of his players will be eligible for the second semester. For junior college basketball coaches, it’s a worrisome time.
We caught up with Stratton, who also operates a full-time business in New Hampshire, during one of his few breaks, to go Around the Horn.
Is this the youngest team you’ve ever coached?
“By far, it’s the youngest. It’s not even close.”
How does that affect your coaching?
“The biggest thing is that we’re a lot more patient than with a veteran group. We do a lot more teaching and aren’t quite as demanding.”
Is it more enjoyable or more stressful with a young group of players?
“I’m really enjoying myself because you see the improvement daily. It’s a great group with no ego and that makes it a lot better.”
What’s the toughest thing about coaching at the junior college level?
“The toughest thing is going semester to semester. You can have an unbelievable group and be coaching one system and then you lose four or five kids to grades at the semester break and you have to change everything.
“Last year, we lost four guards and we went from pushing the ball upcourt, real up-tempo to more of a deliberate game. We had to.”