Pat Massaroni is the Head Coach of one of the hottest programs in high school basketball. He took over the head coaching job at Archbishop Stepinac High School (White Plains, NY) five years ago and has not looked back. He joins Behind The Bench’s Playbook series to discuss the challenge of coaching during the pandemic and much more.
BTB: Over the past five years you’ve had tremendous success including winning the NYS Federation Title in 2018. Please share with us how you’ve created a winning program?
PM: I get the credit, but it is not just me – it is the Administration, Board of Trustees, my staff specifically, Associate Head Coach Rodney Swain and in the end the student athletes and their families. From day one, everyone here at Stepinac has believed in the plan and culture that was being established.
BTB: This year is different due to COVID. Tell us about some of the challenges the program has faced due to the pandemic, the suspension of the season and the prospect of a shortened season?
PM: The last 10 months have been the most challenging months a kid, especially a high school basketball player can experience. They have had the playoffs cut short last year, no AAU season, no fall open gyms with college coaches, and as you said the season suspended. For us, traveling nationally, scheduled to be on national TV, the exposure. We have had to do with so many unknowns week to week, day to day.
BTB: It must be a challenging time for all of your players, but especially the juniors and seniors. We saw that you did a virtual workout for college coaches which is a very innovative idea. How are your players coping?
PM: I feel bad for all our student athletes and as you mentioned specifically the upper classmen. College coaches have been unable to come out to recruit, so we had to adapt. I feel for our 2 unsigned seniors and their recruitment. It is not the college coaches fault, etc but it is such tough times. We have tried to be proactive for them and they have as well.
BTB: You’ve coached some of the top high school talent in the country, put Stepinac basketball on the map and created a pipeline to Tobacco Road. Tell us about coaching and preparing talent like RJ Davis who is playing now at UNC and Adrian Griffin who is going to Duke next year?
PM: It has been special. We have after this graduating class 22 kids who will or have played college basketball – all accomplished in 6 years. Yet again, I get the accolades but it is not me, it is everyone apart of the Stepinac family. RJ and AJ headline things with UNC and Duke respectively but we have had guys go to all different levels and be successful. Coaching high level players like RJ, AJ, Alan Griffin (Syracuse), Xavier Wilson (Central Connecticut), Joel Soriano (Fordham)…is something you remember forever. All the kids we have and have had here want to work hard in and out of the classroom, win on the court and be good young men. RJ and AJ are beyond talented, who also have worked really hard to get where they are.
BTB: In another publication, you mentioned Boston Celtic Coach Brad Stevens as an inspiration. He was also a talented young coach with a lot of early success who jumped to the next level. Any similar goals if a college AD (in the Danny Ainge mode) happens to read this?
PM: Well, if Danny Ainge wants to come calling, I will listen – hahah – how can you not. I just respect how he (Brad Stevens) has won, how he is so respected in the basketball world, the way he can coach, specifically his X’s and O’s and then manage talent and his staff. In the end, he has worked hard to get to where he is and was willing to learn. You can never stop learning if you want to be successful in coaching and in life.
BTB: Our mission at Behind The Bench is to inspire the next generation by highlighting people who work in sports. What advice would you share to a younger version of yourself or to someone reading this with similar goals?
PM: I would say this – network, communicate, work hard, no ego and want to give back and get better. If you work hard and know you have worked hard, no one can tell you success will not come. It might take longer then expected. Also, stay focused and be respectful to whoever you meet in this industry – you never know who you will meet. Always be willing to speak to someone, do not be afraid to ask questions and communicate.