As part of a new feature, Patch will feature interviews with North Reading coaches on a weekly basis. Check back to learn more about the men and women on the sidelines leading the Hornets.
This week we talk with Joe Casey, the head coach of the North Reading boys basketball team that, after a 58-38 win over Hamilton-Wenham, is now 18-0 on the season. The team's defense is allowing the fewest points per game in the state.
What has this season been like for you so far?
It’s been one of those special season. I’ve been here 12 years and this is certainly the best start we’ve had. This is our best season record in about 30 years. It’s been fun. The kids have been great. You don’t come this far with rotten kids. It’s a great group of kids. We’re coming off of a disappointing 7-13 season with a lot of injuries. The kids committeed to getting better. We had basically everyone back along with a transfer, John Mastascusa, come back from Malden Catholic for his senior year. He's been our leading scorer at 12.6 per game.
What has been the difference between previous seasons and this year?
The difference between last year and this year is our commitement to defense. Our defense has been terrific. We’ve always stressed defense. But this year the kids have really embraced it. That has won us a couple games that we wouldn’t have won otherwise.
How much does it help that you've been the team's coach for so long?
I think it’s consistency. Played at North Reading in the late 80s. I've been with my assistant Mark Bisognano for 10 years. I call him my co-coach. The whole consistency thing has helped. We’re doing a better job this year because we have better players. We haven’t changed too many things. Good players make good coaches.
Has it been a challenge to keep the team from getting too confident during such a great start?
Coming into the year we had a few goals. One was to win league. We’ve done that. The other was to make a run deep into the tounament, whatever that means. It’s challenging. Over the course of a three-month season, especially with high school kids, there are highs and lows. It’s been a challenge to make sure we stay humble and that we continue to play hard. These kids are focused. Nine seniors who are a tight knit group of kids.