New Coaches, New Team at Drury this Winter
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Drury High School on Monday greeted the start of winter sports practices with two new varsity coaches and one new varsity coach.
At Bucky Bullett Gymnasium, Ian Downey took the reins of the girls basketball team, taking over a program that won just two games last winter but is just one year removed from a trip to the Western Massachusetts finals.
Down the hill and down the road at Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Rink, the newly minted Drury hockey team hit the ice for its first practice under head coach Kevin Ellingwood.
Ellingwood was an assistant last winter at Wahconah, which hosted a cooperative team that included players from Drury, Hoosac Valley, McCann Tech and Mount Greylock.
This year, the Berkshire County high school hockey deck has been reshuffled, as Taconic and Pittsfield have joined the Wahconah coop, and Drury steps in to host a team North County, accepting players from McCann, Mount Greylock and rival Hoosac.
“It was a numbers thing,” Ellingwood said. “My understanding is Pittsfield and Taconic didn’t have the numbers [for the coop team Taconic hosted last year].
“From my standpoint, it makes a lot of sense the way it lines up now with a North County team, a Central County team and a South County team.”
Mount Everett continues to host a coop with players from Monument Mountain, Lenox and Lee.
Drury and Mount Everett will compete together in the six-team Wright Division with Belchertown, Easthampton, Greenfield and St. Mary’s of Westfield. Wahconah, which will play both its Berkshire County rivals in independent games, will play in the Fay Division with Amherst-Pelham, Chicopee, Chicopee Comp, Ludlow and South Hadley.
It is a far different landscape than Berkshire County had just 10 years ago, when Mount Greylock, Drury and St. Joseph each had a team in a Hennessy League along with Taconic, Mount Everett and Wahconah.
Ellingwood, who played his high school hockey at Mount Greylock, said he thinks the numbers are there to keep the three current programs in business.
“What I hear is the youth numbers are pretty good right now in Berkshire County,” Ellingwood said. “I'm talking age 8-12, that kind of thing. I hear there's a little bit of resurgence, but I don't know what the attrition and drop-off is where kids decide not to play.”
Ellingwood, whose father, James Ellingwood, was a longtime coach at the former North Adams State College (now MCLA) played hockey at Williams College and coached the women’s team there when it was a club program. From 1994-2010, he coached girls hockey in Columbus, Ohio, before returning to the Berkshires and coaching in the youth programs in Pittsfield and North Adams.
“I’ve got four kids who all play or played hockey,” he said after coaching Monday’s practice. “Two are done. Two are in college. I have a junior on this team and a freshman who is not yet on this team.”
Drury’s new girls basketball coach is also a long-time youth coach and also credits his own family with steering him toward his first varsity coaching position.
“It had gotten to the point at the youth level where I felt I was ready to push myself and take that next step,” Downey said. “To be honest with you, I always thought it would be with the boys. But I recently had my own daughter, and everything changed. I realized I’d be invested in either a boys or girls program for the next 18 years.
“So when I saw the girls job open up, I jumped at it as soon as I could.”
Downey said knew that whatever level of coaching he pursued, he is happy to be doing it at Drury.
“I'm one of those people who bleeds blue,” he said. “I don't bleed [Hoosac Valley’s] red. I don't own a red T-shirt.
“If I had to pick a dream scenario, it would be up at Drury.”
And although he has been coaching boys youth basketball “as long as I can remember,” he has no concerns about switching to the girls.
“When it comes down to it, kids are kids,” he said. “It doesn't matter whether they're boys or girls. Basketball is basketball. The only thing that changes at any level is who can jump higher, and most of the people around here play under the rim anyway.”