Harte Takes the Reins of Hoosac Valley Boys Program
CHESHIRE, Mass. -- Dave Harte knows that small towns have a reputation for not welcoming outsiders with open arms.
But he hasn’t seen it.
The new boys basketball coach at Hoosac Valley High School comes to town with a resume that includes stops at St. Joseph Central School, the Boys and Girls Club and Taconic High School. He has been accepted in North County like one of its own.
“What’s funny is, I’m a Pittsfield kid,” he said while relaxing in the coach’s office before Monday’s inaugural day of winter sports practices. “And my friends all said when I moved to Dalton, ‘You’re not getting let in there.’ And they let me and my family be very involved in the town. They were very gracious.
“Adams, the same exact way -- very gracious. People are volunteering time to do a lot of the work that would be too much for a coach to do. I’m talking the booster club president and, obviously, they have Molly [Meczywor] and Dayne [Poirot] as athletic directors up here have both been on top of everything, just phenomenal.”
Harte said he could not wait to get on the floor and start building toward opening night. And he thinks he has the pieces to help make Hoosac Valley a tough out in the rugged Berkshire County North Division.
“I know we have the leadership group here,” Harte said. “I'd be stunned if it went the wrong way. Any information I asked for this summer, they were on it. And they just seemed to me like really good kids.
“Coming into a new place, I've got to get their buy-in first because if they buy in, it's going to pass down. They're the cool kids at the school, so it's going to pass down. If I don't get them, it's a problem. I'm up for that challenge. I'm ready for it.”
Harte saw the Hurricanes from the other side of the gym last winter as an assistant coach at Taconic. Helping coach Bill Heaphy lead that team to the state championship game spurred Harte to take on a new challenge.
“Last year, I was the assistant with Taconic, and we had a nice run. I knew it was going to get my juices flowing again, and it certainly did,” he said.
“In May, my mother and my best friend passed away three days apart, so it's kind of a life-changing moment, I guess you'd say. It makes deal with your own mortality a little bit. I was kind of in a little bit of shock when this potential job opened up. I thought, that could be a good fit.”
The St. Joe graduate did his first coaching stint right out of college as a junior varsity coach with the Crusaders. Then he spent several years as a program director at the Boys and Girls Club, where he was able to work with travel teams when his schedule did not allow him to coach at the high school level. A new job at Pittsfield’s Soldier On, working with homeless veterans, gave Harte a schedule more conducive to high school coaching, allowing him to get back in the game at Taconic.
What never changed throughout those years was Harte’s love of basketball. He describes himself as the kind of guy who always is watching a game, and he has definite ideas of what he wants to do with the Hurricanes.
“I think the fact that they kind of played man-to-man all the way through the youth program is going to help me,” Harte said. “I have my own philosophy on how we're going to play man-to-man against various teams in different situations. You can compare [Rick] Pitino and [John] Calipari. When Calipari was coaching UMass, he played what's called 'catch and swarm,' a lot of help defense. Where Pitino was all all out pressure all over the place. There are some little tweaks, but they've been taught the foundation. That's a help.”
Like everyone involved in the Hurricanes’ program, Harte wants a reversal from last year, when Hoosac Valley lost eight of its last nine to finish 9-11 and just out of the Western Mass tournament.
He also knows how to deal with adversity. In a four-year span as JV coach at St. Joe, he saw the school’s varsity program win a Western Mass title one year and go winless another year.
Winning is important, but effort is paramount.
“As long as I feel like when we walk by these mirrors in here that we can all look at them and not shy away like we didn't give our true 100 percent, I'm going to be OK with it,” Harte said, pointing to the mirrors in the locker room. “I think in years past, when I was a younger guy, I might have had a harder time with those losses. I'm not going to be OK with losing, don't get me wrong. But you've got to have this all in proper perspective.
“It's still about young men or old kids, however you want to say it. And this experience only happens for them one time. I just want this to be something that I was fortunate enough to have, which is a phenomenally great experience. It's something you look back on and talk to your old teammates at the Thanksgiving holidays about plays we ran back then or something. I want to give these guys what I had, that experience.”