Angelo Thomas named West Coach of the Year by Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association

  • Hopkins Academy boys basketball coach Angelo Thomas earned his second Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association “Coach of the Year” award after guiding the Golden Hawks to an 20-3 record last season and a fourth straight trip to the WMass Div. 4 finals. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hopkins Academy boys basketball coach Angelo Thomas earned his second Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award after guiding the Golden Hawks to an 20-3 record last season and a fourth straight trip to the WMass Div. 4 finals. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2018 9:15:43 AM

The high school basketball season did not end the way Hopkins Academy coach and Greenfield native Angelo Thomas would have liked.

After another great regular season, the Golden Hawks were the top seed and favorites to win their fourth straight Western Massachusetts Division 4 title. They did nothing to hurt that thinking in the WMass quarterfinals and semifinals, beating McCann Tech and Ware by 45 and 31 points, respectively. That led them to the championship game where they met Pioneer, an upstart team that was coming off an improbable last-second shot to beat Drury in the semifinals.

Even though the Panthers had some juice heading into the finals, Hopkins was still a decided favorite given that the Golden Hawks had dismantled Pioneer twice during the regular season. While many people gave Pioneer little chance to win the WMass title, Thomas was not so confident. He said he warned his players about complacency, but Hopkins started slow and never recovered, falling to the Panthers 59-53.

“It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, especially the way we had beaten them,” he said. “You tell the guys 1,000 times before that game that whatever happened in the regular season doesn’t matter, but we were coasting. We thought that because of the name on the front of our jersey that we were going to win, but Pioneer happened to be hungrier that day.”

Thomas said he took that loss hard, the hardest of his five-year coaching career. Despite coming up short against the Panthers, area coaches still took notice of the season that Thomas and the Golden Hawks had. On Sept. 13, Thomas received an email from the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association informing him that he had been voted the West Coach of the Year. It’s the second time he won the award, the first coming two years ago when his team went 20-0 in the regular season and won the WMass title. He admitted to being pleasantly surprised by the nomination, and said the award was a reflection of his players.

“I was kind of surprised,” he began. “You never know why coaches vote the way they vote. It was definitely more of a surprise than the first time, which kind of made it a little more emotional, too. Winning these things has more to do with the team and what they do, than me. I texted all my guys as soon as I found out. I told them that I won it two out of three years and it was all because of them.”

It was little consolation for losing in the title game, but Thomas said he did get emotional upon finding out. He said that the sacrifices his family makes in order for him to do something he loves makes winning the award special.

“I got emotional because I’ve put a lot of hard work into this program,” he began. “It’s affected my family. During the season, when I’m leaving for work in the morning and then driving to Hopkins to coach, I’m not seeing my family much during the week.”

The Golden Hawks have been one of the premier boys basketball teams in western Mass. since Thomas took over five years ago. When he took over, Hopkins was coming off a 3-17 season, although the team did have some promising youngsters in the program. Sam’i Roe was a freshman that year, while John Earle, Jon Morrison and Justin Ciaglo were eighth-graders. That first season, Hopkins went 12-8 and made the postseason and over the next four years Hopkins went 74-6 in the regular season and won Western Mass. titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“I took over a program that was 5-55 over the previous three years and the expectations were that we could only go up, we just didn’t know how far we could go,” Thomas said. “I look back at videos of players like Jon Morrison and John Earle and it’s night and day how much they’ve grown and matured.”

Thomas said he has matured as a coach, especially in the patience department.

“Understanding that teenage boys will be teenage boys,” Thomas said about how he has grown. “I think the biggest thing is patience. That and not taking anything for granted. I could never have a great enough team where I win something like this again, and it really makes you appreciate the here and now.”

That patience will be on display in future seasons as all the players who were there when he started, have now graduated, leaving Hopkins in a bit of a rebuilding phase. Thomas said that there is a new wave of talented players coming up, and he believes the program will move forward and remain successful.

Thomas will receive his award on Nov. 25 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

It won’t make the WMass championship loss any easier, but at the end of the day, the MBCA award does pay homage to the hard work of everyone involved in the program.




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