Winter sports preview: Area boys basketball coaches take over alma maters

  • South Hadley coach Dave Dubuc, right, talks to his team during practice on Dec. 11. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • South Hadley coach Dave Dubuc during Tigers practice. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Amherst Regional coach Jamahl Jackson during a scrimmage with Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Amherst Regional coach Jamahl Jackson, center, talks to his team during a scrimmage against Greenfield, Dec. 11. Jackson, who played for the Hurricanes in the early 1990s, takes over for Jim Matuszko, who retired after 21 years. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

  • Juan Maldonado coaches Holyoke during preseason tryouts. STAFF PHOTO/GAGE NUTTER

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 1:00:41 PM
Modified: 12/13/2019 1:00:28 PM

Returning to coach at Holyoke was always a dream for Juan Maldonado.

The Holyoke native spent the last five years coaching the South Hadley boys basketball team. One year as an assistant, and four as program’s head coach.

Maldonado takes over for longtime Purple Knights coach, Bill Rigali.

“The goal and dream was to come back to Holyoke,” Maldonado said. “To give back to the community, especially if I can do it through coaching. To be the head coach there is a dream come through in a lot of ways.”

Maldonado played at Holyoke from 2002 to 2006. In his first year at the helm, he plans on instilling a feeling of pride and a family atmosphere around the program.

“I want to get alumni in the mix and let them know this is a prideful program so they can see it’s not just about this year’s team or last year’s team, there are a lot of guys that still love the program and follow the team,” Maldonado said. “The kids that are playing now aren’t just playing for themselves or the people that are out there with them on the court, they are playing for the people that came before them, too. They are playing for something bigger than themselves.”

DUBUC RETURNS — Dave Dubuc knows South Hadley well.

Dubuc not only played and graduated from South Hadley, but he coached the girls basketball team from 2007 to 2009 and was an assistant coach for the boys team from 2003 to 2007.

This winter, Dubuc returns to the South Hadley sideline as the head coach of the boys program.

“Being able to coach at a school you played at is beyond exciting,” Dubuc said. “We are looking forward to it. … There is a lot of energy with the school.”

Dubuc also served as an assistant coach at Western New England University and Norwich University.

The Tigers fell to Monument Mountain in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament last season. Coming into his first season at the helm, Dubuc wants to make sure his players compete with a high level of energy.

“I’ve learned through teaching basketball that you have to execute, create good plays and defensively take away the other team’s strengths,” Dubuc said. “When you do that correctly, there is a lot of buy-in and enthusiasm.”

MOYNIHAN TAKES OVER EAGLES — Jason Moynihan has coached all around the Northeast.

He has worked as an assistant at Wahconah Regional, coached a middle school team in New Jersey and ran an AAU team out of Easthampton.

Starting this winter, he will take the reigns at Easthampton.

“There couldn’t be a more impactful job in my mind than coming home and working with the kids,” Moynihan, an Easthampton graduate, said. “Coming home and not being tied to doing much but being re-engaged with my community. … It’s something in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to do.”

Moynihan takes over for longtime coach Brian Miller, who took over the girls program.

Moynihan wants to instill a strong work ethic into the program.

“Relentless hard work and caring about each other,” Moynihan said. “Not compromising those things for any reason. Making sure they are working for each other and not any thing else. The day-to-day work we are doing and the process should result in some great outcomes.”

JACKSON BACK — There’s just something about the Pioneer Valley to Jamahl Jackson.

“There’s a different feel. ... I missed it,” he said.

After almost 20 years coaching the men’s basketball team at Emmanuel College, Jackson is returning to coach his alma mater Amherst Regional. He takes over for retired coach Jim Matuszko.

Jackson helped start the men’s program at Emmanuel when the college became a co-ed institution in 2001. He also served as assistant athletic director.

Since the eighth grade, Jackson helped his father, Dennis, run basketball camps in and around Amherst. While coaching at Emmanuel, Jackson would return to Amherst every summer to run camps. When the Hurricanes’ head coaching job opened up, he jumped on the opportunity.

“I’m really excited,” Jackson said. “This program has a special place in my heart.”

The Hurricanes finished last season 3-17. Jackson plans on making sure his players have good fundamentals and make good decisions on the court.

“When they step between the lines they are going to compete,” Jackson said. “We aren’t going to beat ourselves. Teams will have to beat us.”

SEASON TIPS AT THE CAGE — The Pioneer Valley Tip-Off returns for the eighth year on Dec. 13. Easthampton and Hampshire Regional will have the first boys game at 7:45 p.m.

The Eagles won both games against Hampshire last year with a 51-36 victory to open the season in the PV Tip-Off then a 10-point victory in Westhampton later in the season. The teams have played each other at the Cage to open the year for the past four seasons.

“It’s super exciting,” Moynihan said. “A lot of our guys play sports with those guys. They’ve been playing against each other since they could walk. It’s an awesome rivalry. ... We are reloading a bit and Hampshire feels like they are in their cycle where they are more experienced. They are tough kids. It’s going to be a tough game.”

On Saturday, Hopkins Academy takes on Drury at 2:45 p.m. and Belchertown takes on Palmer at 4:30 p.m.. South Hadley and Granby face off at 6:15 p.m.

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