MBCA names Perry Messer, Mike Prattico, Bill Rigali West Coaches of the Year

  • Coach Perry Messer instructs his team during practice, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 at Northampton High School. Emily Sledziewski listens. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hopkins Academy coach Mike Prattico calls to his players on offense in the second half of the Golden Hawks' 65-36 loss to Cathedral in the state Division 4 championship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, March 16, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2019 9:28:29 PM

Repeating as Western Massachusetts champions seemed unlikely when the Northampton girls basketball team began the 2018-19 season. The Blue Devils graduated eight seniors from the previous year’s sectional title squad.

“I don’t think anyone expected us to go back and win Western Mass,” Northampton coach Perry Messer said. “They bought in and they new what we needed to do.”

Not only did the Blue Devils repeat, they advanced to the state final and finished 19-5. Because of those achievements, Messer was named the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association West Division 2 Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. It’s his third award with Northampton, and he also won multiple times coaching the Pioneer Regional boys.

He was one of three area coaches to win an award along with longtime former Holyoke boys coach Bill Rigali and Hopkins Academy girls coach Mike Prattico. They’ll be recognized at the MBCA Hall of Fame Banquet on Dec. 11 at Holy Cross.

“I couldn’t do it without the good kids that we have, the great attitudes, the toughness and competitiveness of those kids,” Messer said.

He also credited his staff of assistants: Berry Elson, Jim McGrath, Brad McGrath and Bill Skorupski.

“I’m blessed to be able to come to work with guys like that,” Messer said.

Division 4

Prattico made quite the debut with the Hopkins Academy girls basketball team.

The Golden Hawks won their first Western Massachusetts championship and played for a state title. Prattico earned the MBCA West Division 4 Girls Coach of the Year nod in his first year coaching girls in any sport.

“What really stood out to me there’s not much of a difference in terms of them wanton to win and have fun and the competitive nature,” Prattico said. “They wanted to win from day one, they knew what we wanted to do and what we had to do. When you’re coaching and the girls are playing, it’s just basketball.”

Prattico, who also coaches baseball at Amherst Regional, took over a situation that featured a revolving door of coaches for the preceding few years. The Golden Hawks went 19-7.

“Embracing me as their coach and embracing the system impressed me,” he said.

Division 1

Rigali won the MBCA West Division 1 Boys Coach of the Year award for the fifth time. The Purple Knights started slow but finished 11-10 and qualified for the sectional tournament.

“We changed some things around, talked with the kids, communicated with them,” Rigali said. “The kids were willing to adjust, very coachable kids in a tough league.”

The award is voted on by other coaches in the division, which is the most important part of the recognition for Rigali.

“That is very special,” he said. “Those are the people that really know what it’s all about and what coaches go through and put win day in and day out.”

Rigali, who had led Holyoke since 1981, will not return for the Purple Knights this winter.

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