New coaching staffs in place for Gloversville basketball programsNovember 11, 2014
By JAMES A. ELLIS , Leader Herald
GLOVERSVILLE - There has been a changing of the guard in the Gloversville High School basketball programs. With the retirement of Mark LeFever from the Dragons' boys program and Robyn Guzielek stepping aside as head coach in the girls program, new coaches have been appointed for the upcoming season.
Former Gloversville player and junior varsity coach Aric Kucel steps up to guide the Dragons' boys varsity team this season, while Molly Swan has been named the head coach for the Lady Dragons.
Not only are the varsity coaches new, none of the coaches at the junior varsity or freshman levels were with the programs last season.
"We are not rebuilding our boys basketball program, which has been a mainstay here in Gloversville for a long time," Gloversville High School Athletic Director Mike DeMagistris said. "The fortunate thing about Gloversville basketball is that we have had a Gloversville alumni coach our team for 28 years, so they know the tradition here. Mark LeFever [2009-2014] took the torch from Don Landrio [1986-2009], and hopefully, Aric is going to take the torch from Mark and keep running with it."
Kucel was a three-year starting point guard for the Landrio-coached Dragons and was a second team All Foothills player in his junior and senior years. He moved on to play for two years at Hudson Valley Community College, where he was named team MVP in his final season. He ranks third all time in assists and steals and seventh in 3-point field goals made for the Vikings. He joined the Gloversville coaching staff as a modified coach before moving up to coach the junior varsity team under LeFever for the past six years.
"I have been a Dragon basketball player since I was in second grade," Kucel said. "I felt like I basically grew up in the old high school gym because of all the time I spent there. I never missed one of Coach Landrio's winter clinics or summer camps, and I was always in the gym after school or during the summer constantly working on my game. I spent countless hours in the high school gym because I wanted to help this program be successful. Now I get to do it as a coach. It is truly an honor and a privilege."
Swan played basketball for Shenendehowa High School under hall of fame coach Ken Strube. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Swan spent the last two years coaching in both the basketball and softball programs at Colonie High School.
"Sports have always been a big part of who I am," Swan said. "At Shenendehowa High School, I played both basketball and softball, which allowed me to develop lifelong friendships and leadership skills that have carried over to my adult life. Growing up, I was also involved in the Saratoga Sparks AAU program and enjoyed the time that I got to spend alongside my teammates as we continued to work on our basketball skills. Coaching has given me an opportunity to pass on to my players the many positives that I have gained through being involved in athletics: discipline, respect, teamwork and a sense of pride."
DeMagistris said he is confident Swan can help turn around the Lady Dragons' program that won the Foothills Council in 2007, but last won a varsity game in December of 2010.
"My impression after the first five minutes of talking with her was that she was the right person for the job," DeMagistris said. "We were fortunate enough that Molly was hired as one of our school's counselors. Her pedigree shows she played for some great coaches like coach Kucel did. Her father, Patrick, is helping us out this year and he coached the Saratoga Sparks for a long time."
Swan is joined on her coaching staff by first-year junior varsity coach Mary Insognia, while LeFever's retirement was short-lived as he joins the Lady Dragons' program as the girls' modified coach along with Jason Hillabrandt.
"LeFever went from the boys' program to the girls' modified program so she can tap into his experience of 20-plus years, which I think will be a benefit for our girls' program," DeMagistris said. "We are very confident that our girls' program will be very competitive in the next couple of years. Molly is very excited and passionate about the game and we are excited about having her on the staff."
Taking over a program that dropped from the varsity level in 2011 and playing two seasons at the junior varsity level before returning to varsity competition in 2013 is a challenge Swan said she is looking forward to.
"I think that the program has been slowly rebuilding and we are eager to be part of a growing program," she said. "The coaching staff [including myself] is excited by the talent we have seen in the open gym so far this year. I think that the youth program is on the upswing and the more girls that we can get involved at a younger age, the brighter the future looks for Gloversville basketball. We have had open gyms and the girls are excited for the season to begin. Tryouts begin today and the teams will be finalized by the end of the week. By Friday the girls will have a good understanding of our expectations as a program and their role heading into the season."
The boys' program also has a new coaching staff at all levels.
"We have an entire new coaching staff this year," Kucel said. "I'm very excited about the guys we have in place. These guys can really teach the game and have a passion for Gloversville basketball."
John Lott will take over the junior varsity coaching duties, while Blaine Nellis is the freshmen coach. Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman will coach the modified programs.
"We also have two varsity assistants, Kevin Jones and Ed Collar," Kucel said. "John Lott, Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman are all former Gloversville athletes, who understand the pride and tradition of Gloversville basketball. Blaine Nellis was a longtime JV coach at Fort Plain, where he had a lot of success coaching under Craig Phillips. Kevin Jones and Ed Collar are current college coaches at Fulton-Montgomery Community College Those two, to me, are the best coaches in the area and are going to do great things for our kids and our program."
Kucel is set to put his own stamp on the Dragons' basketball tradition.
"Our goals heading into this season and every season will be to play up to our standards," he said. "We have developed something called the Maroon and White Standards. These standards are how we practice, how we play and how we act. As a coach, I want my players to focus more on playing up to our standards, rather than worrying about results. If we play to our standards, we know the results will most likely be in our favor. The Maroon and White Standards are: Pride-Passion-Caring-Demanding-Confidence-Selfless-Relentless-Courage-Toughness-Willingness to Earn It."
Although tryouts officially started Monday, preparation for the upcoming season has been in the process with open gyms and clinics.
"We have been getting together since July and the turnouts were excellent," Kucel said. "We were getting 30-40 guys everyday from seventh grade to varsity who were coming in and working on developing their skills. We took a break as players were playing their fall sports. But this past week, we've been getting together after school for our Gloversville Basketball Orientation. It's been a great turnout and you can see our players get better as the week is progressing. It's been a nice way for all of our players to meet all of their coaches, work on their skills and for them to get a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish on the offensive and defensive end."
The Dragons are scheduled to open their season at home on Dec. 4 with a non-league contest against Nortre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, and will open their Foothills Council campaign Dec. 12 at Johnstown.
"I'm just so excited to get going; I've been waiting a long time for this season," Kucel said. "I'm just very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a teacher and to be a coach in this program. Everyday I'm going to try to help our kids and program become successful."
The Lady Dragons open their season Dec. 5 with a non-league game at Mechanicville High School and will host the Johnstown Lady Bills in their Foothills Council opener Dec. 12.