Showing posts with label Basketball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Basketball. Show all posts

Friday, February 23, 2024

Maine Association of Basketball Coaches honors Pulkkinen as ‘Coach of the Year’

By Matt Pascarella

Windham boys’ varsity basketball coach Chad Pulkkinen has been honored as 2024 North AA Coach of the Year by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches. He describes the award as a representation of his team and says he gratefully shares it with his players and assistant coaches George McCrillis, Geoff Grigsby, and Noah Estey.

Windham High School boys' varsity
basketball coach Chad Pulkkinen has
been honored by the Maine Association
of Basketball Coaches as the 2024
Coach of the Year. He has coached
at WHS since the 2015-2016 season.

“For me it means I have great kids and great players,” said Pulkkinen. “I have honestly been overwhelmed with the praise from the community. Our community is extremely passionate about Windham and our kids feed off that passion. I do not get this award without the play and effort from our guys.”

Pulkkinen graduated from Windham High School in 2002 and has been very successful on and off the court. He played professional basketball in England after playing for Saint Joseph’s College and majoring in business administration.

“All four years of high school, he’s always believed in me and seen the best in me,’ said Windham senior Matt Searway. “The countless hours and time he’s spent on our team and this program with our guys creating a relationship with every single one of us has brought us close together.”

It’s an honor for Pulkkinen to be recognized by his peers and he has mutual respect for all of them.

“He’s become part of my family, he’s just a really good guy,” said McCrillis. “He’s a great family man. It’s always been his dream to coach in his hometown. The reason I love the guy and love working with him so much is it’s not just about basketball. Basketball is the vehicle; we’re trying to help young men and teach them, through basketball ... the importance of school, community, being a good person. Chad makes me better; both as a person and certainly as a basketball coach because he has a vast knowledge. He will tell you it's not about him. He doesn't need to feed his ego by winning a lot of basketball games. He’s had [quite] a career. And it's not about that for him. It's way beyond that.”

Pulkkinen has become a positive influence for his players.

“The biggest thing I have learned from Coach Pulkkinen is to never give up,” said Windham senior Blake McPherson. “He always tells me and my teammates to be the best version of ourselves we can be. He never gets down on any of us. He’s always just keeps telling us to keep fighting. Coach Pulkkinen is the best coach we could’ve ever asked for our team. He leads us in the right direction on and off the court. Coach isn’t just a coach to our team, he’s part of our family.”

Continuous learner

Pulkkinen considers himself a continuous learner and observer. He’s been lucky to coach against some of the best coaches in the state and he tries to learn from his peers, asking as many questions as possible, especially starting out. Now, there are many coaches who consult him.

“Chad has done an incredible job building the culture over his career,” said Edward Little boys’ basketball coach Michael Adams. “It's one thing to be 'good' because you have good players. It's another to be consistently good because of the work that you and your athletes put in over the years. Chad leads his players and program in doing things the 'right way.' I've enjoyed, and respected, watching Windham play over Chad's coaching career as he has influenced and taught his players to play fundamental, team oriented, basketball.”

After graduation, Pulkkinen tries to stay in touch with players. He offers any help he can to outgoing seniors. Often past players come back to help out with the team in some way and those players know he cares about them beyond basketball.

“Coach is more than deserving of the Coach of the Year award ... although he would credit it to his players and assistant coaches,” said Windham senior Erik Bowen. “Coach puts in an unreal amount of time that is unseen. Coach has an incredible basketball mind and is really dedicated; he truly cares about his players and community.”

Mentoring younger athletes and establishing relationships early is very important to Pulkkinen and his coaching staff. They want eighth graders and even fifth and sixth graders to establish connections before they reach high school. Varsity players assist with basketball camps, referee youth games, or watch younger athletes play and basketball comes second to relationship building among individuals.

“It was intimidating yet you just want to be part of it,” said Windham eighth grader Carter Ammons. “There’s an energy meeting Coach Pulkkinen and the team only made me want to work harder to be at that level.”

Every year there are several players that inspire or amaze Pulkkinen for a variety of reasons over the season. He’s able to use these examples to inspire new players or to inspire or motivate past players. According to Pulkkinen, the impact the kids have on him is more powerful than the impact he has on them.

“Working with Chad has been one of the best experiences for me personally,” said Estey. “He allowed me to work with the guys as a brand-new high school coach and empowered me to share my knowledge and passion. He asked questions and made me feel I was a vital part to our success. Chad will give every ounce of passion and energy he has if it means having a positive impact on our guys. He preaches the lessons of life through the game, and ties everything to valuable life lessons. He is truly a maker of men as well as a basketball coach.”

Humbled by award

During his first season as WHS coach in the 2015-2016 season, the Eagles finished 7-11 but by the following year, WHS was 13-7 and Pulkkinen was honored as SMAA Coach of the Year. As a collegiate player at Saint Joseph’s College, he was team captain for three years and helped the Monks to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2003 and an ECAC championship in 2007.

Besides coaching prep basketball, Pulkkinen serves as Chief Executive Officer for Windham Millwork, a third-generation, family-owned custom woodworking business in Windham.

He said he would like to thank his wife Ramsey because without her support, coaching wouldn’t be possible. He also would also like to thank his family who have always supported him and the team, Windham Athletic Director Rich Drummond, and his assistant coaches, as well as Peter Brown who helped guide him starting out. They are some of his best friends and mentors. He also credits Pat Moody for pushing him to apply for varsity coach and for being an inspiration to the team and community.

“No one is more passionate or better prepared than Chad,” said Grigsby. “He’s always trying to better himself, find an edge for the team, and study anything he feels can help our program. He has developed a culture within the program that spreads to the larger community, of hard work and togetherness. He isn’t coach of the year this year because of what this team has done over the last three months, he’s ‘Coach of the Year’ because of what he’s developed for years with the basketball families of Windham.” <

Friday, March 6, 2020

The 2020 Chase Wescott Award winner announced

(L to R) Coach Jim Beers, Jake Goslant, Chase Wescott
By Matt Pascarella

In 2019, the Chase Wescott Basketball Heart Award was created at Jordan Small Middle School (JSMS). Last month, Jake Goslant became the second recipient of the award.

“At JSMS we already had a soccer award and a baseball award, but nothing for basketball,” explained basketball coach Jim Beers. “And while there have been plenty of former players, I could have named the award for Ben MacDonald, Austin McGowan, Orion Beers, Connor Pittman, Andrew Wing, Jakob Emery, and Colby Mizner; they all culminated into Chase.

Chase Wescott was on the team when Beers decided to create the award. “Chase is a tremendously hard worker, constantly looking to improve, always staying late, having to work harder than those it came naturally to, being a great teammate, being a leader...this is what the award is all about,” added Beers. averaged 16 points a game, he hit 25 three pointers his eighth-grade year and just had a real successful first year at Windham High School. Coach Beers attended several of Wescott’s games and watched him get better each time. Wescott was someone who had to overcome a lot: attitude wise, education wise, even ability wise to stand out and that’s exactly what Jake Goslant has also done.

When Goslant was in seventh grade, he had trouble showing respect to his teachers. He was in the Special Education program for his entire seventh grade year. He received several talks from his
family including his grandfather and his mother who explained that his teachers were trying to help him improve. After that regular school year, he had to take part in summer school. “I came back [with the] mentality to be a good student and be a good role model for everyone,” Goslant stated.

Goslant remained in the special education program for the first third of his eighth grade year and after much hard work, was able to leave the program in December 2019.

Once basketball started, Goslant was excited and wanted to keep up the hard work to play on the team. He received encouragement from his dad that he had the potential to do really well at basketball because of his height, and his hard work would be crucial when he played basketball in high school.
He worked hard to become a great player. He had strong work ethic, he stayed late and set goals for himself. Coach Beers said he went far beyond those goals, not just on the court, but in the classroom. He averaged six points and ten rebounds a game. 

When Goslant heard about the Chase Wescott award, he really wanted it and knew he had to work hard to get it. His hard work soon paid off.

“When I heard that I was going to get it I was so happy; everything that I did through last year – maturing – helped. When I came back from that day and everyone heard that I got it, I got ‘good job, good job, you deserved it,’ my heart was like ‘oh my god; people care about me.’ Last year I felt like no one liked me at all.”

It meant a lot to him to be noticed for his hard work.“I know Jake wants to go on to play basketball and football in high school; I think now with this award, it will spur him to realize that people do care, people are noticing his play, people are noticing his turnaround in the classroom, socially, and they might recognize him more now and take him seriously, because...this young man has the fire to go show high school what he’s made of and I think he’s ready to do that,” commented Beers.

In addition to his hard work, his parents and older brother, Austin, have been big sources of encouragement for Goslant.

Goslant plans to play basketball and football in high school and long term wants to play college football for the Texas Longhorns.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

WMS student to participate in a Nike sponsored Maine basketball team to play nationally

Creighty Dickson (front row, far left) with the Blue Wave Elite team
By Matt Pascarella

Like many kids his age, Windham Middle School seventh grader, Creighty Dickson loves basketball. His dad played in college and Dickson said that interest in the sport was passed down to him.

Recently, the Maine Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) travel team became Maines’ first ever, and only
Nike sponsored basketball team at any level. They will play in a national tournament taking place in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.

The team is part of an elite league, sponsored by Nike called Made Hoops. They were nominated for the 32-team league based of Dickson’s team record and tournament results from the previous year, as well as directors seeing them play. Andy Bedard, a Maine Basketball Hall of Famer, has been coaching a majority of the group since they were in the fourth grade. Dickson joined the team last year. The team is made up of athletes from multiple towns including Newport, New Gloucester, Portland and Westbrook.

Dickson has been playing some form of basketball since he was six years old. He would play in the backyard and stated basketball started getting real for him in the last four years. He started playing on
the travel AAU team two years ago and joined the Made Hoops league last year.

The tournament is structured into four different tournaments played in different locations, with the top eight teams making it to the championship. Each tournament has a multiple number of games; Dickson and his team have already played in two of the tournaments and have a record of six wins, one loss. They’ll play in Washington D.C. on February 8th and 9th to compete in the third tournament.

“It feels good being on the best team in Maine, but also you have to be mindful of how hard you have to work to get on this team. Our team is like family; we’re together all the time, on the court and we’re always there for each other,” explained Dickson.“This group is special,” added Bedard. “They have all the pieces to the puzzle that coaches dream
about. They all are driven, unselfish, and just know how to play together and win. Most importantly, their character and the way they all represent themselves off the court and in their communities is most impressive.”

Dickson is raising money to help cover the cost of the tournament expenses. If you would like to donate:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Jacobe's jersey keeps former basketball player’s hard work ethic and spirit alive

Jason Jacobe in 2001
By Matt Pascarella

Jason Jacobe was a star on and off the court - a Male Athlete of the Year and a Division 1 Athlete. He excelled in the classroom and was Valedictorian for his graduating class of 2002. Unfortunately, Jason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and passed away last year. Jacobe’s fellow teammate and friend, varsity boys coach Chad Pulkkinen, tells Jason’s story to the basketball teams each year to inspire his student athletes to follow Jason’s example. When Jason was diagnosed with ALS, coach Pulkkinen started awarding the Jacobe Jersey as a way to honor his hard-working athletes. This honor is now in its third year.  

“The first reason to start it was to show Jason we had guys thinking about him,” explained Pulkkinen. “He’s a part of our Windham family. I explained to those guys who Jason was as a teammate, what he brought to the table, how he treated people, how much effort he put into every sport that he played and that’s why he was very successful on the playing field and in the classroom.” Jacobe, Jason’s mother, is happy that her son continues to be honored. “I love that Chad thought so much about Jason and that he continues to do this,” Diana said. “My heart swells every time I see a picture of one of his players wearing the jersey. I love that people will remember Jason for being a hardworking, kind and caring person and not just an outstanding athlete.”

Jason’s wife, Elizabeth Myers said that continuing to acknowledge Jason is important to her and their daughter. “It’s great. it means the world to us.”  

Myers emphasized that the jersey goes beyond just acknowledgement but said it also creates an awareness factor about ALS, which is very important to her.

What do the players need to do to earn the right to wear the jersey? Coach Pulkkinen and his assistant coaches factor in stats for makes, misses, rebounds, charges, steals, deflections, etc.; pretty much the entire opportunity as a basketball player on the court. They give extra coach discretion points for non-stat criteria, like helping up a teammate.

Pulkkinen says it’s given the team a good edge during practices. Some guys are really fighting for it and others are trying to find their way. It’s also been incorporated in the First Team/JV practice. “I thought it was important to bring that education. We explain the Jason Jacobe story to all incoming freshman, and it’s fun to do that; I still get choked up talking about him to those guys.” jersey is a representation of the family aspect that basketball and being on a team creates. It’s more than basketball; it’s about the relationships that are established from season to season, year to year. The jersey represents that story of the guys they get to play with, embrace and call teammates.
Winners of the jersey get to wear it during practice for one week and it is a real source of pride for the players.

“It means a lot to me,” explained three-time winner, senior Chris Naylor. “It’s really something I try to get every week. It makes us work hard at everything we do. It really motivates us with everything in life; teaches good work ethic.”

Hayden Bilodeau, a junior stated everyone in the gym works for the jersey of the week. “We strive really hard for it,” he said. “The stories that coach tells about Jason Jacobe – he was a good person on and off the court, so it motivates me to be more like him.”

Pulkkinen added, “We lost Jason way too early and we can’t do much in that situation, but I think what we’re trying to do here by telling Jason’s story and what he was about is incorporated into our guys and into the Windham youth and community. It’s just forever holding Jason’s name to this sport, to this high school, to this Windham community that’s always been there to support him. I’m proud to have had Jason as a teammate, I’m proud to have known him for as long as I had. What he was able to do on the court and in the classroom is exactly what you want a Windham High School student to be.”