Showing posts with label Chad Pulkkinen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chad Pulkkinen. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2024

Windham varsity boys’ basketball team wins first AA state championship in program history

By Matt Pascarella

From the very start of the season, the Windham varsity boys’ basketball team showed they had what it took to go all the way. On Saturday, March 2 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland during the AA state championship against Gorham, Windham fought hard for 32 minutes – forced overtime – and came away with the first gold ball in the program’s history after a 62-58 win.

Windham High's varsity basketball team celebrates after
winning the Class AA State Championship on March 2
at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. From left are 
assistant coach Noah Estey, Braycen Freese, Noah Mains,
Beni Ninziza, manager Paolo Ventura, Joseph Blige, Tyrie
James, Conor Janvrin, Ryan Smyth, Colin Janvrin, Erik
Bowen, Creighty Dickson, Matt Searway, assistant coach
Geoff Grigsby, head coach Chad Pulkkinen, Blake
McPherson, assistant coach George McCrillis (far right),
and bottom row from left are Quinton Lindsay, AJ Moody,
“I dreamed about this when we were in middle school,” said senior Quinton Lindsay. “Always wanted a gold ball; just a perfect way to end the story. We were all together – we did not get down on each other, if we got down, we knew we would have fallen apart, we stayed composed and won the game. We just knew one stop at a time, one stop and we’d be champions – and we are.”

According to sophomore AJ Moody, being surrounded by the community is amazing; it brought them closer together as a team. Winning this state championship is the best feeling with his brothers and such great coaches.

“My mindset was that we were going to win,” said sophomore Tyrie James. “Every time we scored [toward the end of the game] the excitement was just there. Even if it was an open layup, everyone on the bench, the fans they would all get loud. It’s good to know people come to your games to watch your whole team play. Our defense was amazing, and our composure was good too; at the end of the game hitting free throws. There was just so much excitement [toward the end of overtime], we had to get psyched and celebrate.”


Windham hit the court with tenacity; they knew what Gorham could do. Lindsay hit a three-pointer and soon Windham led 9-0.

“We knew that [Gorham] would go on runs, they’re a high-powered offensive team,” said senior Erik Bowen. “We just stayed together like we have all year. It's taken a lot of hard work, these seniors have battled together, been a tight-knight group for many years, friends on and off the court, there was no separation from grade to grade; it’s just one big family. Coach Pulkkinen always talks about be where your feet are and ... that’s how we got through this season - now we’re state champions, one day, one moment at a time.”

Moody hit a three-pointer and Lindsay scored again from the top of the key. After one quarter, Windham led 23-7.

“These guys are such a good group of young men,” said Windham assistant varsity coach George McCrillis. “Our loss to Gorham [in the regular season] we came out of that and said that might be a good thing ... it took us down a little bit ... those guys are going to be in our sights ... [Gorham] was the team we wanted to play in this game. I’ve been around this game for 55 years, I’ve been associated with some really good teams, but this is the greatest group of young men and coaches – Chad is so dedicated and puts in so much time; he coached these guys up for this game. And the support from the community has been unbelievable; it has a very big impact. We’re about a team.”

Gorham scored several three-pointers in the second quarter and made up the difference. Windham led 27-26 at the half.

As Windham took the court in the second half, they remained composed. They hustled, but not all shots were falling. This game was very close. Every time Windham scored the Cross Insurance Arena thundered with praise from supporters. The game was tied at 34, then Windham took the lead, then Gorham had the lead. Then the game was tied at 39.

Tensions were high as the clock wound down. Moody hit another three-pointer. With 53 seconds left, the game was tied at 49. Windham defense ran out the clock as they headed into overtime.

Senior Blake McPherson helped Windham pull away when he sunk a three-pointer. Lindsay sunk a foul shot. With two minutes left, Windham led by two.

Just 31 seconds remained and Windham led by three, then 27.5 seconds remained and Windham expanded that lead to five points and Gorham was unable to recover.

James finished with 17 points, 1 rebound, and was 11-13 at the foul line. Moody had 12 points, 2 rebounds, and was 4-4 at the foul line. Junior Creighty Dickson had 12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and went 4-5 at the foul line. Lindsay had 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and was 2-6 at the foul line. McPherson had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and went 3-3 in the field during the fourth quarter and overtime.


“They’re always coming back,” said assistant Windham varsity coach Geoff Grigsby. “I wasn’t worried when we were down 12 to Portland in the semifinal, I wasn’t worried when we were down five at the end of the game just because I know how resilient we are. I knew we were going to be good. I thought we could do this this year because our senior group was super special, and we had super talented young guys. They’re the best leaders we’ve ever had.”

Grigsby had nothing but amazing things to say about each senior on the team – their skill, work ethic and character.

To Windham varsity assistant coach Noah Estey, this game meant everything; being a teacher and coach is all about giving kids opportunities to be successful. To create memories and develop confidence in themselves. This is a special group of guys and Estey was honored to be a small piece of the historic puzzle. Coaches Pulkkinen, McCrillis, Grisgsby, students at Windham High and the community were a perfect and emotional way to end one of the best experiences of Estey’s whole life.

“It means everything to me because these guys got to experience it,” said Windham head varsity coach Chad Pulkkinen. “That’s all I wanted; I just wanted these guys to feel what they’re feeling right now and all the hard work they put in. We had so many alumni that I’ve coached that were reaching out wishing us luck and ... this group is very special and have set a standard for groups to come of how to play unselfishly and stick together and be good kids and most important that’s what they are, a great group of kids, who happen to be really good at basketball.”

Windham was led by great seniors who showed the younger guys the way. Pulkkinen has never been more confident in a team throughout a season than this one. <

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.” <

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.”