Whether in class or on the court, Bassett's approach is working at Waterford

Mohegan — Bill Bassett comes across as even-keeled, the math teacher and head boys' basketball coach at Waterford High School.

He even mentioned after the Lancers won the Division II state tournament championship Sunday night before 6,878 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena that three of his guys — Liam Spellman, Kenny Hill and Cadin Maynard — have a big quiz Monday in his statistics class and he hopes they studied.

As it turns out, however, whether he remains on a perfectly even plane all the time, one of Bassett's most memorable traits is something his wife Erika encourages. Approachability.

"I want to be there for my players," said Bassett, whose team won its second straight state title, beating New Britain 63-56. "It's my wife. She tells me all the time to know what is going on with your players. I want to know what's going on with them.

"Sometimes I'll have words for someone at practice, then I'll come back the next day and find out what's going on at school, at home. That's gotten me out of trouble the past few years. These guys are kids. We're trying to put all these expectations on them playing in an arena where NBA players play and they're kids."

Bassett was a former player under coach Glen Miller at Connecticut College when the Camels reached the 1998-99 NCAA Division III Final Four. Bassett said his position was "far left bench."

"I listened to everything Glen Miller said," Bassett said.

He was then a member of the Waterford staff under head coach Greg Gwudz when the Lancers won the 2012 state championship at Mohegan Sun, the first in program history.

Bassett, who along with Erika has 9-year-old twins Jack and Caroline, lives about a three-minute drive from the high school, he said. He was hired to follow Gwudz on May 20, 2015.

Last season, Bassett added a title of his own, winning the Division III championship behind point guard Mikey Buscetto, Waterford's all-time leading scorer. The Lancers were 25-2. This, year, without Buscetto, Waterford moved up to Division II. What did the coach think then?

"People said, 'Your cupboard's bare,'" Bassett said Sunday. "I said, 'My cupboard's not bare, but I bought some new groceries.'"

The Lancers entered the Division II tournament as the top seed and finished 26-1 with another Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament title, as well, also at Mohegan Sun.

Assistant coach Tim Lineburg was asked Sunday for any juicy Bassett stories he might have.

"I got one," Lineburg said. "Last year when we were here, he looks at us, at the team bench, and he says, 'Where are the team fouls in this place?' (They're in a pronounced spot on the scoreboard). We were like, 'Look up at the biggest numbers on the board.'"

"Then he asked again today," assistant Mike Stroneski said smiling, aiding the narrative.

Lineburg said Bassett isn't always even-keeled — "sometimes he'll tell me, 'I can't wait for spring (to be away from Lineburg when basketball's over)' and I say, 'I can't either' — but then everything's OK. We'll figure it out."

But staff and players always know they can express themselves to Bassett without it being taken personally.

"He's so approachable," Waterford junior Payton Sutman said. "Him and Timmy always listen to our input ... he has enough trust in us. But he has control in us at all times. We know that when he raises his voice, we need to give him our attention."

The Lancers have now won 41 out of their last 42 games under Bassett, the guy who has taken to wearing the same checked shirt and red tie during this current state tournament run.

Who knows, maybe next year, even without another group of seniors who graduate with a championship ring, Bassett will find a way to get the Lancers back here once again.

"I love teaching," Bassett said. "I love coaching."

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

 

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