New coach, new system mean change is byword for program
First-year coach Anthony DiNicola takes the helm after a stint at Interboro and is willing to take the early-season lumps needed to establish a new basketball culture for the Indians after a 5-15 overall record and a frustrating 2-9 record in the Ches-Mont American.
Put simply, DiNicola thinks this program can — and should — be better.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be competitive, year-in and year-out,” he said.
First off, DiNicola is tossing out the old flex-style, dribble heavy offense and replacing it with a modified version of the Triangle, the offense Phil Jackson won numerous NBA titles with over the last two decades. Mixed with a few backdoor cut, Princeton-style offense wrinkles, Unionville will be more dependent on smart passing, precision and detail than in pure ball-handling skills. Defense will be a work in progress, as DiNocola is working to improve his players’ man-to-man skills — and at least in the early going, may have play more zone than he would prefer.
What the Indians lack in experience they seem to make up for in height. With senior Mike Sundry (6-2) at small forward, 6-3 junior Doug Ott at power forward and senior center Tyler Fries (6-7), Unionville could have one of the bigger frontcourts in the Ches-Mont American Division. With senior Matt Christopher (6-2) at off guard and 6-0 junior Garret Geiger at small guard (the triangle doesn’t use a traditional point guard), DiNicola will have a large starting lineup with good hands. Ross McManus, a 6-1 sophomore is likely to see important minutes, although DiNicola thinks a couple of other sophomores may end up in the rotation before all is said and done.
But — both with a new system and very few veteran players returning from last season — experience is going to be an issue in the early going, starting with Friday night’s season opener against Garnet Valley (7 p.m. at Unionville High School).
“We’ve got nine guys who’ve basically never played varsity basketball,” DiNicola said.
So far, he says, he’s pleased with the amount of progress he’s seen since beginning work with the squad in late summer — but noted some of the players who also play football, such as Ott and McManus, are a little behind in picking up the new system, having been busy helping the Indians to a seven-win season on the gridiron.