Getting back in the gym: Mascoma hires former hoops star as head coach

  • Mascoma's Silas Ayres drives for the hoop in a game against Littleton in West Canaan, N.H., on Jan. 26, 2001. Ayres reached the 1,000-point career mark in the 104-65 victory. (Valley News - Toby Morris) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ayres

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 5/28/2019 10:05:39 PM

WEST CANAAN — Jim Barry wanted Silas Ayres to be more involved on the hardwood. To do that, he cornered him near the softwood.

The two men share two things in common: They’re both contractors, and they both coach basketball. Barry liked what he’d seen and heard of Ayres when he was in the market for a junior varsity assistant a few years ago, and he put on a sales pitch to get the Mascoma High graduate back on the floor.

“I just fell into the JV job,” said Ayres, who was recently hired as Barry’s varsity replacement with the Royals. “Barry approached me at a lumber yard and asked me if I wanted to apply for the JV job. It went from there.”

It’s been a long time — and long route — for Ayres to return to his alma mater. A 1,000-point scorer with the Royals and a 2001 graduate, Ayres fell out of love with basketball after two years playing at St. Joseph’s College in Maine.

He got his degree and gradually worked his way into the construction business, but it took time for him to regain the desire to be around basketball as much as he’d been as a youth.

He’s grabbing his newest opportunity with eagerness. Barry stepped down after last winter, amassing a 128-90 record in 10 varsity seasons at Mascoma.

“He’s put a lot of time into that program; as far as the high school level, he’s been staying for most of my practices after the JV practices,” Barry said of Ayres, who joined the Royals’ staff four years ago. “For the most part, he knows the families well; he knows the players well. He’s just 100% committed to that community. … He holds people accountable. The practices are demanding. He tells it like it is.”

Ayres, 37, holds a place in the annals of Mascoma boys basketball, having scored 1,169 points over four seasons with two different coaches, Tim Winslow (now at Hanover) and Mike Gaudette (now at White River Valley) from 1997-2001.

Ayres’ teams won a lot of games, topping out with a 22-2 mark and a trip to the NHIAA Class M semifinals his senior season.

That led to a spot on the men’s basketball program at St. Joe’s. Given a second chance, Ayres said he would have completed all four seasons of ball there, but two were enough to tell him it was time to step back.

“I don’t think a lot of people know how much work it actually takes at that level,” Ayres said. “I kind of lost the love for putting in the work at that time. It got to be more of a job than a sport. … I kind of lost the drive to put in the offseason work. I wanted to focus on being a student for once in my life.”

Once back in the Upper Valley, he gradually gravitated back to the floor. He ran an AAU team for Mascoma players for a time and did some grade-school coaching, which ultimately rekindled his love for the game.

“A friend of mine got back into coaching; his kid was playing first- and second-grade basketball, and he wanted some help,” Ayres said. “That’s how I got back into coaching, and it went from there.”

Mascoma has some decent building blocks coming back from last winter’s 10-11 team. The Royals had three players in the Upper Valley’s top 25 scoring rankings; two of them, freshman Ben Seiler (12th, 13.60 ppg) and sophomore Connor Thompson (24th, 11.53 ppg) are scheduled to return.

“He’s developed quite a following in the community,” Mascoma athletic director John Kelly said. “He’s a popular guy. He knows the game. He’s very intense. He’s an excellent teacher.”

Ayres said he plans on being “a gym rat” this summer as he prepares for his first varsity coaching season.

“I realized that I really love the game of basketball, and I’m still learning it,” he said. “I can learn as much as I want, but I can never stop learning.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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