Tigers Taking Turn With Revved-Up Plan

  • J.T. Blaine

  • Joey Ackerman

Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Newport — Newport High boys basketball is changing — big time.

Gone is the strategy of bringing the ball up methodically, passing it around and looking for a shot close to the basket at the expense of attempting 3-pointers. And also gone, for the most part, is zone play on defense. It’s now man-to-man, full-court, all game long.

If that sounds a lot like how Windsor High plays basketball, it was planned that way.

When Newport athletic director Jeff Miller was looking for a new coach, he had Windsor basketball on his mind. And when Bill Page, who had been coaching with the Windsor program the past four years, applied, Miller signed him up. To make sure the program is Windsor-style top to bottom, another Yellowjacket disciple, Winnie Townsend, has come on board as the junior varsity coach.

Page, 51, a financial adviser for a medical company, spent most of his adult life working and coaching in Massachusetts, where he preached a lot of Windsor-style basketball. He’s been looking around for the right opportunity and was delighted when he was hired by Miller.

While it will be a run-and-gun philosophy, Page is determined that Newport will execute it with dignity.

“There will be no talking back to the officials or making faces or swearing or any type of bad behavior,” Page said on Monday. “If you play your hardest and we lose, that’s OK.

“Our job is also to groom young men. You win with class, and you lose with class. If you misbehave, you have a seat next to me.”

Two of the seniors on the Newport team, T.J. Blaine and Joey Ackerman, have bought into the philosophy.

Both players have been in the Tigers’ program the last four seasons. Last year was particularly painful, not only with just four wins but a coaching rotation as well. Three people — Greg Pickering, Ethan Jean and Tim Spanos — oversaw Newport at some point.

“I absolutely love the way we are being coached, ” said Blaine, who as a guard knows he’s going to have to be sharp with ball control during an up-tempo game. “I certainly have bought into it and can’t wait for the season to start.”

Ackerman agrees. “I believe in Coach Page, and I like him and his philosophy,” he added. ”I’m pretty sure we are going to win some games. I think our whole team feels that way.”

When Page was in the suburban hamlet of Millis, Mass., which is about 10 miles northwest of Foxborough, he was involved in a program that had the same philosophy for all basketball players from the fourth grade up. He would like to see that same thing happen in Newport.

When Page was hired by Miller last spring, he coached the team in the Lebanon summer league and, when football season came around, went to almost all the games.

“I met the players and parents; I really think there is hope here,” Page said. “This is the type of situation I was looking for. Listen: I care about kids, and I absolutely have no ego.”

Page said he is aware of what has been going on in Newport. “There is a dedication issue, and I will show the kids that I am dedicated and hope they follow suit,” he said. “There is a lot to learn about life playing sports. It’s not always wins and losses.

“I want the kids not only to come to every practice but come to every practice on time, play with pride, be a good citizen and display sportsmanship.”

Newport is coming off a scrimmage against Franklin in which Blaine said “we didn’t do so hot.” The Tigers open NHIAA Division III regular-season on Friday at always-powerful Conant.

“I know it’s going to be a challenge,” Page said.