Newport AD Busy Filling Multiple Voids

Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Newport — A generation or so ago, it wasn’t unusual for coaches to stay around long enough to coach the sons and daughters of players they originally mentored. Not so much anymore.

Low salaries and ever-present parental demands weigh heavily in how long coaches stay on the job. Nowadays, not only are coaches leaving the sidelines earlier, fewer quality applicants are after the jobs in the first place.

What has been happening in Newport High, however, even stretches the present coaching dilemma to the extreme.

Newport athletic director Jeff Miller was recently faced with the need to hire seven head coaches for the high school and four more at the middle school. Miller’s reponse to the situation: “I feel very fortunate,” he said.

An off-the-wall remark? No. Miller feels he has done his due diligence and hired some coaches that he thinks will not only keep Newport sports vibrant but on the upswing as well.

Miller has had vacancies to fill atop the boys soccer, girls soccer, football, golf, boys basketball, cross country and wrestling programs in the past few months. In the last few days, both soccer positions along with golf and boys basketball have been filled, and interviews for the football opening will begin soon.

Soccer has rarely found its way to the win column in a town where football and field hockey are the fall sports of choice. The girls program has gone 6-26 in the last two years, and the boys are winless in two varsity seasons.

The girls program will now be in the hands of Ray Curren who comes with a resume’ filled with soccer coaching experience. The Stevens High School guidance counselor spent nine years coaching the girls at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, Conn., where he is the school’s all-time wins leader. He also spent time coaching Connecticut’s East Haven High School to its first divisional title.

Curren takes over for Jon Hamel, who has a young family and wants to spend his coaching energy on the baseball program he guided to the NHIAA Division III semifinals earlier this month.

“He’s just a soccer guy,” Miller said of Curren.

Caleb Goodwin will take over the Tigers’ boys soccer program, having learned the game in Sunapee from the likes of coaches Jack Iacapino and Laurie St. Pierre. Goodwin will take over a program that was previously led by Ethan Jean, who has taken a teaching position in Portsmouth.

Goodwin may not have a lot of varsity coaching experience, but Miller is high on him because of his love for the sport. Goodwin has also coached for many years in the Newport and Grantham youth programs.

“He’s a very hands-on guy, and I expect him to be coaching the boys for a very long time,” said Miller. “He just loves to coach.”

Two other items lend to the Newport AD’s optimism. First, the Tigers will drop from D-III to D-IV in both genders, which should lead to more competitive matches. Second, even though both programs don’t have enough bodies to form junior varsity squads, each team has at least 15 players signed up for the coming fall campaign.

The varsity boys basketball team is rebounding from a rough season that saw head coach Greg Pickering dismissed during the season and Jean, the junior varsity coach, elevated to complete the year.

Miller feels he has found some stability for the program in the hiring of Bill Page, who most recently has been associated with the highly successful Windsor boys program. Yellowjacket basketball, which won the VPA Division III title in March, has made a name for itself by using an in-your-face defense and a racehorse offense.

“Page plans to incorporate some of that Windsor-type basketball with some ideas of his own,” said Miller.

Miller said Page has been and will continue to go to basketball clinics and wants to work in tandem with the middle school coaches.

“Windsor basketball is the type of basketball that produces teams that don’t beat themselves,” Miller said. “It would be great so see that type of basketball here. I’m excited.”

Golf remains one of Newport’s most successful sports, with three straight NHIAA state championships from 2014-16. George Campbell, the Tigers’ head coach the psat two years, has moved on, to be replaced by Heath Edwards, who teaches as the Sugar River Regional Technical Center.

In addition to being an avid golfer himself, Edwards’ son, David, played on two state championship teams in Newport.

“He knows the sport, and by teaching in town, he can perhaps entice some additional players as the numbers are getting low,” said Miller. “I feel good about this hire.”

Miller is still taking applications for the varsity wrestling and cross country programs and feels he has some people lined up for the middle school positions.