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Not dog-tired yet: Avellino adds Woodstock boys hoop coach role

  • Woodstock's new head basketball coach Tom Avellino directs players at the start of practice in Woodstock, Vt., on Dec. 12, 2019. At left are Harrison Morse, John Saggese and at right is Tyler Bean, Alex Rice and Manny Pacheco. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photograph

  • Woodstock's veteran soccer coach Tom Avellino gives directions to his team as he settles into his new job as the Wasps' head basketball coach during a practice as Alex Rice, left, listens in Woodstock, Vt., on Thurs., Dec. 12, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • Tom Avellino, new head coach for the Woodstock varsity boys program, uses an invisible ball as he leads a dribbling exercise from awkward positions, flanked by Ryan Ducharme, lower left, and Tyler Bean in Woodstock, Vt., on Dec. 12, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photograph

  • Tom Avellino is no stranger to Woodstock High sports, having coached girls tennis in the past as well as with his ongoing guidance of the Wasps' boys soccer program. (Valley News — Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file — Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 10:10:58 PM
Modified: 12/13/2019 10:10:43 PM

Tom Avellino’s wife, Kathy, is used to her husband being absent most fall nights due to Woodstock High boys soccer commitments. It’s one of the reasons why they have two dogs, Holly and Ginger.

But this winter, Kathy will have some additional time with their dogs thanks to Tom Avellino filling in a last-minute vacancy as the Wasps’ boys basketball coach.

“I’m very passionate about athletics in general. Sometimes it takes people a while to figure that out,” Avellino said over the phone on Monday. “But, you know, to me, all these varsity coach jobs take a lot of work. It isn’t work because I really enjoy doing it.”

Basketball and Woodstock aren’t anything new to Avellino. He’s been associated with the high school for more than 20 years; his first job was coaching girls tennis.

A native of Dolgeville, N.Y., Avellino was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball. A job as a program director at the Woodstock Sports Center drew him to the Upper Valley.

Eventually, he transitioned to a support staff role at the high school, where he spends half his day working in the special education department and the other doing a hodgepodge of jobs.

In the fall and spring, Avellino can be found maintaining the athletic fields. In the winter, he paints and does routine maintenance work.

“It’s a pretty good gig; obviously, the best part of my day starts after the last bell rings,” he said with a laugh.

Avellino had never played soccer when he started to coach his son, Dougie, at the youth levels. When the varsity job opened up at Woodstock eight years ago, then-athletic director Jeff Thomas pushed him to apply, knowing that Avellino’s work ethic would outweigh his knowledge of the game.

Since he took over, Woodstock’s gone 87-34-13 and has lost in the state title game three times.

“I never played soccer, but I’m always going to be a student of the game,” he said. “What you’re trying to teach kids at the high school level has a lot to do with motivation. Yeah, Xs and Os are part of it. But everybody’s trying to do the same things.”

When Wasps athletic director Quaron Pinckney and coach Joel Carey mutually parted ways at the end of last season, Pinckney went out and hired Jamal Hughes to take over the program.

But this summer, the head coaching job opened up at Vermont Tech, and Hughes was drawn back to his alma mater, ultimately thrusting Avellino into his new role.

Avellino’s coached the junior varsity basketball team the past few years, but he knows that the responsibility of leading a varsity program is much different. He’ll be looked at as the leader of basketball in Woodstock.

“It was an easy role for him to step up and fill in. He’s passionate about coaching whichever sport he’s coaching, so that makes it easier as well,” Pinckney said. “That first scrimmage that we had at home last week, he had a great command of the huddle. He has a great command of Xs and Os. He expects a lot out of these guys.”

In the past three seasons with Woodstock-graduate Carey at the helm, the Wasps went 26-38. They reached the playoffs all three years but never advanced past the quarterfinals.

Pinckney and Avellino have higher hopes for the program. Pinckney was quick to point out that Woodstock went undefeated and won a state championship in the 2014-15 season. Still, the two believe that a culture shift has to take place.

Avellino inherits a roster with six sophomores and just three seniors. The Wasps will lack experience and height, but he’s hopeful that good ball pressure and athleticism can give Woodstock an advantage.

“It takes time to change the culture, to build a program. That’s why I’m signing up for the long term,” he said.

If he wants to change the culture, that means he’ll need to spend more time in the gym and more time at the school he’s been at for 20 years — and, yes, less time with his dogs.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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