When the Southold High School boys basketball team rolls out the basketballs for its first preseason practice in mid-November, it will do so with a new coach.
Phil Reed, who had been Southold’s junior varsity coach for the past seven seasons, has been appointed the varsity team’s new coach, replacing Jeff Ellis. Ellis, who has over 100 career wins to his credit with the First Settlers, was not reappointed after 14 seasons in charge of the team. He had coached Southold to its first Suffolk County championship in at least 57 years in the 2004-5 season. The following season, with a splendid backcourt of Seamus Long and Sean O’Hara, Ellis guided the First Settlers to the New York State final four for the first time in team history.
Last season was a difficult one for Ellis and his team. Southold finished with a 6-12 record in a season that was marked by controversy. During the season, the team’s best player, Winston Wilcenski, was kicked off the squad before being reinstated without public explanation. Wilcenski missed four games of his senior season.
The Southold athletic director, Joe Braico, said he would not discuss the circumstances surrounding the coaching change. “I would prefer that we look forward instead of looking back at this moment,” he told The Suffolk Times on Thursday afternoon.
Attempts to reach Ellis and Reed for comment were unsuccessful.
Braico said Reed was the top choice as Ellis’ successor.
“Phil, I think, has done an excellent job in the past as our J.V. coach,” Braico said. “I think he does a great job with practices. I think he does a great job with the student/athletes as well, and we’re very excited to have him as our varsity coach this year.”
Reed’s familiarity with the program was seen as a plus. “He does know the situation, he does know the kids, he does know the culture here at Southold,” Braico said, “so I think the transition is going to be a good one.”