To watch a Southold High School girls basketball practice is to watch Joe Read in action, and that is a sight to behold.
Southold’s new coach moves about the court almost as much as his players. The energetic and enthusiastic Read sometimes participates in drills himself, shouting out encouragement and instructions to his players along the way.
One can tell that Read likes his new job, and why not? There’s an awful lot to like about the situation. Not only is Read taking over the defending Long Island Class C champions, but he’s taking over a team that graduated only three players and one starter from that team, which fell one win shy of a place in the New York State final four.
“The only thing I think I can do is screw it up, but I’m trying to avoid that,” Read said jokingly.
The mere mention of Southold’s magical postseason run is enough to bring a smile to a player’s face. The First Settlers won league, county and Long Island titles before finally succumbing to a superior John A. Coleman Catholic team in the Southeast Region final. Southold, which finished with a 16-7 record, became a Long Island champion for the first time since 2002 when it was a Class D team.
“That was just like a blessing,” Southold shooting guard Carley Staples said during Monday night’s practice. “It was really amazing, and it gives me chills every time I think of it, and I just hope to achieve as much as we can this year, too, and just really give it our all like we did last year.”
A case could be made that Southold is in an even better position this season, with its returning players, including Nicole Busso, Sydney Campbell, Melissa Rogers, Abby Scharadin and Staples, who all saw time as starters.
Now Read, Southold’s fourth coach in three years, is asking his players to put last season behind them and concentrate on the task at hand: preparing for the upcoming season.
“What I’m asking them to do is to expect more out of themselves,” he said. “Let’s forget last year. … Let’s be as good as we can.”
So far Read has already made an impact, focusing on free-throw shooting and aggressive defense.
Read knows the importance of free throws. He knows a team can win games at the foul line. “Those are free points,” he said.
Staples, one of the team’s five seniors, said, “I never realized that you could change your foul shot this late in your life.”
Campbell said she has reworked her foul-shooting mechanics and has improved tremendously in that area along with her teammates, thanks to Read.
Read brings an interesting mix of competitive fire and humor to the court. “He coaches in a different way than any other coach that we’ve had before, but I really think it’s working and it’s helping all of us,” said Campbell.
Read, who was on Bishop McGann-Mercy’s coaching staff before coming to Southold, is a believer in fast-paced offense and intense — really intense — defense.
And while Read does not want his players to dwell on the past, Staples believes last season’s experience will have an impact on the new season.
“I think we know how good we can be,” she said. “It really boosted our confidence. I feel like we made it that far and we can be as good as we want to be. We just have to keep pushing ourselves.”
Having coached Southold in a summer league and having coached against the First Settlers while he was with McGann-Mercy, Read said he had gotten to know something about the Southold players.
“They’re a very close-knit group and they get along with each other very well,” he said. “That is a tremendous plus.”
He added: “I think they have so much more potential than they’re playing at. I think the sky’s the limit, and so far, I think they believe that, too.”