No. 3 Sports Story of 2012: The Ellis era ends in Southold

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Jeff Ellis, who may have been the most successful boys basketball coach that Southold has ever had, stepped down after a tumultuous season.

After 14 seasons in charge, arguably the most successful boys basketball coach in Southold’s history stepped down following the most tumultuous of those seasons.

To some, the news that Jeff Ellis would no longer be coaching the First Settlers might have been stunning; to others, not so much.

After initially applying to be reinstated to the post, Ellis said, he withdrew his name from consideration for the job this season. He did not wish to say why he walked away.

In his place, Phil Reed who had been Southold’s junior varsity coach for the past six seasons, was named the team’s new coach.

“This was a position I honestly thought I’d never leave,” Ellis told The Suffolk Times. “I thought I would have it until I retired.”

Ellis made his mark as Southold’s coach. Under his guidance, the First Settlers went 154-124 (.554). They reached the playoffs in 11 of his 14 seasons, won two Suffolk County championships and reached the New York State Class C semifinals.

Ellis coached Southold to its first Suffolk and Long Island championships in at least 57 years in the 2004-5 season. More history followed. The following season, with a splendid backcourt of Seamus Long and Sean O’Hara, Ellis guided the First Settlers to the state final four for the first time in team history. Southold enjoyed another memorable season in 2009-10, when it went undefeated during the regular season, winning all 18 games.

But 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, who was a senior, missed four games.

Ellis has not ruled out a return to coaching.

“I loved it,” he said. “I really did. You got to move on.”

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