The break from the recent past — as in last season — is almost complete. The Southold/Greenport high school girls basketball team has a new coach (Howie Geismar), a new assistant coach (Maria Troisi) and a whole bunch of new players.
Perhaps the most telling way to look at it is like this: sophomores Toni Esposito, Madison Tabor and Katie Tuthill are the only returning players from last season’s team. And Tuthill, a forward, is out indefinitely with a concussion she suffered while playing field hockey in September.
“It’s like we wiped the slate clean and we’re starting over again,” said Geismar, the team’s fifth coach in five years who takes over from Joe Read.
Geismar said this is the first girls basketball team he has coached in about 12 years. He had coached Shoreham-Wading River middle school and junior varsity teams before, but this is his first varsity girls basketball team.
Geismar said he is excited about his new job. “It’s hard to go to sleep at night, you know,” he said in an interview after Friday’s practice. “You’re thinking about practice the next day. You’re thinking about what you’re going to do.”
Geismar, who had previously coached the Southold junior varsity boys basketball team, knew only one player before preseason practice started on Wednesday. That is Angie Bucci, who played first singles on the Southold/Greenport girls tennis team Geismar coached this fall.
But Geismar said he had the names of all his basketball players down by the second practice. Not bad.
Putting together a winning team will undoubtedly be harder. Not only have the Clippers lost seven players to graduation, but they are young. Real young. Fourteen of the 19 players trying out for the team are either freshmen or sophomores.
“Very young, very new,” Tabor said. She continued: “It’s kind of hard with how many seniors graduated, but I’m looking to see where we can go this season. I’m excited about it.”
Geismar has his work cut out for him, and he knows it. He said, “We have a young team, very young, so it’s going to make for a difficult year, I’m sure, wins-wise, but the future is bright.”
The Clippers will surely make good use of Esposito and Tabor, two guards who run the floor well and can play hard defense. Defense is a big part of Geismar’s plan. “I believe in defense,” he said. “Defense wins games, so we want to be a tough-nosed defensive team and we want to execute on offense, and we want to be in better condition than the other team, and we want to play hard all the time.”
The Clippers went 5-12 last season, losing to Pierson/Bridgehampton in the Suffolk County Class C final.
“Last season was really good,” said Tabor, who was the League VIII rookie of the year. “We made it to the playoffs but unfortunately we lost. But we’re going to see if we can make it there again this year. We all just got to get used to playing with each other. I’m excited to see how it’s going to go.”
Although it’s still early in the process, Geismar said he likes what he has seen from sophomore Jamie Molnar. “I think she’s going to be good for us at the center spot,” he said. He also cited the play of forward Kenya Sanders in practices, saying, “She stood out.”
And Geismar has already made an impression on his players.
“He’s good,” Esposito said. “He knows what he’s doing.”
Asked to describe himself as a coach, Geismar answered: “I’m a fair coach. I’m fair and flexible, but I’m also tough when I have to be.”
He added: “I want to set a tone that they have to work hard, that they have to pay attention to details and they got to do all the little things correctly. … That’s how you get better at basketball.”