Hurlock Enjoying the Challenge at Wolcott Tech
TORRINGTON - Brian Hurlock loves to teach, loves to coach basketball and he's in a great spot to do both in his fourth season at Wolcott Tech.
After leading the Wildcats on a historic run during the 2011-12 campaign, Hurlock and the Wildcats are going through some growing pains this season but everyone involved seems to be loving every minute of it.
There was Hurlock on Wednesday night, coaching, teaching, imploring his team to give all they had, and they did despite coming up short in a 37-23 loss to Windham Tech. Undaunted by the loss and proud of his kids' effort, you got the feeling Hurlock was looking beyond just one game, but at the entire season and program as a whole. And when he looks he sees a program that has come a long, long way.
This was a program that went winless over a 265-game stretch that started in 1990 and lasted into the 2009 season. After finishing 2009 with two wins, Wolcott Tech went 0-20 in 2010 and 2011. But those days seem so long ago.
Last season the Wildcats went 12-8 and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in program history. This season Wolcott Tech is 4-11 and needs to win four of its last five games for a return trip to the state tournament.
"Last season we had five seniors and four were starters and they knew what I was doing and what we were after as a program," Hurlock said. "This season we are playing a lot of younger and more inexperienced players and they are getting on the job training."
That was evident Wednesday night.
The effort and hustle were there, there was no doubt about that. But you could also see a team and some players that are still building, whether it be skill wise or in establishing a comfort level with each other on the court.
Despite the inexperience, Hurlock likes where his team is and where it is headed.
"Our program is improving," he said. "We are very young. We returned only 11 points per game from last season. I thought we had a chance to get five to eight wins and we are headed there. There are a couple games I wish we could have back."
After relying on a core group of seniors that played together for years last season, Hurlock's rotation of players this year includes a freshman, two sophomores and a junior. The inexperience has resulted in some of the Wildcats "winging it" and "learning on the fly" but it also bodes well for the future as the next couple seasons there will be some experience to build around.
"We lost a lot of seniors from last year but we are working hard and are a lot stronger as a team than we were at the beginning of the season, " said sophomore Michaelanne Albreada said. "Coach Hurlock is an amazing coach and has worked hard will all of us and made us the players we are today."
While the players all seem to enjoy playing for Hurlock, it's clear that he enjoys them as players as well. Hurlock has been coaching for 33 years, he's had good teams, good players and even a great player including four years at Bloomfield when he was Nykesha Sales' coach for two seasons. But he is having some of the best times he has had in his career with the wildcats and it goes beyond wins and losses.
"We have great kids, they want to be pushed and they want to learn and they work hard and they are also coming to school for their trade," Hurlock said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the type of young ladies I have on this team."
As far as the rest of the season goes, Hurlock and the Wildcats will try and squeeze as many wins as they can out of a schedule that is unkind to put it mildly. Wednesday was their fourth game in four days and that's not a great way for a young team to build any momentum, but Hurlock is taking it in stride, it's been worse.
"I like to coach and I like challenges. I come to the gym and am looking forward to it every day," Hurlock said. "I can tell you when I first took over the program my first year, I was thinking 'oh my gosh, what did I get myself into'. I'm having a good time. This is a great group I have. they are all good kids, they all want to learn and all like each other."
And they have a coach that likes them too.