After being a staple at the Westchester County Center for four straight years under former coach Kevin Downes, the Mahopac varsity boys basketball team has gone through some turmoil and endured a 6-12 season last year.
Former Pace University coach Jim Harter resigned after his first season with the Indians, leaving Mahopac in search of another new coach.
Enter Matt Simone, a 2006 Mahopac graduate, who is the new Mahopac boys basketball coach. Simone played basketball for the Indians under coaches Ted Georgalas and Tom McMahon.
“With the coaching changes the last few seasons, I plan to bring the ‘Mahopac brand’ of basketball back,” Simone said. “Playing for the program, as well as coaching here during its high points, I know what it takes and what it took for those teams to find success. Players across all levels must buy in to the system. Defense and toughness has always been a staple of the program, and we look for those two things to be the building blocks again this year.”
Simone previously coached the Solomon Schechter varsity girls basketball team last season. He coached the junior varsity at Horace Greeley the season before that and was the Mahopac freshmen coach from 2010-2013.
“I would describe my coaching style as focusing on getting players to play as hard as they can and to understand the basics of the game,” Simone said. “Team basketball is a big focus as well. As a coach, I believe it is not only my responsibility to teach X’s and O’s of the game, but also to teach life lessons through the game of basketball. I want the players to have fun and enjoy this experience.”
Two of Mahopac’s most important returning players, senior forward Daniel Foley and senior guard Christian Donahoe, both are currently out of action with injuries. Foley missed the majority of the varsity football season, while Donahoe suffered a rib injury during sectionals.
“(They) are working very hard to get themselves healthy and ready to return,” Simone said. “We are expecting both of them back as they will provide leadership and experience.”
Two other key returnees for the Indians are senior forward Aidan Hynes, a gritty defender and slasher on offense, and senior center Ryan Vitkus, who towers at 6-foot-7 and should be a force in the paint.
Some newcomers to the team who are expected to make an impact are junior guard Andrew Ryan, junior guard Dominic Iacuone and senior forward Connor Moloney.
“We have a lot of guards on this team who will compete in practice for playing time,” Simone said. “The depth and guys coming off the bench to provide a spark will be a big factor for this year’s team.”
Mahopac opens up the season when it hosts Beacon at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 and then will host Putnam Valley at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10.
“We are taking a game by game approach to this season and preparing and focusing on winning each game that is in front us,” Simone said. “We have a very athletic team, so we are hoping the athleticism and toughness can carry us throughout the season.”