So, we’re at least four months away from the start of Section 1 basketball being at the forefront of our minds, but Yorktown High Athletic Director Rob Barrett, a hoops guy by trade, made a big splash last week when he called me en route to his beach vacation to the Maryland shoreline.
Barrett, now in Year 2 at Yorktown after taking over for legendary A.D. Fio Nardone, named Mark Pavella to replace Kevin Downes as the boys’ varsity basketball coach, and followed that up with tabbing Brian Mundy as the girls’ varsity hoops coach, pending BOE approval for both come late August.
Here’s the deal for Pavella and Mundy, though: As dedicated as they are (and there’s no doubt about that), and as devoted as Yorktown High athletes are (ditto!), hoops is no better than third in the pecking order in the glory-filled land of the Cornhuskers.
Lacrosse and football are No.1 and 1A among the alpha males at Yorktown (with soccer pushing the envelope), while lacrosse, softball and volleyball dictate the priorities among the ladies at Yorktown, among the finest public schools – athletics and academia considered – in Section 1.
Again, here’s the deal: Turnover at the top of the boys’ and girls’ basketball program is not conducive to building and sustaining a program, so the hope here is that Pavella, who has worked under former Yorktown/Mahopac Coach Kevin Downes for much of the last decade, sticks and stays for at least a decade. Alongside Downes, Pavella has mentored under one of the most respected coaches in Section 1, a dude who guided Yorktown to the 2017 Class AA Final 4 and previously took Mahopac to the promised land with four consecutive Class AA Final 4 appearances (plus one infamous championship setback vs. Mount Vernon); the kind of success Mahopac had only dreamed about prior to 2010.
“I’m very excited about these hires,” Barrett said. “Coach Pavella is a solid in-district hire who worked under Coach Downes and makes for a smooth transition, and Coach Mundy works with the kids in the middle school as our SRO officer, so he’ll get to know the girls before they even get to high school. Both of them are committed basketball coaches, and that’s what we need here to make our basketball programs consistent forces. These guys will be able to get our athletes committed to basketball, and the process will begin as soon as they get board approval.”
Downes recently left the Yorktown program to be alongside his son, Quincy, one of Section 1’s premier middleweight wrestlers at Fox Lane, so that’s as noble as it gets, and inserting Pavella into Downes’ former role is a no-brainer.
“I think Mark is a great choice, emphasis on great,” said Downes, who lost to Scarsdale in the 2017 sectional semis after a stunning quarterfinal road win at Spring Valley to advance to the County Center. “He is a fantastic coach, great with kids, pays great attention to detail and is a real teacher of the game and a very competitive person. He’s been my assistant for a long time and I can honestly say I doubt I would have continued to coach without him. That’s how important he was to me and both programs at Mahopac and Yorktown.”
Pavella is more chill than Downes (most coaches are), but he possesses the ability to draw athletes to the program, something Yorktown needs if its basketball program is going to sustain the riches it has in lacrosse and football.
“Mark has a great temperament and the kids have always respected him, as opposing coaches and officials do, too,” said Downes. “He will get the best out of every kid and understands every kid is different and he will find a way to bring out their strengths so they can contribute.”
Pavella was a terrific guard at Mahopac and went to the County Center as a both a player at Mahopac and as an assistant coach, so he knows what it takes to reach the next level.
“He’s a winner and will do a great job,” Downes proclaimed! “It’s great that he’s in the district, so he knows the younger kids and is a respected teacher as well. I’ve told him for years he was ready to take over his own program, but I was glad he never did and stayed with me. Yorktown is lucky to have him.”
The same can be said for Mundy, a respected man about the town with close ties to students and faculty. There were many great choices for both positions, but with both these selections, Barrett, and the Yorktown administration, have sought and hired candidates from within, a touch that breeds loyalty and banks credit within the faculty… a no-brainer for the BOE. Well done, friends!
Randomness: I’ll be extremely interested to see the connection between incumbent Mahopac senior QB Anthony Corrado and senior WR Rheal Allen, who, at 6’4” and 200 pounds, looks like the first D-I receiving prospect I can ever remember at Mahopac. Kid runs a 4.7 40 and deadlifts 450 pounds, so this is a rare combo of speed and strength that Coach Dom DeMatteo should abuse in Year 2 as Indian boss. Corrado, who takes over for two-year starter Ryan Dugan, could be a diamond in the rough and has some legit weapons in Allen and senior RB Tim Cegielski. Fact is: Mahopac has some legit skill players to build upon a terrific 6-3 season…
Class A Somers took second place in the Lakeland summer soccer league last week, falling in PKs to Class AA John Jay EF, and we get the feeling that the Jon Riina/Lucas Fecci-led Tuskers won’t be losing too many games this fall. With all the former 2016 state champs return this season, and the chip on their shoulder after last year’s stunning quarterfinal loss to Nyack on PKs, one would think Somers has something to play for in the fall of 2018. Looking forward to seeing the Tuskers in the Yorktown Tournament in early September and the potential of a Tusker/Husker matchup between the former 2016 Class A state champs and the 2017 NYS Class AA runner-ups at Yorktown: One can only hope.