Boys varsity basketball mobilizes quickly for preseason after loss of head coach



Boys varsity basketball captains and volunteer support staff have worked together to maintain focus during preseason, despite uncertainty as to the future head coach of the program.

Days before boys varsity basketball’s preseason was set to begin, senior and captain Zach Weisman learned that the varsity coach of five years, Courtney Valentine, had been released for the upcoming year. Weisman worked with his co-captains, seniors Taj Horowitz and Makyle Hayes, and volunteer staff to organize early preseason tournaments and workouts.

Weisman said the volunteer support of coaches, including last year’s volunteer varsity assistant coach E’Lon Julien and last year’s assistant freshman coach, was crucial in helping the team stay on track.

“Losing a head coach at any time in the season is hard for a team. To me, to us, it came as a surprise. We were ready to start working when I heard of the removal. But with quick mobilization and additional help, we were able to restore our preseason literally days before our first preseason game,” Weisman said.

With tryouts in December, Athletic Director Kyle Williams is searching for a new head coach, but has not set a specific deadline. Williams declined to comment on the reason for Valentine’s removal.

“Jobs are posted, and we want to leave it open long enough to be able to get the word out, get good candidates in and then review those candidates and interview them,” Williams said. “The sooner we can get someone in place, the better we can prepare [the team] to have a successful season. The sooner the better, but that’s in balance with building out a great candidate pool and making sure we interview them.”

Williams said he turned to the captains of the team to gain more clarity as to what they value in a coach.

“When hiring coaches, you look at people who appreciate the athletic and academic relationship, know their sport well and support the student, the athlete and the individual as well. Our kids are more than just one or the other. We look for someone who does team building and is a good communicator,” Williams said.

Senior Cameron Evans said he hopes the athletic department will hire a coach who prioritizes connecting with the players.

“[I want] someone who is understanding of children because sometimes it’s hard to work with kids if you don’t understand kids,” Evans said.

Julien, who has been helping with preseason games on weekends, has worked in the boys program exclusively as a volunteer, but said he was recently asked by the athletic department to apply for the position of head coach following Valentine’s abrupt removal. Julien said he hopes to hear back from the athletic department soon.

“He should tell us the future of the program and what kind of direction they want to go, whether it’s with me or not,” Julien said.

Julien said because he cares so deeply about the team, he hopes a new coach is hired soon to make things easier on the players.

“I just have this connection with these kids. We always put the kids first. It would be good to know, not only on our side, but for the kids too, because the kids are like ‘What’s going on?’ That’s the thing that kind of bothers me right now. We’re just trying to stick together and keep the program going,” Julien said.

Julien said he has other coaching opportunities, but would prefer to work in Brookline where he already knows the team.

“For me, it’s just all about the kids. I just want to see these guys grow on and off the basketball court,” Julien said. “We have a great group this year. We have three seniors that are great leaders, Taj, Makyle and Zach. I just hope the program keeps growing and I’m excited to see what happens with these guys.”

While the search for a head coach continues, the team is doing their best to focus on making the most of preseason. Weisman said the preseason is very important as it sets the tone for the actual season.

“The preseason games are critical for getting in shape for the regular season because these games are the only time where we are able to play basketball as a team, because we can’t play in the school per Massachusetts Interscholastic Association (MIAA) rules,” Weisman said.

Julien said he is excited to see how the team will come together in the coming months.

“We have a lot of young guys, and we have a cool blend of guys that are seniors. We also have a good group from JV moving up to play varsity this year. It’s exciting to see what happens with them and [how they] grow,” Julien said.

Weisman said despite the challenges, he is hopeful for a successful and meaningful season.

“For me and the rest of the seniors, I just hope that we have a great senior season that is not affected by this removal,” Weisman said. “And for the rest of the guys, I want them to understand the core values of Brookline basketball and I just want to be able to reestablish that sense of hardwork and effort, even though we’re in a tough situation.”

Courtney Valentine declined a request for comment.