By ANTHONY LIFRIERI
Northport boys’ basketball is heading into a new season with a new head coach and a bevy of returning talent. However, the coach is a familiar face to the Northport faithful.
Andrew D’Eloia, an East Northport native and 1991 Northport High School graduate, takes over a Northport team featuring six seniors. D’Eloia was a multisport athlete at Northport and Hobart College. D’Eloia has a spot in the Hobart Hall of Fame, and after graduating, started building his coaching resume.
D’Eloia spent two years as an assistant coach at Northport, then another year at a high school in Brooklyn before spending the past two seasons as an assistant at Hunter College. He also spent numerous years as an AAU basketball coach and as the founder of AD Hoops in Brooklyn.
However, this season, the prodigal son returns to Northport as its head coach. “It brought back a lot of memories from my playing days,” D’Eloia said of his new job. “It’s been really enjoyable. Northport basketball has a special place in my heart, so to have a chance to coach these guys is really exciting.”
Joining D’Eloia’s coaching staff are two other former Tigers. Adam Cirnigliaro is a former Northport baskerballer and Tim Dunne was a former player who has been with the program for over five years, according to D’Eloia. Cirnigliaro will add energy to practices while Dunne will provide analysis.
Although he will make some changes to the program, D’Eloia said he hopes to maintain what the previous two coaches achieved. “I want to build on the foundation that Sean Boylan and George Franck preached,” D’Eloia said. “They did a great job to instill the work ethic and demanded accountability. I have the utmost respect for Coach Franck and Coach Boylan, because of how hard they worked to get the program where it is.”
Offensively, D’Eloia will run a combination of what he calls an “early offense game,” which emphasizes quick strikes before the opposing defense can set up, and a half court attack based on the Tigers’ opportunity and oppenent.
“We have some athleticism, so we’ll look to push the ball,” D’Eloia said. “When we’re playing some of the more athletic teams we’re going to change our strategy. If we don’t turn the ball over and make good decisions, we’ll be okay.”
Defensively, D’Eloia plans to show a multitude of looks to put the Tigers in position to contest the shot and rebound.
The incoming coach also inherits a talented team that includes seven seniors, and many of which played multiple sports like himself. Point guard Matt Smith, who served as the Tigers’ kicker this fall, will be D’Eloia’s court general and Thomas Kennedy will join him in the backcourt. Tyler Wojcik, one of Northport’s leading volleyballers, will play forward along with Luke Petrasek.
“We’re so fortunate that we have seven seniors,” D’Eloia said. “They all share collectively in the leadership responsibilities and lead in different ways.”
D’Eloia feels Petrasek can be one of the Tigers’ breakout players this season. “He’s put in a lot of work this offseason,” D’Eloia said of the senior. “He’s played on numerous all-star teams and worked on his game. In the first game he scored 24 points, nine higher than his high for last year. He’s made some strides and we’re excited about his progress.”
Currently, the Tigers are prepping for the rigors of the regular season. “We’re thrilled at how we’ve competed in practices and scrimmages,” D’Eloia said. “We played Chaminade in a scrimmage and challenged them for six quarters, and had great competition with Harborfields, who are ranked as high as three on Long Island.”
Northport will a play a tough regular season schedule this season, featuring back-to-back-to-back games against Commack, Half Hollow Hills East and Bay Shore, all before the holiday break. However, rather than focus on upcoming games, D’Eloia wants his team to take it one game at a time.
“We talked to the guys and told them they only get to play 17 more times. There’s not a game we won’t cherish,” D’Eloia said. “All the games are big to these kids right now. We’re trying hard not to look ahead. We have some exciting games coming up, but we’re not in a position to overlook an opponent and we won’t.”
The emphasis on making each game important comes from the coaches, who will use their experience as former Northport players to inspire the current crop of Tigers. “It’s a special thing,” D’Eloia said. “That’s part of what makes it so exciting. We hope the kids see how passionate we are and that it rubs off on them.”