Mike Long was named the Region III coach of the year this past season for his efforts on and off the court. With no returning players from last year’s roster Long had a difficult task in turning a bunch of kids that never played together into a team that could compete in the regionals.
Even though they lost in the first round in a heart breaker to Mohawk Valley 84-82, a game that the Vikings led by 14 in the second half, the season was still considered a success. I recently had a conversation with coach Long about the season and it went like this:
Q: What do you believe was the biggest positive takeaway from this season?
A: The biggest thing was how far these guys succeeded my expectations. When we started we had some scrimmages early. I think we had Sullivan, Fulton-Montgomery, and then RPI. All three scrimmages, in regulation of 40 minutes, we played two 20 minute periods and a 10 [minute period] … we were struggling to score. We were lucky if we broke 50. I’m going “this is going to be a long year.” So, looking back I’m just impressed as hell with these guys, how well they came together, how well they played together, and how they produced a 20-10 season.
Q: And what was the biggest negative?
A: Losing the last game. We were up by 10 with probably four or five minutes left. We had a tough call that was a three point play for Mohawk Valley.
Q: How do you plan on getting ready for next season?
A: Doing what I’m doing right now with these interviews with my players. I talk to everybody [sic] even the guys that are leaving [sic] trying to get an idea of what they thought about the season, where they think we could get better, where they can get better, where I think they can get better, and what they need to do in the offseason.
Q: What was most to blame for the regional loss?
A: Like I said previously, I thought that we went in with a game plan. Mohawk Valley ran a lot of ball picks and we worked on a particular type of defense to counter that and the guys did a great job of executing it. Mohawk’s very good. We had to play at the top of our game to beat them and I thought we did. Some mistakes down at the end really hurt us.
Q: What could you have done differently to succeed?
A: Overall through the season, with ten losses, we had a number of them that were the result of poor free throw shooting. We were ranked maybe in the top ten in free throw attempt for division three in the NJCAA. If you’re going to the line that often, you want to make them.
Q: What has kept you motivated here at Hudson Valley?
A: The last two years have been absolutely super. The guys have been great, they work hard and I enjoy being around them. I enjoy doing this. I like being around you guys.
Q: Are you excited for next season? Do you think you can be as successful as coach of the year again?
A: Absolutely excited. With eight guys coming back there’s no doubt about it.