DANBURY - The season might have been cut too short for the New Britain boys basketball team, but if the Hurricanes took anything away from this season, it’s the program is heading back in the right direction.
And much of that turnaround has to do with Kurt Reis.
Under the direction of the first-year head coach, the Hurricanes reached their first state tournament quarterfinals appearance since the 2013-14 season and despite falling to Immaculate in the Division II state tournament Monday night, saw an improvement of 10 wins from the previous year, going 17-6.
“I had fun this season,” Reis said. “I really enjoyed myself.”
When Reis was first hired, he wasn’t sure what the expectations for him were going to be. New Britain had not posted a winning season in each of the past two seasons, missing the Class LL tournament both times. The Hurricanes were 7-13 in 2016-17.
This season, New Britain hit both marks by the 13th game of the season and rolled into the CCC Tournament on a 10-game winning streak.
“I don't know what the expectations have been for the high school in general, because I wasn’t around,” Reis said. “Whatever those expectations may be, I’m trying to change them.”
Reis certainly has a history of winning.
Prior to coming to New Britain, Reis spent the past 11 seasons at Hartford Public. There he compiled a record of 179-76 (.702 winning percentage) and led the Owls to the Class M state final in 2008, before falling 63-55 to Stratford.
Most importantly, during Reis’ tenure with the Owls, his teams never missed the CIAC tournament and expected to do the same at New Britain.
First, Reis had to change what the expectations around the program were and in order to do so, he had to change the way things were run on the court. He demanded a lot from the Hurricanes over this past season.
“Coming into this year, coach Reis said two words ‘change’ and ‘sacrifice,’” senior Jahfari Newman said. “He said once we buy into those two things, good things would happen. He has us disciplined to the T. He worked us and worked us and worked us until we seen what we could accomplish as a team. There was never a day in practice or in the game where I could say him nor the coaches didn't give us 100 percent, nor can I say that there was a time where me and my guys didn't give everything we had on that court.”
And the players saw the results, both on the scoreboard and in the division standings.
“Everything the coaches did was in our best interest,” Newman said. “Whether it was bumping heads with us to get us tougher mentally or just getting on us about the littlest things that would make the biggest impact in the game.”
As hard as the season was for Newman, he enjoyed himself the most under Reis’s instruction.
“We obviously got the farthest in a while,” Newman said. “I felt like I had a lot of fun even though I wasn’t the biggest scoring threat or my performance wasn't always that good on the court, I was still able to lead the other 14 guys and I felt like I did a pretty good job at that.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org