SOUTHINGTON - As new Southington girls basketball head coach Howie Hewitt sat down with the Blue Knights prior to his introductory press conference on Thursday, Hewitt wasted little time in expressing his goals with his new team.
Hewitt wants to bring the program a state championship.
“It’s an experience unlike any other,” Hewitt said to the team when trying to put into words the experience of bringing his former program, the Maloney boys basketball team, its lone state title back in 2008. “And there is no reason we can’t accomplish that here with the athletes we have. The sky is the limit.”
Hewitt’s first season will be focused on lifting a team that was grounded this past season, laboring through a 5-15 season, its first losing campaign since 2012. For a head coach that compiled a record of 457-285 with the Spartans, winning is hardly a foreign concept, and Hewitt hopes to rejuvenate a winning culture at Southington right away.
“The tradition has been set,” Hewitt said. “It’s not like I’m coming into a bare cupboard. [Southington] had some kids injured and some kids that didn’t play last year that I’m sure impacted their record. Getting those kids back I’m sure will be a big factor. There’s no reason why we can’t do very well.”
Hewitt will get to work right away in returning Southington back to a consistent winner after a blip in the radar last season. He will travel this weekend to watch his new players in AAU action, looking to form a familiarity and relationship with his group that he began when telling tales of his state title win at Maloney.
Hewitt’s relationship with Southington athletic director Greg Ferry also began before the Blue Knights were in the hunt for a new mind to lead the girls basketball team. Hewitt, who also spent time coaching softball, cross country and other sports during his extended tenure at Maloney, also served as an athletic director himself, where he built a familiarity with Ferry. Once Ferry received word that Hewitt was interested in making a change, Ferry knew a deep background in sustained success would be just what the Blue Knights needed.
“It was a factor,” Ferry said. “It helped me see him in action throughout the years, me being an athletic director observing other schools, and working alongside him when he was an athletic administrator. He treats people with a lot of respect and is a great human being.”
For Hewitt, the attraction to Southington stretched much further back than his days as an athletic director. Hewitt, 66, may have strong ties to Maloney that spanned nearly four decades, but his original roots stretch back to his new place of employment.
“I was born in Southington, and was here until I was seven or eight,” Hewitt explained. “So I have that tie. My dad has since passed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he rose from the dead if he ever heard I got a job here coaching at Southington. It would have made his life.”
Back at his place of birth, Hewitt hopes to continue the school’s winning tradition in the simplest, most straightforward way possible: put the ball in the basket.
“I know that sounds funny, but I can’t tell you how many coaches over the years have come up to me and asked, ‘Do you guys work on that a lot? Do you guys shoot in practice a lot?’” Hewitt said. “And I’m stunned. That’s how you score points, by shooting in practice.”
The Spartans have enjoyed a wealth of offensive success under Hewitt, which should be a welcomed sight for a Southington group that averaged just 38.5 points per game, and dropped its last six contests of the season. Of course, that’s an epilogue for an era that has already been completed. The 2019-20 campaign will be the first chapter of a book that Hewitt hopes will be dog-eared with a number of winning seasons, and hopefully a state championship that he tried his best to explain to his new group. Whether they were able to grasp what a state title would feel like or not, Hewitt was optimistic after his meeting with his new team.
“Just interacting with the girls today, they all seem anxious to play and get going,” Hewitt said. “They were anxious to say how they felt and what they wanted to do. I thought the interaction was great. They’re kids who just want to play and compete. It will be a great opportunity for me, and hopefully for them.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org