By Will LeBlond
ITHACA – After four years away from the position, Ithaca High Boys Basketball coach Brian Stone is back and more prepared than ever.
Stone stepped down from the role following the 2011-2012 season after leading the Little Red for many years. Even thought he wasn’t monitoring games from the sidelines, he followed IHS’s progress from the stands watching his son, Andrew, who is a senior on the team this season. But this season the position opened up again when former coach Jobe Zulu took a position as an assistant for the Tompkins Cortland Community College men’s basketball team.
Emotions were high for Stone when he was getting ready to start his first season back on the bench.
“I started this summer and I was really excited to get back into it,” said Stone. “I missed it.”
That excitement led into an immediate successful start to the season, as the Little Red knocked off defending Section IV champion Horseheads in the season opener. The momentum has continued for Ithaca, which entered the holiday break with a 6-1 record.
IHS capped off the pre-break schedule with a dominant 74-46 win over Vestal, which was led by a 23-point performance from Jordanny Cuevas-Marte. With a good crop of returning players in place, Stone has been able to bring back some of his old coaching philosophies to bolster the Little Red attack.
“I think I can still keep some things that I used in the past,” said Stone. “We’ll be running a little bit of UCLA offense, which is old school and it just fits our style.”
While those aspects of his approach to coaching have remained the same, there have also been changes this time around for Stone and how he handles the team. Observing the evolution of the game over the past four years and what works in present day basketball, he’s found himself better suited to lead the Little Red.
“I feel like I’m even better prepared to coach now than I was in the past,” said Stone. “Having viewed some things, I feel like I can offer more now.”
Stone has been coaching alongside his son, which is nothing new for the family, as Brian was also coached by his father back during his playing days. With Andrew dealing with an injury during the early going of the season, there has not been much in-game interaction between the pair, but the elder of the two can give a glimpse of what it’s like based off of his experience with his own father.
“It has its ups and downs, but I think he’s excited about it,” said Stone.
Andrew is one of 16 players on the roster, which has created a lot of depth for Ithaca to use to wear down teams. Along with the deep bench, Stone gushed about the Little Red team’s level of skill and physicality. With those elements in place, Stone and the Little Red have their sights set high on what the 2016-17 team could become down the road once tournament time heats up in February.
“I think the guys understand that we have the potential to be very good, we have some good athletes and some good scorers,” said Stone. “We’re hoping it all comes together.”
Following the hot start in 2016, the Little Red will look to pick up where they left off come 2017 when they host a pair of home games in early January. They will take on Corning on Wednesday, January 4, then will take on Union-Endicott two nights later before Horseheads will look for revenge when the Little Red pay them a visit on January 10th.