Mr. Anthony Russell has been a coach and science teacher at EHHS for 22 years. He explains, “I was the boys' assistant for nine years, and when the position opened up, I thought I had enough experience to make the jump to being a head basketball coach. I was also the head cross country and track/field coach when I applied, so I did have head coaching experience.” There were a lot of ups and downs but his teams and he built a great culture/climate.
He was the boys’ assistant for nine years, and when the position opened up, he thought he had enough experience to make the jump to being a head basketball coach. He also was the head cross country and track/field coach when he applied, so he did have head-coaching experience. “I've coached boys & girls cross country, boys & girls basketball, and boys & girls track/field in some capacity over my 22 years,” says Mr. Russell. He has been an EHHS coach for a total of (53 total seasons.
There are a few reasons he will not be coaching the girls’ basketball team next year. He has been coaching for 22 years and it’s a year-round commitment. He commutes from Darien, which is roughly 50 miles one-way, so logically, it was very challenging. He also has two small children and would like to spend more time with them. He explained, “Priorities have a way of shifting when you become a parent.”
The best part of coaching for Mr. Russell was seeing their growth as players, but more importantly, as people over their four years in the program. Seeing the team grow and watching them support each other was amazing for him to watch and experience. “Baseketball mimics life.”
Mr. Russell is not sure if he will be coaching anything next year. His oldest son will be starting kindergarten and he would like to get him off the bus every day. Being there for both of his children is the most important thing to him right now. If he does coach in the 2021 - 2022 school year, it will only be cross country.
Mr. Russell explains his favorite coaching moments were some of our biggest EHHS victories. “It's tough not to pick our buzzer-beater game at Mohegan Sun Arena to win the school's first-ever girls basketball state championship in 2018. However, the first year we qualified for the state tournament was rewarding on so many levels for the kids and the coaching staff, especially after not qualifying our first three years,” says Mr. Russell.
I had a chance to interview 3 of the team captains. Being the team captain of the girls’ basketball team for Taylor Salato was something Current team captain Taylor Salato remembers she’d always wanted to be a captain since she was a freshman. “Being a captain holds a lot of responsibility, you have to be a leader to the younger classes and have to be someone who can be depended on,” says Taylor. For Taylor, being coached by Coach Russell over the last 4 years has been great. He is the most caring and kind-hearted guy anyone will ever meet. Coach Russell has taught her so much about the game of basketball that she will take with her to the next level and she is very thankful to have had the chance to play for him. “One of my favorite memories with Coach Russell by far is winning the Class M State Championship in 2018. That day was probably one of the best days, if not the best day of everyone's high school career. There are tons and tons of other memories that will never stray away from my mind. For example, our Sunday practices were always unforgettable. The relationships I got to make with him and the team off the court are some of the relationships I will never let go of.”
According to Erin Curran, it was an honor to be captain. It meant so much to her to be able to lead the team especially through such a difficult season with the COVID pandemic. She empathized with empathized a family mentality and never took anything for granted. Coach Russell was not only a coach but a friend.
He truly cares about each and every player, on and off the court. He always pushed her so that she could reach her fullest potential and taught her so much about growing as a player and individual. “My favorite memory has to be my freshman year season. We won the state championship that year and the entire experience was just magical. Advancing through the playoffs was such an adrenaline rush and winning the final game on a buzzer-beater was just a surreal feeling. None of it would’ve been possible without Coach Russell’s motivation.”
The last captain of the girls’ basketball team, Brooklyn Mortimer, enjoyed being captain and was very motivating for her. “Having your teammates look up to you, and being able to guide those around you is inspiring and almost reassuring when it comes to knowing you are a part of a forever family.” To her, it had meant that she was making decisions not only for herself but for those around her. It had strongly affected her goals and perspective. It was a great experience.
Like life, there will always be times when you reflect and wish you handled things differently. He is far from perfect. However, he is very pleased and proud of how the staff is leaving the program. It’s in a good place. “I will profoundly miss them, especially the players and my coaching staff. We built such a following. The atmosphere at our games was electric. I will now just be a fan, and I will be rooting for the team's continued success. I wish them the very best!”
Between practices and games, Coach Russell had not only incorporated strategies that would work on the court but also taught them a lot of things they could use in life. Whether that be communication, teamwork, or facing their challenges head-on. Coach Russell had a huge part in shaping who they were and they appreciate him and the entire coaching staff. He held a great influence over the team and who they have become as a person. “He is a one-in-a-million coach and I wouldn't have wanted to play basketball for anyone else. Some of my favorite memories would include winning our state championship, Sunday morning practices where we would stuff our faces with munchkins that Coach would bring for us, [with his sons, Hunter and Jackson running on and off the court] then regret it because we'd have to run minutes later, along with the never-ending bus ride concerts…. Sometimes after the practices, we would go up to Coach Russel's classroom to watch a game film and I'll never forget this one specific time when one of my teammates Ang had fallen asleep. We were all laughing so hard and I think at that moment was when Coach realized that that year would be like no other and his team would be filled with goofballs. Over the past four years, he's definitely learned to love all of us.. even if Ang falls asleep during the film,” says Brooklyn.
Good job Coach Russell! You will be missed as a Coach!