Jacque Rivera, the former gym teacher and basketball coach known for his quick wit and broken clipboards, left the MacDuffie School last year for a new coaching opportunity at Woodstock Academy. Along with his departure, players such as Ismael Massoud, James Bouknight and Richie Springs left to play at the collegiate Division 1 level, and other role players with college potential either graduated or left the school. To fill the coaching vacancy, MacDuffie hired Coach Aaron Patterson.
Coach Patterson is a former collegiate coach as well as former athletic director who transformed, coincidentally, Woodstock Academy into the athletic powerhouse that they are today. He recognizes that a house cannot be built in one day, and is determined to bring MacDuffie back to the level that Rivera had brought them to. However, Patterson recognized that this takes time.
“I think the guys have really bonded well with each other… they seem to get along really well as a unit. On the court, it’s going to take some time getting comfortable and building trust with one another… figuring out whose strengths help the team in certain areas,” Patterson said.
His determination is shared by his players, some of whom were a part of the team last year that featured a roster chock-full of future college players. The loss of an established coach like Rivera, combined with the loss of almost an entire team of either current or future college student-athletes, caused the team to drop from Division AA to Division C. Patterson continues to highlight to his team that this should be motivation, and not something to be sad about. He also mentioned that the open gyms have been packed with college scouts, therefore dismissing the notion that the division drop has caused a drop-off in talent.
“We’ve had Brown University, Rice University, Bentley College… I would say there’s been close to 30 schools that came in the fall. Some programs had multiple coaches come at different times.”
Senior guard Jalen Olivero, a local player, is one of these new additions to the team. Olivero, who played at Holyoke High School, said that adjusting to the Prep level will be tough but something to look forward to, as it is a new challenge. However, from a team perspective, he believes they will succeed, especially with a team-first mentality.
“We’re a very talented team, we have a lot of pieces that we can put together to make it work. Ideally, our common goal of winning is going to help us come together and work as one unit,” Olivero said.
Olivero believes that Patterson is a great addition to the MacDuffie Basketball program.
“Coach Patterson has experience. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s been doing this for a while – we’re in good hands,” he said.
Senior point guard Jadon Archer, a veteran from last year’s team, explained that this year would be a challenge, however everyone brought in by Patterson is at MacDuffie for a reason. He believes that the team chemistry is already building even though it is early in the school year.
“The open gyms have been really helpful. We’re starting to figure each other out. Once we adapt to playing with each other, and the coaching style, we’ll have a lot of success,” said Archer.
One thing can be said for sure: this team is motivated. Archer mentioned that the team had been working together during the fall in open gym sessions and also in the weight room.
Both Archer and Olivero echoed that the team is talented. Both remained steadfast in saying that a team-first mentality will lead to the best results. Olivero said that the players would “need to put their egos aside” for the benefit of the team. Their first official game is at the Hyde School in Maine on Dec. 6th, during a tournament in which they will face off against the Hoosac School, according to Coach Patterson.