New Coach, Outlook for Ayer Basketball
By Scott Shurtleff
AYER -- The Ayer Shirley Regional High boys basketball program is looking to rebound from a disastrous finish to the season last year, and to that end school officials have drawn up a new plan and hired a new coach for the varsity squad.
Last season, even worse than their 2-16 record to begin the year, was the high number of technical fouls -- 14 over the first 16 games -- that led to a decision to bench the entire team and relieve head coach Justin Carlson of his duties.
New Athletic Director Steve Kendall decided that a clean slate was needed, hiring Eric Polli to a one-year deal.
Polli will roam the sidelines in hopes of returning the once-dominant basketball program to championship form.
“My short-term goal is to instill a culture of character and an identity,” said Polli, 32. “To improve accountability and establish trust between each other and the coaches. We are going to change the way we play. It’s not about wins and losses.
“The wins will come if we play hard and make sure we conduct ourselves with dignity and respect for the game, both on and off the court. Technical fouls are a product of no self-discipline. I need to change that.”
Admittedly not much of a player himself, Polli’s life has been hoop-centric almost since birth, having bounced around various programs.
His full-time job is running camps and tournaments at his private facility, Elite Sports at Mill Works in Westford.
A product of St. John’s Prep and Merrimack College, where he studied Sports Management, Polli began his coaching career at a very local level, as a CYO coach at St. Augustine’s Church in Andover, his hometown. From there he advanced up the ladder as assistant then head coach at Austin Prep, where he spent seven years, garnering much success.
“His discipline is what most caught my eye,” said Kendall. “He has run a very successful program. He took an average team (Austin Prep) and got the best out of all his kids. Here, I believe he can do the same while allowing the game to be fun again for the players.”
Matt Brewer, who was on his staff at Austin, will coach the JV team.
Polli’s personal expectations are to create solid citizens.
“We will give our time to the community and every player must maintain a certain GPA to play,” said Polli. “I watched several game films from last year and I noticed a ‘me-over-we’ attitude on the court.”