Viewpoint Gap between have and have-not schools is about 88-9
The final score is what gets tweeted for immediacy and what is printed in newspapers for posterity. The final score on Thursday night: Windsor 88, Bulkeley 9.
It stands as one of the worst beatings in Connecticut high school girls basketball history.
“I feel horrible,” Windsor coach Kendrick Moore said. “I feel terrible about the situation on many levels.”
Not long after the game, Hartford Public football coach Harry Bellucci, the CIAC football committee chairman, tweeted, “Those Bulkeley kids have to see their classmates tomorrow. Poor form by Windsor.”
Hideously lopsided scores raise questions about the sportsmanship by the winning coach. Always. It happened in California in 2015 when coach Michael Anderson was suspended for two games after Arroyo Valley beat Bloomington 161-2. It happened in Texas in 2009 when coach Micah Grimes of The Covenant School was fired after he disputed his administrators’ view that a 100-0 trouncing of Dallas Academy was “shameful.”
This 88-9 final shook me. I know Kendrick Moore. I have considerable respect for him. At Hartford Public, he and Marcus Camby led maybe the best high school teams in state history. The state Gatorade Player of the Year, he went on to play at Missouri and Providence. He coached in college. But it’s more than that. As a deeply caring community leader, he founded a nonprofit organization that helped charities and awarded scholarships. He became Windsor community resource coordinator and took over a struggling girls team. He has turned the Warriors into winners.
My son played on his Connecticut Elite AAU team a few years ago. The discipline Moore demanded, the respect he required his kids show, the skills he honed. Put it this way: We’ve seen it first-hand, and my wife and I have got nothing bad to say about Kendrick Moore.
But 88-9? I gave it to him straight on Friday: That’s a bad number.
And that’s why I wanted to talk to the coach. Not Moore as much as Pat Mairson of Bulkeley.
“The magnet schools have destroyed the athletic programs in the city,” Mairson said. “When I took over the Bulkeley girls job, nobody wanted it. I brought my girls from one win to five wins last year and I honestly thought we could make the states this year if the schedule was decent.”
Bulkeley’s best player, Mairson said, was expelled. His second-best player transferred because of a DCF issue. His third-best player is academically ineligible. His fourth-best player is recovering from an ACL tear sustained while playing high school football.
“I have one returning player with varsity experience,” Mairson said. “Others have never played organized basketball. I almost feel sad for our kids. There’s nothing you can do. We have no business playing in that (CCC) league anymore.”
East Catholic went up 33-2 in the first quarter of Bulkeley’s opener, but managed to keep the final score to 59-22. Coach Jeremiah Brown said he slowed the tempo, pulled the ball back out when needed and played his junior varsity players most of the second half. East Catholic was outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter, but it was not a matter of never shooting, he said. It was more a product of playing his kids against varsity players.
So what happened with Windsor?
The Warriors were sharp in their opening victory over East Hartford, but sloppy coming out against Bulkeley. Moore was intent on getting early-season matters straight. Importantly, he said, there was a quick turnaround to a big game with West Hartford-Hall on Saturday.
“To us the game was like the preparation piece and we wanted to be sharp against a team that has beaten us in the past,” Moore said. “Honestly, I wished we just would have had a practice. It would have been more beneficial to our team. This is an unfortunate situation overall. It’s a product of what’s happening to a lot of sports programs, not just basketball. The numbers at our public schools in Hartford are down.
“I told our kids our intention is never to run up the score on anybody. We’re also very conscious of trying to do things the right way on the court. That’s the balance. People see a score and think we played well. People who know the game and know our team wouldn’t have thought that. If our starters had played better, sharper, crisper, they probably would haven’t played again (as the game progressed). I’m subbing people in and out like a maniac early on because people aren’t playing well at all.”
My son Liam corroborates Moore’s coaching style: “He wants the best version of you and he’ll either sit you or stay after you until he gets it.”
Windsor outscored Bulkeley 46-2 in the second half. That’s the real bad number.
“We played zone the entire game, we tried a 2-2-1 because we were so sluggish, but that’s not our press,” Moore said. “We played everybody. We threw in bodies the entire game. We had a 2-3 zone and they were throwing the ball to us.”
Moore paused for a moment.
“If we wanted we could have broken a scoring record,” he said. “If we put our 55 press on we could have scored 150 points. We never wanted that.”
“The problem with Windsor,” Mairson said, “is they didn’t full-court press us, but they half-court trapped us. The whole game they got layup after layup. Do I think their sportsmanship could have been better? Yeah. I told our athletic director I don’t want to take our girls to Windsor (in early January). I know I’ll kind of be forced to.
“Could he have done things a little bit different? Yes, but I don’t think he intentionally tried to embarrass my girls. Honestly. We’re just that bad.”
Mairson has been a Hartford teacher for nearly three decades. He has coached high school baseball in the city. He sees the exodus. Al Phillips won the girls state title with Bulkeley in 2006. By 2010, he was 0-20. Mairson said Bulkeley needs to play against smaller magnet schools or to co-op with another school.
Courtney Rush, president of Team Impact and Hartford Girls Basketball, believes a solution to raise girls’ participation is in allowing grass-roots programs to use school courts free of rent. Everything, he said, isn’t AAU.
“My kids aren’t stupid,” Mairson said. “They go into East Catholic or Simsbury or some other places, they understand the haves and have-nots. When you lose by 50-60 points, what do you think that does to their self-worth?
“I told them after the Windsor game I was proud of them. Every kid played hard to the end. But it can be disheartening. You’re afraid your numbers will shrink from 12 to 10 to eight.”
Mairson and Moore shook hands after the game. There were no angry words.
“I have no hard feelings toward him,” Mairson said. “I just don’t want to put my girls through that again.”
“I’m looking at the second-half score,” Moore said. “I could have done more to make it a better situation. I feel bad about it. It bothered me all night, thinking about the way it ended and their kids. I take the blame. I apologize. It’s nothing our kids did. Our goal is never to embarrass anybody.”