NEWINGTON - Family comes first.
That is the main reason why, after 14 seasons leading the Newington boys basketball program, Scot Wenzel is stepping down from his position as head coach.
Wenzel has three daughters, one going into high school, one going into seventh grade and another going into sixth grade. Two of the three play basketball and he came to the realization that if he was coaching he would miss his daughters playing among other big milestones.
“It was strictly a family decision,” Wenzel said. “I just want to be able to spend more time with them and I don’t want to be on the bus coming back from a game with Newington and having to call my daughter to see how she did in her game.”
This wasn’t a decision that Wenzel took lightly. It also wasn’t a decision that came out of nowhere for him. He had been thinking about it for a little while and after a lot of thought, he believed it was the right time to make the decision.
“I wanted to take a little bit of time to really think about next year and the time span of everything,” Wenzel said. “It’s something that has been in the back of my head for probably about a year now knowing that my kids are getting older and I don’t want to miss out on what they are doing.”
Newington athletic director Chris Meyers didn’t exactly see this coming at this point in time, but he had a hunch that the Wenzel’s time at the school might be coming to a close because of the same reasons Wenzel mentioned.
“It was out of the blue kind of,” Meyers said. “But at some point you also know because you develop relationships with coaches and you kind of know that sometimes this can happen as their children get older and their lives become more busy.
“The job of being a coach is very obtuse and very time consuming so I knew that his children were going to require a little bit more time and attention. We hadn’t talked about it previously but I definitely understood that there was going to be a time when this was going to happen.”
Wenzel leaves Newington with a lot of accolades. In his 14 years he finished with a 187-122 record and was one of the most successful coaches in the school’s history, if not the most successful. His career record is 226-169 if you include his four years at Mashpee High School in Massachusetts.
Wenzel made the playoffs in 13 of his 14 season with the Indians and won four conference championships on top of having an undefeated regular season in the 2015-16 season and reaching the Class L Final Four that same year.
The head coach left the door open for a possible return to coaching somewhere down the line, but believes his biggest accomplishment and best memory from his time at Newington will be the bonds he formed.
“The main thing is the relationships I have built between my coaches and my players,” Wenzel said. “The program itself was built in a way that the kids continue to come back. They are constantly coming back to talk to the kids and work out with the kids. We built a program that was very much a family atmosphere and I’m proud of the fact that the kids have stayed in touch with me and the program.”
The family type atmosphere Wenzel was able to build is not lost on Meyers. In fact, he believes that was a big reason the Indians won so many games over the past decade-plus.
“Coach Wenzel has been so stable each year,” Meyers said. “He has developed such a work ethic within our student- athletes and he has contributed to a strong level of industriousness and competitiveness that our student-athletes brought with them as they left our program.
“He expected them to give 100 percent every day and the practices were going to be just as competitive as game days. I think you have seen throughout the years the emphasis he has put on relationship building as part of his motivation and that has been really what has led to his success.
“They continue to come back here because of the relationship and the bond he built with them. He is always going to be their coach and I think that’s what makes a program successful and what makes the coaching job so special is that it sticks with the student-athletes well beyond the four years of high school.”
Another defining characteristic of Wenzel’s tenure at Newington was his loyalty to the school, the basketball team and the community. Considering all of the success he had in his 14 years at the school, other opportunities naturally popped up, but he never once considered leaving.
“Nothing was going to take me away from Newington,” Wenzel said. “I say it all the time but there is something special about Newington kids. We do it the right way. It was never about us trying to find kids from other towns or anything like that. It was always Newington kids and there is a certain toughness that goes along with Newington kids.
“I have loved my time there and I have always had a ton of support from the administration and the kids that played underneath me always gave me everything they have.”
Wenzel also was thankful for the support he had from his wife Kelly and his three daughters Ashley, Jenna and Alyssa on top of all of the players that helped him build a significant legacy at Newington.
Replacing someone like Wenzel will not be easy to do but that is the task that Meyers now faces. Wenzel, however, has the utmost confidence that Meyers will find the right person for the job and that the program won’t skip a beat moving forward.
“I think Chris Meyers is the best athletic director in the state,” Wenzel said. “I have a lot of respect for him and I know he will make the right decision with the next coach. The expectations for the program don’t change though just because I’m leaving. They are still expected to come out and do what they have done for the last 14 years.”
As for what Meyers is looking for in Newington’s next head coach, he is hoping to find someone that has the same work ethic and ideals as Wenzel to keep up the success of what has been one of the best basketball programs around.
“Coach Wenzel leaves a legacy and a culture of success,” Meyers said. “Our hope is that we will be able to find somebody that has similar drive, similar goals and similar expectations. We want the next coach to hold the kids to an academic standard, holding kids to a behavioral standard and making sure that the relationships are being built with the student-athletes that come through the program.
“It’s very soon after the revelation so we haven’t done too much of a breakdown but those are the kinds of things we will be looking for in the next coach.”
No matter who Meyers finds to replace Wenzel, the long-time head coach will surely be missed.
“We have been so privileged to have Coach at the helm for 14 years,” the athletic director said. “Very rarely do you have somebody of his quality stay for that long. He has a wealth of basketball knowledge so to have been able to have him lead the program for 14 years was such a benefit to the entire Newington community and Newington High School as a whole.
“We are just very thankful for the years that he was able to work with us and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @bigwoolf5