NEWINGTON - Family means everything.
That is the main reason why, after five years of leading the Newington girls basketball program, Richard Bangs is stepping down from his head coaching position.
“Last year things began to get a little much,” Bangs said. “Running the program is an awesome undertaking, but I am also a fifth grade teacher in town and the demands of the fifth grade teaching job increased seemingly by the day and on top of that I have three kids at home.”
During the season, Bangs would go through the typical school day and be wiped out by the end of it. He would then still have to go through practice or get through a game.
“My energy level was just getting pulled in too many different directions,” Bangs said. “And starting this season, I tried to convince myself that I can manage everything and it just go to be too much.”
When Bangs first started coach his children were babies, so when he would go to practices and games the only thing he would be missing out on was their sleep.
“It’s the path that I chose,” Bangs said. “I knew going in that I was going to be a part of it, but it has just gotten to the point where my kids are getting older. My oldest is nine, the middle one is seven and the youngest is five and they’re just going to continue to do more things.”
This wasn’t a decision that Bangs 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, believed it was the right thing to do.
In the end, he made the decision not only for himself and his family but for the players, the program and the athletic department.
“They need a coach that has the energy to give to the program,” Bangs said. “And sometimes I feel like I don't necessarily have it anymore. When I told the girls [I was stepping down] at the banquet [last week], I sobbed through the entire speech. Despite all of these very, very legitimate reasons for not coming back, I love the girls to death and walking away from them, I just really wanted to stress to them how important they were. Despite family and all the other things, the decision was so tough because of how I felt for the girls and how I feel for the program.”
Being the in charge of the girls program at Newington High School was Bangs first varsity job. Every day for the last five years was a learning experience and by the time Bangs stepped down, the Indians had reached the state tournament in all five of his seasons.
“I loved [coaching] for the time that I did it,” Bangs said. “I really made sure that [athletic director Christopher] Meyers and the athletic department really understood that I really appreciate them taking a chance on the guy who was just an assistant coach before. I never had varsity experience and I’ve learned on the job for five years and I had a lot of great memories and I coached some truly incredible kids.”
He could tell that some of the players were sad when he broke the news, but made sure to let them know just because he was stepping down doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be around the program in some way.
“I’m still going to be their biggest fan and I’m still going to go to games,” Bangs said. “I want them to still keep in touch with me and every year at the end of the year I tell the girls, no matter what happens I’ll always be their coach, and at 25 years old, I’ll still be there for them if they need something.”
But no matter who Meyers finds to replace Bangs, the head coach will surely be missed, especially by his players.
Sophomore forward Ashanti Frazier spent the last two seasons under Bangs’ tutelage and his resignation caught her off guard.
“He was a good coach,” Frazier said. “I loved him as a coach and I loved him as a person. He was always so great to everyone. He put everything he had into coaching us. But I think he resigned too soon. I do wish him the best, and he resigned for the right reason, but we’re just stuck wondering about what’s going to happen next year.”
Bangs, however, has no regrets and looks back on his time coaching Newington as a tremendous experience.
“It truly was a privilege to do the job that I did,” Bangs said.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org