There is a sound familiar to those who have followed Middlesex League boys’ basketball over the last couple of decades that had not been heard in awhile at Winchester High games on occasion this winter.
It is the distinct voice of Quinton Dale, shouting out directions to the Sachems, and encouraging them as well.
John Fleming, of course, is still the head coach at Winchester, but Dale, his former coach when he played for the Sachems (Class of 2002), is now one of his assistants.
Dale, 56, a former player at Northeastern, had a distinguished career while the head man for the Sachems for nearly 20 years before leaving after the 2011-12 season to follow the basketball career of his son, also Quinton.
Winchester’s fortunes ebbed and flowed during his long tenure, as it has since he left, but what stood out was the Sachems’ two trips to the TD Garden.
The first came while Winchester was on its way to playing the MIAA Div. 3 state final in 1995, and the other while reaching the Div. 2 state semifinals in the mid-2000s.
Dale’s son has since graduated from Wheaton College, where he was a NEWMAC All-Star his senior year (2017), and he also has a daughter who is a senior at UConn, but not on the basketball team.
“I have some free time on my hands,” said Dale, on why he decided to return as an assistant. “I love this place so I wanted to come back.”
“It was kind of time,” said Fleming. “His son has graduated from playing, and his daughter is a senior (at UConn) so he’s always been around and communicating with us. But it’s time to hop back in and help out with what he started.”
“Coach Fleming kept asking if I wanted to come back; he left the door open for me to return,” said Dale. “I felt welcome so I came back to see what I could do to help out.”
As an assistant, Dale works with the Sachem forwards, trying to get them to develop, and working on their defense.
“I’m trying to help the guys play the game the right way,” said Dale. “To get into position and develop inside post moves.”
Fleming could not be happier with how the new situation has worked out thus far, and he thinks Dale has already made a positive impact.
“It could not be better and I couldn’t be happier to have him come back and help us, and continue to teach me different things, and utilize him at practice and in games,” said Fleming. “It’s been a major addition for us as a team and a program.”
Considering he had been the head coach for so long and had accomplished, Dale admits the new role took a little getting used to but he has also gained a new perspective being an assistant coach.
“It was an adjustment in the beginning, not to want to contest every call,” said Dale, of being back on the sidelines during games. “I’m adapting well, I’m enjoying it, I’m seeing the game differently as an assistant as opposed to a head coach. You’re a little bit more reserved, you can see things a little clearer. Instead of following the player, you can follow the play, you can see the guys who are not in the right position a little clearer, rather than reacting to something you see in the game.”
Fleming, 35, who became the Sachem head coach following Dale, found it to be somewhat of an adjustment for him as well, having his high school coach and mentor as an assistant.
“It’s a little surreal, it’s a little strange; I didn’t think those roles would ever reverse,” said Fleming. “I’m really proud to do it because he means a lot to me. He’s the one who kind of got me into coaching, so I’m really happy to be coaching still, and with him alongside me.”
Monday’s game against the Cougars was not an easy one to get through for Fleming, despite the Sachems coming out on top. Between foul trouble, getting his players to follow his instructions, disputes with the refs, and even having to deal with a minor dispute between rival players in the handshake line, afterwards. That’s the part of the job Dale does not mind leaving behind.
“I don’t stress at all,” said Dale. “I come in, do what I can, and then come back the next day.”
Winchester is now has a 6-5 record that counts toward the MIAA tournament. The loss to Malden Catholic was excluded. But, it still has work to do the rest of the way. Perhaps having Dale by his side will provide Fleming and the Sachems the boost they need.
With the Burlington boys’ losing streak extending to five games with two more losses this week, could we be looking at a year where none of the DTC area boys’ teams makes the postseason? Woburn has been the most consistent postseason participant since Tom Sullivan has been coach, but the Tanners (3-8) are in big trouble while they hopefully await Ryan Ludwig’s hand injury to heal. The other three teams generally take turns getting into the tournament, with at least one of them usually getting to the dance. Right now, Woburn, Burlington and Reading all have eight losses, which means they can lose only two more games and still qualify.
Despite getting dominated in Friday night’s game with Belmont, the Woburn girls are still hopeful about being players in ML Liberty in the second half of the season as well as in the MIAA Div. 1 North tournament. While it was an epic struggle putting points on the scoreboard against the Lady Marauders, at no point did the Woburn fans feel like they got cheated out of their admission money. The Tanners truly gave it all they had, putting their Tanner Pride on display. Woburn is already looking forward to the rematch in February at Wenner Field House.
“They do a nice job of making us play faster than we wanted to play,” said Woburn girls coach Steve Sullivan. “With our skill level, we have to work on a little bit better passing, a little bit better ball movement, a little bit better player movement. If we can do that stuff, that will help us going forward.”…
Relief is on the way for the Burlington boys. Besides recently getting All-Star Sean Culhane back after missing seven games, Friday night, as they get Wilmington. The Wildcats (0-9 ML) have been a source of confidence for the opposition when it comes to shooting the basketball … The Lady Devils broke through with a 50-48 victory this week in a non-league game with Boston Latin. Burlington is hanging in there with an overall record of 4-6, and Marina Callahan is leading the way with 18 and 17 points in the Lady Devils’ last two games … The Reading girls got a challenge from the sophomore-laden Spy Ponders of Arlington on Friday, before a strong fourth quarter move propelled the Lady Rockets to victory. Haley Lightbody, Alyssa Pryputniewicz, Jackie Malley and Isabella Zagami providing the engine for second-place Reading … The Reading boys continue to struggle to find wins, but senior reserve Owen Mulvey had a notable performance in a loss to Malden Catholic this week, draining six 3-pointers and 20 points in the contest.
(Mark Nadeau’s “Around the Rim” column appears during the high school basketball season.)