Shehadi returns to scene of high school success

MANCHESTER - The glory days for Burr and Burton boys basketball program were in the late 1970s, when the Bulldogs won four straight Div. II state titles. Now a standout from the period, Dave Shehadi, has returned to BBA to lead the boys basketball program.

Shehadi was hired in the off season as the head coach of the Burr and Burton boys varsity basketball team after longtime head coach Seth Rice resigned.

"Coach Rice, he put the time in," said Shehadi. "I respect anyone who put that kind of time in and he did a good job."

Shehadi, a 1977 Burr and Burton graduate, will have some big shoes to fill, as Rice won over 100 games and a 2006 Div. II state championship as the Bulldogs head coach. But Shehadi has plenty of experience to draw from, and he will look to do so as he starts his tenure behind the bench.

"We've got a new coaching staff," said Shehadi. "We come in and we work hard. We just try and help the kids play hard and get some wins."

Shehadi is one of the few Burr and Burton grads to play a NCAA Div. I sport, playing four years for Bucknell University in basketball.

"I think [playing Div. I college basketball] gets you a level of respect," said Shehadi. "It certainly doesn't hurt, but you've still got to put the time in and pay attention to the kids. It's really all about the kids."

He also was a player/coach in Ireland and an assistant at Div. III Kean College. He has coached for 12 years locally, at the middle school and AAU level.

"It's more about the coach and how they teach and what they teach, than the level," said Shehadi. "In middle school and high school, there is a lot more teaching you can do."

Helping Shehadi this season on the bench will be assistants Bill Muench and Ed Panzarino. Jeff Houghton and Chris Vickers will also chip in during practice, helping with the new defensive system that Shehadi puts in place.

"It's wonderful to be able to coach with these guys," said Shehadi. "Jeff [Houghton] is a great defensive coach. All these guys love the game. It's great to have their support."

Defense will be the first area that the new coaches tackle. They are going to implement more man-to-man defense.

"We think its a good way to evaluate a kid, how hard he plays defense," said Shehadi. "I think man-to-man is effective in high school."

Shehadi and his coaching staff will try and put the clamp down on the defensive end, but gives the players a little leeway on the offensive end. Shehadi is also looking to work on conditioning, making sure the team is ready to go when they start the season.

It will be a quick turnaround for Shehadi's first year, as the Bulldogs jump right into the start of the regular season. BBA will open their season on Dec. 12, just two weeks after their first practice. With most of the first week taken up with tryouts, the players and coaches will work hard to get the systems into place before the first game.

"We only have two weeks to prepare," said Shehadi. "We are putting in a new offense and a new defense. We aren't going to get it all in in the first two weeks, so we want to work hard defensively and will spoon feed our offense in there as the season progresses."

The new coaching staff will have a senior heavy team to rely on and Shehadi hopes to get good leadership from the returning players.

"We want to just prepare the best we can and try to encourage the kids to play hard and play with purpose," said Shehadi.

Another wrinkle to the story is that Shehadi's two sons are in the Burr and Burton basketball program. David, a junior, and Joe, a freshman, will be looking to follow in their father's footsteps, bringing a state title to BBA, while daughters Sarah and Nina have already accomplished that, winning a Div. II state championship in 2009 for BBA girls basketball.

"It was a dream come true, coming back to where I played," said Shehadi. "We had to have a little conversation to see if the family thought it was a good idea. It was a challenge I wanted to take on."


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