By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — The all-time leading scorer in Woodland girls basketball history is finally back with the Hawks as an assistant coach on Jess Moffo’s staff.
At first, some of the players didn’t actually realize Heather Framski was Heather Framski.
“When Coach Moffo pointed out that it was my name on the banner, some girls didn’t know it was me,” Framski said.
Nearly a decade after Framski set the program’s career scoring record with 1,261 points, the former All-State star and standout player at the University of Saint Joseph is in her first season serving as an assistant to Moffo, who was an assistant coach on Gail Cheney’s staff when Framski wore black and gold from 2007-11.
The long-awaited return wasn’t due to Moffo’s lack of effort.
“I’ve been bugging her for about six years,” Moffo admitted. “I was trying to get her on staff, but she never could because of her work schedule.”
Framski, who majored in business management at Saint Joseph, began working in Hartford after graduating from college in 2015. The Prospect native returned to Woodland often to watch the Hawks, but it took COVID-19 for Moffo to finally win over Framski.
“I graduated in 2011, and she’s been trying since then, so I’d say that the 10th year is the charm,” Framski said. “I never thought I’d be able to coach because I wanted to build a career first and I love my job, so that always comes first. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that. The pandemic changed my work schedule and location, which presented the opportunity to coach. I am very grateful for the opportunity.”
Framski wasn’t around the program a lot during her terrific college career — on the Bluejays’ all-time lists, she ranks fourth in points (1,302), second in rebounds (738) and first in blocks (112) — but she hadn’t been a stranger in recent years, whether sitting in the bleachers or dropping by a practice.
“We always stayed in touch, and she would come pitch in at practice when she could lend a hand,” Moffo said. “She was always involved in the program. Anyone who’s ever played for me knows who Heather was because I made them aware.”
Knowing the type of girls on this year’s roster played a role in Framski’s decision to become a coach.
“I finally agreed because this is a special group of girls,” Framski said. “Every year, I go back to watch games, and this team is different. I want to help them achieve something really special because I think they’re capable of that.”
Most high school coaches played back in their day, but not all of them end up coaching at their alma mater. Moffo, who graduated from Wolcott High, said Framski’s back-to-the-roots factor brings a special dynamic to the program.
“She knows what it takes to be a Woodland Hawk,” Moffo said. “We hold our teams to a different standard. She knew what she had to do to get there. The fact that the kids know that she had been in that gym with her sweat and blood years ago, the kids respect that.
“The kids will ask her questions in practice about games,” she continued. “I tell them stories in practice, too. You can tell that the kids look at her like a role model — her name means something in the Woodland community. Anytime you’re being coached by a coach whose name is up on the banner, it means a lot to those kids.”
“I feel like because I have played on the same court they are playing on, there is a mutual understanding, maybe respect, even,” Framski said. “I know what it takes to be where they are, and I want to help them get further and achieve more than I did. It’s a great feeling to be back in that gym trying to help some great athletes reach new heights.”
There’s no argument about which role each coach has in practices and games.
“I’m the head coach so I’m the bad cop, and I don’t mind that,” Moffo said. “She teaches the Xs and Os very well. We’re on the same page and practices are very smooth. She’s working with the post and I’m working with the guards, so we can split up every day and the kids are getting a lot of reps at their positions.”
“I can’t be the tough coach — we all know that’s Coach Moffo,” Framski said. “I want to be someone who makes an impact on and off the court. Winning basketball games is the goal, but doing well in school or building life skills is more important in the long run.”
Good cop or bad cop, Moffo couldn’t be happier to have one of the school’s all-time greats back in the fold.
“She bleeds black and gold,” Moffo said. “For her to be back at her roots, it’s awesome to see her back in the gym. I’m glad she’s back. We’re having fun.”
Fun is one thing, but Framski’s got other motives.
“What do I give back to a program that helped shape me into the person I am today?” she asked. “Honestly, I want to get these girls and a great coach a title because it’s about time we see a girls’ basketball banner in that gym. They deserve it.”