NAUGATUCK — The all-time leading scorer in Naugatuck boys’ basketball history is now the program’s new head coach. Athletic Director Tom Pompei announced Monday that Mike Wilson, 29, a 1999 NHS graduate, will succeed his former coach, Kevin Wesche, who resigned after last season.
Wilson said he is flattered to assume the role Wesche held for 15 seasons.
“Coach Wesche has had such a great impact on my life,” Wilson said. “He’s helped me out in so many ways. I just hope that I can give back like he’s given back to so many kids in this community.”
Wilson has coached the Greyhounds’ freshman team since the 2006-07 season and emerged as the top candidate last week, after being one of four people to interview for the job. Pompei said he notified Wilson of the decision Friday night and called the other candidates Saturday. He said he planned to meet with the team’s returning players after school Monday to introduce Wilson as head coach.
“We’re tremendously excited to have him,” Pompei said. “I think it’s going to be awesome for the program.”
Wilson led Naugatuck to consecutive state tournament quarterfinal appearances in 1998 and 1999. The team was 38-8 during that span. During his senior season, Wilson was the Naugatuck Valley League’s top scorer, at 25.1 points per game, winning the scoring title over Wilby junior Ryan Gomes, now a forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“He’s one of the best players the NVL has ever seen,” said Pompei, who was a teacher at Holy Cross during Wilson’s playing days and says he has been watching NVL basketball since he was 6 years old. “He’s definitely—perhaps with the exception of Billy Rado [Jr.]—the best player Naugy’s ever seen.”
Wilson received multiple Division I scholarship offers and attended Rider University of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He made a quick impact on the Broncs, averaging 8.6 points per game as a freshman, but his minutes, points, and shooting and free throw percentages all declined during his sophomore campaign.
Wilson transferred to the Northeast Conference’s St. Francis College, and after sitting out an obligatory season, resumed his career. As a senior, in 2003-04, he started 27 of 28 games for the Terriers and was the team’s second leading scorer, at 13.1 points per game. Wilson was a second-team all-NEC pick that year, and his 43.1 three-point shooting percentage was 23rd in the nation.
Pompei hopes the caché Wilson earned as a player will attract some of Naugatuck’s best athletes to the basketball team, which struggled to a 1-19 record last season.
“Who knows? With the respect and admiration he has of the kids in town, maybe that will translate into some more interest and some more kids that may not have come out in the past,” Pompei said. “I certainly hope so—that would be wonderful.”
Pompei said one thing that made Wilson stand out among the pool of four interviewees was his experience as a St. Francis assistant for two seasons after his graduation. Though he had opportunities to continue playing, in Europe, Wilson accepted an offer to coach alongside longtime Terriers head man Ron Ganulin, who coached from 1991-2005.
“To come out of a program and have your coach say, ‘I want you to stay around and coach with me’—you know, that’s a tremendous feather in anybody’s cap,” Pompei said.
He added Wilson has a proven record of earning the affection of his players while maintaining solid, authority-figure status. The new coach agreed and said he works hard to achieve that balance.
“I always try to make sure the kids know that I’m there for them and want what’s best for them,” Wilson said. “I always try to preach a positive attitude and that I’m gonna respect you guys, and all I’ll ever ask back is for you to respect me. Anything that falls in between, we’re gonna have a problem, and they’re gonna understand that very, very quickly.”
“The best asset a coach can have, in my opinion, is the ability to have relationships with the kids but at the same time have their utmost respect,” Pompei said. “In terms of that combination, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”