WELCOME BACK to a snow day edition of Courtside with Joe Morelli, your weekly rundown of boys basketball happenings in Connecticut with GameTimeCT.com’s beatwriter Joe Morelli and sidekick Sean Patrick Bowley.
Joining us this week is Cromwell coach JOHN PINONE, the former South Catholic standout who went on to star at Villanova during the halcyon days of the Big East Conference, was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA and had a successful professional career in Spain.
Pinone’s squad, led by center Gabe Charleston, swingman Nick Wright and Jalyjah Tracy-Gavin, is once again undefeated (18-0 at recording) coming off last year’s Division V state championship.
For the first time this season, the Panthers are ranked No. 8 in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll. But Pinone — as always — pulls no punches about his small-school program’s status, statewide.
“I’m going to be realistic. Listen, we’re not the eighth-best team in the state of Connecticut. Let’s be honest,” said Pinone, whose team will be competing for a Division IV title this year. “There are plenty of teams out there that are better than us with multiple losses. There are double-L, L schools, even M schools that are just as good or better than us that we would have a hard time beating.
“Sometimes I look at the rankings and say, that’s nice. I think it’s a tribute to how hard the kids have worked that we’re 18-0. … To us, the only thing that matters is winning in March, making sure that, hopefully, we’re contending for a (Shoreline) league title and state title.”
Pinone also talked on some of the issues in basketball and high school sports, particularly how dealing with parents as a head coach is different now than when he played in the late 1970s and early 80s.
He also waxed nostalgic about playing in the Big East, going up against Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and James Worthy during his career, and also being coached by such heavyweights as Joe Reilly at South Catholic and Rollie Massimino at Villanova.
“When I played high school basketball and college my coach said, ‘Run through a wall,’ my parents said, ‘OK, coach said? Yea, then go run through the wall. What are you crying to me for?’ It’s different now.”
Pinone, who sits on the CIAC’s boys basketball committee, also gives us his opinion on how the tournament should be run and even talks about his son, John’s, first head coaching gig at RHAM.
Afterward, Joe answers a few questions in the mailbag. Get your questions in for next week by submitting here.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player, above. Remember, if the embed doesn’t show, you can listen by clicking here.
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0:00-8:26 — News and notes, Top 10 poll talk.
8:38-53:49 — Cromwell head coach John Pinone
54:00-End — Joe answers the mailbag!