Gymnasiums, like the players and programs they house, gain reputations over time. Some have unique dimensions or challenging sight lines, some have fans lined up right near the baseline or on top of the benches, and others are home to fans that just know how to get loud and distracting.
We know gyms matter. Home court advantage does exist. So we reached out to high school boys basketball coaches across the state to find out where are the toughest places to play.
Windsor edged out Ridgefield for the toughest high school venue to play games at in a survey of the state boys basketball coaches conducted by GameTimeCT.
“(Windsor) is a smaller gym than one would expect for a large school. It’s loud and hard to be heard sometimes as a coach,” Glastonbury coach Jim Vaughan said. “The benches are small with little room to move. The baseline walls are close to the hoops, making it seem even smaller. Small courts are always an advantage for a pressing team, which Windsor is.”
Coaches were asked on the condition of anonymity to list their top three toughest places to play at and why. There were 86 coaches who took part in the survey. Some did provide further commentary about their choices.
Simsbury coach Greg Stillman has faced Windsor for years in the Central Connecticut Conference, just like Glastonbury. Windsor is always a league contender under longtime coach Ken Smith.
“There is not a whole lot of room out of bounds. The stands on the sideline and the walls behind the baseline are really close to the court and give the impression that the court is smaller than it is,” Stillman said. “Add to that the pressure defense that Windsor plays, and it can feel suffocating.”
Ridgefield has won three of the last four FCIAC tournament titles. In addition to being a perennial contender, It is also one of the longest road trips in the league.
“Every game, regardless of their success, they have great fan support. They are very aggressive and very into the games,” new Greenwich coach Todd Trimmer said. “Then factor in their success over the last several years and you multiply that by 100. Passionate and aggressive fans who are very into the games translates into a ton of energy for the home team and a ton of anxiety for us.”
Said Fairfield Ludlowe coach John Dailey: “The trip alone will make you feel nauseous the second you get off the bus. They have tremendous student support as well. It is always a tough environment.”
Notre Dame-West Haven’s Alumni Hall was the third-place vote-getter. The Green Knights were 19-1 each of the last two regular seasons.
“It is one of the very best ‘old-school’ gyms in the state,” Trimmer said. “It is a great atmosphere, but not much space for fans , which makes it ALWAYS packed with fans and they are right on top of you. Even the way the visiting bench is set up, you have fans essentially in your huddle during timeouts.”
Hillhouse – the small school gym, not the Floyd Little Athletic Center next door – Bassick, Glastonbury and Crosby were in the next group of vote-getters featuring large school programs that have significant home-court advantages.
But there were also some successful small-school programs that also received several votes: Valley Regional, Canton, Immaculate and Granby.
“It is a classic small-town environment. It feels like the whole town shows up for the game,” Stillman said about Granby’s gym. “The acoustics of the gym make it sound even louder. And you’re bound to accidentally step out of bounds at least once a game as the sidelines can be confusing,” Stillman said.
THE TOP VOTE GETTERS
1) Windsor 12
2) Ridgefield 10
3) ND-WH 9
4) Canton, Hillhouse (not FLAC), Valley Regional 6
7) Bassick, Crosby, Glastonbury, Granby, Immaculate 5