Merrimack Valley mourns death of coach Dave HuckinsBy JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 11. 2017 10:38PM
Dave Huckins of Boscawen, the only person ever to win a basketball championship as a player and head coach at Merrimack Valley in Penacook, died Sunday at age 46.
“He was a great man, coach, a generous friend to many in our community and more importantly, a great husband and father of two daughters,” said Merrimack Valley director of athletics Kevin O’Brien. “This is a sad time, especially for our school and community.”
Huckins, the girls’ basketball coach for three seasons, led the Pride to its first state championship in 2014. He had been battling cancer.
Huckins was the owner of Huckleberry Propane & Oil LLC in Boscawen and, according to O’Brien, the family name is one of the biggest and well-known in Penacook. “Many in our community knew about Dave’s health and we were all hoping for the best. But when his daughter called me to tell me her dad had died, at that moment I felt as if I was just hit in the face by a baseball bat.”
O’Brien said Huckins leaves behind a loving family.
“I’ve known Dave since coaching him in (boys) basketball,” said O’Brien. “He and his wife, Tracy, were school sweethearts and she served as our team manager when Dave played for us.”
Huckins had a solid playing career, leading Merrimack Valley to its first Class I championship in 1989. When he graduated after that season, Huckins was the all-time leading scorer in school history (1,560 points) and the first player to attain 1,000 points. Merrimack Valley currently has seven 1,000-point scorers and O’Brien is ranked second all-time behind 2,000-point scorer Scott Drapeau, who played one season at UMass-Amherst before transferring to the University of New Hampshire.
“Dave was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound great player with long arms. He was a great shooter and a tough matchup in the paint,” said O’Brien. “He was a two-time, first team All-State player who, 25 years later almost to the day, led our girls’ program to its first championship (in 2014).”
His oldest daughter, Cassidy, now a junior field hockey player for Southern New Hampshire University, played on the championship team her junior season. Her younger sister, Carly, is currently a junior at Merrimack Valley and also played for her father the last two seasons.
“It’s a wonderful family, a tight-knit family that has always been generous to the community, always looking to help out others” said O’Brien. “I can’t tell you the number of times Tracy would always say ‘We’re a team’ when speaking about her family. But I can tell you first-hand, Dave really loved his family. He was a loving husband and dad.”
O’Brien said his relationship with Huckins never changed over the last 29 years. “He never once in his entire life called me by my first or last name,” said O’Brien. “He always called me ‘coach’, as if time stood still. I’ll never forget after the girls won the state championship at Southern New Hampshire University. I could see he was looking for me and when we finally made eye contact, we each made our way over to each other. We embraced and — I’ll never forget this — he looked at me and said ‘We did it coach, We did it.’ And, in turn, I said ‘Dave, Yes we did.’ I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.”
O’Brien said Huckins informed him in late spring he wouldn’t be able to coach this year’s team. “I and many others were hoping things would change for the better over the summer,” said O’Brien. “He’s going to be missed greatly. To me, his legacy was doing everything he could to help kids.”
O’Brien said the public is welcomed to attend a service for Huckins on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the high school. Several speakers will be in attendance to reflect on Huckins’ life.