HAMPTON — Another well-regarded Division I girls’ basketball coach is leaving the ranks. Cassie Turcotte announced last week that she has resigned as head coach at Winnacunnet High after seven years at the helm.
Turcotte cited her pursuit of certification in educational leadership and an eye toward a career change as her reason for leaving the Warriors. She spent 11 years as an assistant at Winnacunnet under Ed Beattie, who led the Warriors to five consecutive D-I titles from 2007-2011. The Warriors finished 3-15 this season and were 85-62 over Turcotte’s seven seasons at the helm.
“Resigning was not something I planned on doing this year,” Turcotte said. “I’ve had a lot of success at Winnacunnet along with great families and great experiences. I’ve always loved working with the athletes, which made this decision a difficult one to make while walking away from a very experienced group of young athletes. Knowing that I’m leaving them in a better place than we started this season did make it easier.”
This season was the only time Winnacunnet did not make the playoffs during Turcotte’s tenure. She guided the Warriors to the D-I championship game in 2015 while they made the semifinals and quarterfinals two times each.
Participation was one of the biggest factors in the sharp downward trend in Winnacunnet’s performance in recent seasons. Turcotte had 26 players for three teams this season. Seven of those players were full-time varsity players, 10 were full-time freshman team players and the remaining players were on a junior varsity team that would swing up or down to help the varsity or freshmen.
“We tried to get really creative with how we could form three teams,” Turcotte said. “We had a lot of injuries and illness that made our team feel even smaller than it was. On any given day, we’d have four to six freshmen of that 10 at practice for various reasons.”
Physical ailments were just one thing that plagued the Warriors this season. Outside of losing players to other sports, Turcotte and many girls’ and boys’ basketball coaches face a lack of commitment among athletes on an annual basis.
“Commitment is not there the way it used to be compared to 10 years ago or even five years back,” said Turcotte, adding that she’s watched many of her players walk away from hoops in favor of Winnacunnet’s winter track program, which ends its season the first weekend in February. “The basketball season is very long. To expect a commitment for 80 days in the winter is becoming more challenging. There’s also so many different sports offered in the winter and athletes specializing for those sports takes them away from basketball.”
Turcotte and other coaches continue to face an uphill battle as it relates to relaying messages to players as well.
“It does feel like in our society today that intensity is frowned upon,” Turcotte said. “Intensity is being translated as negativity. It’s something I’ve run into the last couple years. People are looking at me and saying I’m negative and I look at them thinking ‘What do you mean? I’m intense.’ But the people who know me know I’m a positive person.
“This year I changed a lot of my coaching tactics to where the intensity wasn’t as high as it should’ve or could’ve been at the start of the year. I had a great group of athletes that responded well. As coaches, we just need to evolve with these evolving athletes.”
Turcotte is hoping this will be a hiatus from the sidelines, saying she’d like to take on another coaching gig after she brings clarity to her career.
“I’m going to miss the connection with the athletes, but I’ll really miss watching that growth from them,” Turcotte said. “This year I saw a lot of that growth. We didn’t perform well every single night, but they worked hard each time out. That says something about them and what might come next.”