End of an Era: Bilodeau-less Basketball

End of an Era: Bilodeau-less Basketball

Jake Moser

Bilodeau provides instruction to her players during a timeout (Photo/ WHS Yearbook).

Times are changing for the Walpole Girls Basketball team, as their longtime head coach,  Ms. Stacy Bilodeau, did not have her contract renewed by WHS administration on Tuesday, March 26.  Bilodeau will now be replaced after 11 seasons as the varsity coach for the Rebels; however, at this time no replacement coach has been named.  Speculation over her exit has focused mainly around parent pressure involving unhappiness with this past season’s roster decisions.

Before Ms. Bilodeau ever began her coaching career at WHS, she was a student-athlete here.  Ms. Bilodeau graduated in 1994 as captain of one of the greatest squads to ever play the game of basketball at WHS and was named “Most Athletic” by her peers.  Her squad took home the program’s third state championship over then-rival Masconomet with a 49-41 victory at the Boston Garden, setting the standard of success for years to come.

After graduating from Walpole High School, Ms. Bilodeau attended James Madison University on a soccer scholarship where she played for their Division I squad all four years as a goalkeeper.  After moving on from college, she returned to her high school and began what would turn out to be a decorated coaching career.  In 1999, Ms. Bilodeau joined the program as the junior varsity coach, where she moved up the coaching ladder throughout the next few years.  Then in 2002, after her predecessor Mr. Steve Waisgerber stepped down following a 2002 state championship, Ms. Bilodeau got her chance to coach at the varsity level.

Wherever and whatever Ms.Bilodeau has coached, success has always followed.  Her first season ended with her Rebels at a 6-14 record; however, she quickly rebuilt her program and ushered a young squad to a 2004 Division II state title with a 22-2 record.  The following year Walpole repeated as South Sectional champs before falling to Hampshire.  Her stats as head coach of the Rebels are staggering: a record of 175-78, 2005 Boston Globe Div. II Coach of the Year Awardee, 5 BSC Herget Championships, and her squads qualified for post-season play 9 out of her 11 years as coach, including two more sectional finals in 2008 and 2009.  But perhaps the most important stat is the numerous players of hers that have reached the college level, chiefly Amherst College player Caroline Stedman— a 2011 Div. III Final Four MVP and 2012 WBCA Player of the Year.

Despite all these astounding statistics, the most important thing to Ms.Bilodeau are her players.  “I coach because I love working with kids and am passionate about the sport.  But most of all, it’s about the kids,” said  Ms. Bilodeau.  Despite her seemingly heartfelt comments about her players coming first, her opponents argue that this mindset is not always the case.  “A lot of the time she will not listen to her players’ suggestions.  She has the play in her head, and nothing else will work,” said a current player.  Conversely, when asked for her thoughts on Ms. Bilodeau’s removal, a former player (now in college) remarked, “I know at times she may have had differences with players or their parents, but I believe she always acted in a professional manner and treated people with respect.”

This ranks as one of the more controversial move by the school in terms of coaching choices, and the debate over her removal is split down the middle.  On one side, parents and students believe that not renewing her contract with the school was unjustified and due mostly to so-called “helicopter parents” who get too involved in their kids’ affairs.  The other side, conclude that she was too harsh and unfair to her student-athletes, soa breath of fresh air to the program is more than welcome.  Regardless of the reasons for what transpired on March 26, a new face is the likely result for the girls basketball program next season.

Such a controversy has stirred up massive conficts all over Walpole, causing two sides to form, each with their own opinions on the argument.  Her supporters believe the move towards a new head coach is unwarranted and she has never done anything to deserve a removal from the program.  They point to the team’s constant competitveness throughout her tenure.  Her critics, on the other hand, say she puts winning above all else, even the academic responsibilities of her players.  Ms. Bilodeau has been known to coach in a disciplinarian manner, which some find abrasive.  Her supporters argue she is “not your friend, but your coach” and she is coaching in such a manner only for her players’ benefit.  To that, the opponents claim that there is no place for such loud and intense coaching styles in today’s high school sports, when student-athletes are most vulnerable and easily upset.  “It is never insulting or verbally abusive or anything,” says a former-player.  “It is just very intense and biting at times, and a good amount of players do not respond to that kind of coaching.”  Another player and supporter of Ms. Bilodeau responded to claims of Stacy being too abrasive as ridiculous.  “She may be loud and intense, but it is only for your benefit as both a player and a person.”

Another argument her supporters and critics disagree over is the topic of fairness.  “Stacy has always been fair to those who work hard and put in the time,” said yet another former-player. Opponents say she had her favorites and did not give others a chance to prove themselves in game situations.  “Sometimes, you might make one mistake in practice and you didn’t see the court for two whole games,” said student who at one time played for Ms. Bilodeau.

Some may ask what does this mean for the program as a whole?  The answer is major changes in all levels of the program.  As of now, the replacement coach will not come from within the program, as varsity assistant Marion Houser, J.V. coach Danielle Collins, and freshman coaches Ali and Mimi Theodore have all resigned from their positions.  When asked by both the Boston Herald and the Walpole Times, Stacy responded by saying she might fight it but she will not make any hasty decisions because she is still taking it all in.  While controversy swirls, one thing should be kept in mind: the program in its entire history has only had three coaches, Sue Brainard, Waisgerber, and Bilodeau.  As one former college basketball coach put it, “Job openings in winning situations like the one in Walpole are rare.”   The head coaching job at Walpole is a highly touted position of quality and should continue to be so.  Hopefully whoever comes in understands and respects that.