By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
After 35 years, Fanshawe head coach Glenn Johnston has passed the torch to new bench boss Tony Marcotullio who plans to keep the fire on the sidelines.
In just Marcotullio’s first game at his new home Wednesday (Nov. 7) there’s probably one characteristic most noticeable that he shares with his predecessor — a passion for perfection.
“You can compare both of them (Marcotullio and Johnston),” said second-year guard Boyd Vassell, dropping 20 points in a 73-62 win over the Sheridan Bruins in the home opener. “They both scream, they both get on you when you’re doing something wrong and that’s a good thing. That’s what you want because if a coach sits back and relaxes it just shows he doesn’t care about you.”
When third-year guard Joel Williams didn’t pass the ball around in the game he heard some yells from his new coach and when veteran centre Darcy Young wasn’t in position for a rebound, Marcotullio looked like he could be in position for a Bobby Knight chair throw at any second.
There is method to Marcotullio’s madness, though.
“I think at this level you can’t motivate for fear. What I was angry with is when kids don’t understand our sets and that’s the only thing,” the long-time H.B. Beal Raiders basketball coach said. “I told the (players), ‘You got to get better understanding of what we’re trying to do here and if you make a mistake because of an effort mistake that’s fine, but if it’s because you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not working hard enough.”
Whether he’s channeling the spirit of coach Johnston or just being himself, Marcotullio’s loud motivation seems to have worked with the Falcons going 3-0 to start the season, which is the best start the team has had since 2009-10.
Whether the coach yells louder than a banshee or is as soft as a Care Bear, if the bench boss can bring Fanshawe back to a provincial championship — a first since 2007 — the school won’t be complaining.
“These kids know what it takes to be winning team and tradition will take them there. They just got to step up,” Marcotullio said of a college squad that collected four straight Ontario College Athletic Association (OCAA) gold medals between 1977 and 1981. “Right now they’re struggling to find an identity and once they get their identity they’ll be tough to beat.”
You could easily make a case Johnston had been the identity of the team after all these years running up and down the sidelines with a red face. In an OCAA system keeping student-athletes for a maximum five years, Johnston was probably not only the most consistent thing in Fanshawe basketball, but probably Fanshawe College itself in his 35 years there.
The recently retired coach still has a presence. Every time the Falcons bench turns around to look at the fans cheering behind them or the squad is turning away to cringe because a player isn’t in the right position, the team can look at a large banner on the wall reading, “Glenn Johnston Athletic Centre,” with the former coach on it coloured in the college’s patented red.
“I feel honoured. Following a legend’s foot step means a lot,” Marcotullio said.
If the Falcons need to find their own identity, the team’s new coach can maybe take comfort in knowing he’s returning to a place where he found his in the sport. Throughout Marcotullio’s time in elementary and high school he would go to Fanshawe’s gym to play pickup basketball games before he went on to join the Wilfrid Laurier University team.
“Fanshawe has always been a community school and it’s been the best thing for London and I’m excited to be part of,” the 46-year-old coach said. “I hope I can carry on the tradition without having a heart attack.”
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