Girls basketball: Asmussen returns to coach Foran

Bob Asmussen always knew that deep in his heart he’d return to coach girls high school basketball. When he walked off the Jonathan Law court at the close of the 2006-07 season, his passion for the game never waned. He stayed close as a travel league coach in Milford. Citing that undying love for basketball, Asmussen has moved across Milford from the Boston Post Road over to New Haven Avenue, where he was named the new coach at Foran High.

“The time was right for me,” Asmussen said. “My kids were young when I left the game in 2007. Now they’re grown. I had no regrets leaving the Law program back then. We struggled at times, especially in my first few years, so my record wasn’t as good as I would’ve like it to be.”

Asmussen coached three years after Law joined the Southern Connecticut Conference in the 2004-05 school year. His 2005-06 team won 16 games while losing eight.

He was named the New Haven Register’s area girls basketball coach of the year. He had the distinction of coaching three of the four Dulins — Jenna, Marissa and Casey — Laura is now an Eagle.

Now his allegiance is with Foran. Asmussen will remain as a physical education teacher at Law where he’s been since 2000.

A little over a week into his new job, Asmussen quickly realized that there was work to do. Last Friday, he took 19 players to a scrimmage at Derby. “These kids have gone through two coaches in the past two years,” he said. “What’s important right now is to establish a balance. I need to get the girls to play my style. On the other side, I need to be able to adapt to them. We need to put the right system in place.”

The Lions have had only two winning seasons since joining the SCC. The team won only three games last year and seven the year before.

“The situation is similar to the one I faced when I started at Law (in the 2000-01 season), “Asmussen said. “We need to change the culture; get the kids in playing shape, and make sure that we get players into summer and fall programs.”

Asmussen brought his Law assistant, Rob Hanson, along with him. Former Foran and Albertus Magnus College player Taylor Jagoe will be there as well.

“The support so far has been great,” he said. “From the players, through the athletic director (Anthony Vitelli) up through the administration. It’s always a comforting feeling when you have that atmosphere around you.”

Asmussen will benefit from the return of a solid nucleus on which to build. The seniors include Lindsey Broderick, Brook Gauthier, Abby Felner, Victoria Savoca and Elizabeth Galburri. Broderick, Gauthier, Felner and Savoca will serve as captains.

“Lindsey shoots the ball very well and we’ll use her on the wing,” Asmussen said. “Elizabeth is quick off the dribble and is one of those kids whose confidence level is high.”

In the middle, Asmussen has the Notholt twins, Lauren and Viktoria. The junior tandem are tall, have a good touch in the paint and pass the ball well.

Asmussen’s starting point guard will be Jess McQuade, another junior. “She’s a great passer, who sees the court very well,” he said. “In the SCC you have to have a strong player at that position. If not, you’re in trouble.”

Sophomore Jade Lord should also start in the front court. She saw playing time as a freshman and will grow with the program. Other players expected to contribute include juniors Zinnia Hall and Cole Kennedy along with sophomore Erin Suech.
“We’ll definitely dress at least 12 for the varsity and maybe upwards to 14 or 15,” Asmussen said. “I like an up-tempo style. Even though I like man-to-man defenses, we’ll switch up at times to keep other teams off balance. I'm very intense, that's my style. It might have been shocking to some of the players at first. I'm sure they'll adjust to it."

A trip to both the SCC playoffs and the state tournament are team goals. The Lions will open their season on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Lyman Hall, then return to Milford for their home opener with Hamden on Dec. 18. They’ll play in the Milford Holiday Tournament, facing Immaculate of Danbury (Dec. 29) before meeting Berlin High (on Dec. 30). And, of course, Foran will play Law twice. The first meeting takes place on Jan. 19 at Law and the second at Foran on Feb. 9.

Asmussen’s anticipation level is already building for the first match-up.

“I know that it will be interesting,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it all day long while I’m at Law. As a coach at Law, I saw this rivalry get better and better every year. There were times when we filled the entire grandstand on the opposite side of the court.

“Dan (Law coach Dan Young) has a very good team this year, perhaps the best that he’s had. We’ll be in for a battle.”

Foran also faces a stern test in the SCC’s Hammonasset Division with two games each against Daniel Hand, Guilford, Hillhouse and Law.