(Dec. 7, 2018) Scott Kurtz joined the Stephen Decatur girls’ basketball program last season and this year he was promoted to head coach of the varsity team.
“When I came on as a teacher, I just tried to get involved and they brought me on as an extra coach to help JV at first and then, by the end of the season, I was helping both JV and varsity,” Kurtz, who teaches government, said. “I originally started coaching basketball at the junior high level in Pennsylvania back in 2005 for a few years, then I coached high school boys in South Carolina for three years. I was teaching in the middle school in Worcester County for 10 years … Once I got the job at Decatur I was eager to get back in the gym and get working.”
When Coach Kate Coates decided to step down to spend more time with her family, Kurtz was interested in the varsity head coach job.
The transition was fairly easy, since he was with the program last year.
He has also worked with the Decatur field hockey program for three years as the JV head coach. In addition, Kurtz has been named the new varsity softball coach for the 2019 season.
There are 12 girls on Kurtz’s basketball roster this season. Seven of them played last year when the team went 9-14. The Lady Seahawks’ season ended with a loss in the second round of the 3A East Region Section II tournament.
Kurtz said the team has both speed and depth.
“We have two solid groups of five that can go in and give us quality minutes, and there’s a lot of experience and knowledge on the team,” he said. “They’re tough, fast, eager and really smart. It’s probably the most intelligent group I’ve ever worked with. They’re book smart, they’re court smart. They’re just so intelligent.”
With new terminology and drills, Kurtz said it has been a slow progression and there would be growing pains while the girls adapt.
“As the lights turn on upstairs then feet start to follow and they start to go faster and get more confidence as they get used to everything,” he said. “I’m ambitious. I’m trying to throw a lot at them. I want Decatur to get back to where they have been.”
Kurtz said most of the girls are two- or three-sport athletes who sometimes don’t pick up a basketball until preseason in November. His focus is to find a game that works for those athletes.
“My goal is to create a positive atmosphere for the girls, just sort of create a family feeling that is something they’ll remember, win or lose, that they have positive memories playing basketball here at Decatur,” he said. “I also want to instill that hard work and teamwork can lead you to something special if you put your mind to it.”
Leading the team will be senior captains Sophia Gordy and Grace Beres.
“They give us so much leadership. They’re almost like team moms,” Kurtz said. “They’re positive with all the girls … and they’re just infectious to be around.”
This is the fourth year both girls have been playing for Decatur.
“Being on the team for four years, I know how other varsity teams run and to the level of intensity that [varsity] is, so I think knowing that I can make sure we’re practicing the way that we’re going to play in the game,” Gordy said. “We’re going to have a good season. I would definitely like a better record than last year, but I think even if the points don’t match up to how we want them to, as long as we’re putting in the hard work and we’re working together as a team, that’s what I’m really looking for this year.”
Both girls will take the court as forwards.
Beres said she would also use her experience to lead the Seahawks.
“I enjoy playing basketball. It’s my favorite sport. I want to have a winning season and I want us to at least put up 50 points per game,” Beres said. “I know the plays that we’re doing, even though we have new ones this year, and I know how to work with the other starters, because we’ve all been playing for a couple years now.”
Beres said the Seahawks also have some aces up their sleeves this year.
The captains both had positive things to say about their new coach.
“I like the way he runs our practice. We’re definitely sprinting a lot more this year, but it’s a good thing and we’re in a lot better shape,” Beres said.
“I think he has a fresh set of eyes,” Gordy added. “I think he knows the game of basketball and he has a lot of good things he’s bringing forth.”
Also returning are top scorers, junior Sarah Engle and sophomore Jessica Janney, along with junior Abby Yesko.
Sophomores Mary Mergott and Macy Dill moved up from JV to varsity midseason last year and got quality minutes, Kurtz said.
“They bring back some experience even though they’re young,” he added.
Freshman Nadia Bullock injured her foot over the summer playing basketball and Kurtz said once she is cleared to play she would definitely contribute.
Also joining the team are sophomore Jessica Delisi and junior Summer Vorsteg.
Kurtz said the girls are meshing well and there is some cohesiveness already.
Although they are taking things step by step, Kurtz said the goals are Bayside Conference championship, followed by regional and state titles.
“We have a lot of hard work in front of us,” he said. “There’s a lot of good teams out there.”
Decatur’s season opener is today, Friday, on the road against the Queen Anne’s Lions at 5:30 p.m.