Leesburg, Va. — With the opening of a new high school, comes the opening of new coaching jobs. When Riverside High School opened its doors in 2015, the Rams’ athletic department knew just who they wanted to fill their boys basketball coaching vacancy. Enter: Mike Koscinski.
Koscinski brings a broad variety of experiences having coached at the freshmen, JV and varsity levels in Massachusetts and New York prior to moving to Loudoun County in 2005. His experience spans 21 years in interscholastic athletics, including two years as an athletic director in Vermont.
Koscinski most recently coached at Stone Bridge High School where he spent this past season as an assistant coach, working under former JMU assistant coach Corey Stitzel. In 2014-2015, the Bulldogs posted a program best 23-3 record and won the Conference 14 regular season and tournament championships.
Koscinski brings previous head coaching experience to the Rams’ bench as he served six years as the head coach at Park View High School from 2008-2014. He was named the 2009-2010 Dulles District Division III Coach of the Year and was also honored by the Loudoun County F.C.A. as Coach of the Year in 2014 for work within the school community. While at Park View, Koscinski’s teams participated in the Athlife Coaches in the Classroom program emphasizing academics.
Koscinski has also experienced the start-up of a basketball program while serving as the assistant coach at Briar Woods during the program’s first three seasons.
On top of his basketball coaching, Koscinski is a physical education teacher at Newton-Lee Elementary School which is in the Riverside High School cluster.
Coach K — who will lead the Rams into battle for their season opener on December 1 — sat down with one of his former players and LoCoSports staff writer Michael Pittinger to give us the scoop: inside the huddle.
Michael Pittinger: Congrats on being the first ever boys basketball coach at Riverside. What is it like starting a new program here?
Mike Koscinski: It’s been a lot of fun. We started back in March when I got hired. Just being able to meet a lot of different people and pulling the community together. I had a lot of interest in the program which you never know because you are walking into the unknown. What’s really cool for me is I’ve taught in this community for what is now my eleventh year being at Newton-Lee Elementary School, so it’s been great because I’m reconnecting with some of my former students either as players or as managers at some point in the program.
We are opening up as a VHSL 3A school, but we are playing every single 4A team in Loudoun County at least once this year. That will be a good challenge for us. I think it will be a good measurement for what we can accomplish.
We could go real far and make some damage in the conference play. I think my players and the coaching staff all agree that we can be a sleeper team in our conference, and that’s something that is a goal for us this season. It goes back to the daily process of working day in and day out.
We’ve got some talent on our team, we’re coming together. There’s some inexperience, but if we’re exuberant, excited, if we play with enthusiasm everyday and if we play aggressive and let those qualities come out and speak to our play then I think we’re going to be fine night in and night out.
What I’m looking forward to is starting the journey because really it’s an open book, and there’s nothing on the pages. We’re just writing it together.
Pittinger: As coaches open new programs they often look to create tradition. What kind of basketball culture do you hope to create at Riverside?
Koscinski: Right now it’s all about process, what we’re doing day to day in building that daily routine and those daily habits that lead to winning and a winning tradition. I would say it’s how we approach practice, it’s how we approach every drill, things on the defensive end, and we’re really hammering home the importance of boxing out and going hard on the defensive end, getting back and not allowing easy baskets.
So we’re talking a lot about how we’re going to go about doing things, more so than putting in schemes. We are scheming at the same time and putting in different plays and strategies. But we’re going back to what does Ram basketball look like, what do we want it to look like and how are the Rams going to play day in and day out. That’s something we’re doing at all three levels, and one thing we are emphasizing this year is the three T’s: team, together and toughness. That is our theme and something we really want to base the program off.
Pittinger: With this emphasis on the defensive end, team, together and toughness, what do you hope that your team achieves in their first year of existence?
Koscinski: I would say to come out each night with energy and just create interest in the program from a playing basis. The kids want to come play for us and just have that enthusiasm to want to come and play hard every single day and play with structure. We are doing things different than some other high school programs in the area. We just want to come in and do those three or four things well night in and night out.
Pittinger: On December 9, you’ll return to Sterling Park to lead the Rams into battle against the Patriots. What do you think your mindset will be returning to coach against a Park View team you used to coach?
Koscinski: A lot of the kids that I coached are no longer there, which is kind of different. The place is familiar, and there are a lot of good people there that I miss. Riverside has been there a couple of times for preseason events. I’ve been over there for some other things. I think from the relationship standpoint I miss that, but I think when the ball tips, it’s just a game and you want to go do your best to win the game.
It will be a little different sitting on the opposite side of the court, but it’s really about Ram basketball now and about what the program I’m coaching is doing now. It’s just about the future of Ram basketball and what we’re doing each and every moment, trying to win each and every play and do our very best each and every game.
Pittinger: Without giving your athletes too much insider knowledge, do you mind sharing your most embarrassing moment in sports?
Koscinski: In eighth grade, we played a faculty all-star game, so it was our eighth grade travel team for our school against the faculty. I didn’t contribute to the effort much that night. But I do remember a 70-foot pass — this is before I got glasses — going through my legs. It only happened once. My friends reminded me about that about 50,000 times. It was in front of about 800 people and on a fast break; I would’ve had two points.