Courtney Bradshaw knew what he was getting into. And he was fine with it.
When former Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy boys basketball coach John Reingold decided to step down last spring after two highly successful seasons, Bradshaw saw an opportunity to run his first basketball program. All he had to do was keep the Tigers at the same level Reingold left the program — a two-season span that saw RKA post a 30-4 regular-season record and claim a pair of Bronx B-1 Division championships.
Oh, and to up the degree of difficulty just a tinch, the majority of the players from those teams have since left the building as graduating seniors. So, as one can see, there is a modicum of pressure on the new guy in the coach’s seat.
“It’s tense and it’s interesting, but I’m liking it,” Bradshaw said after the Tigers recent home game against IN-Tech. “I did coach golf the past year here at the school, but this is my first time coaching basketball. It’s quick, very fast-paced, but I’m enjoying it.”
Sitting in a corner seat near the visitor’s bench was Reingold, watching his old program battle in a tightly contested game. But, for the first time in two years, the coach was enjoying it as a fan rather than stressing about it as a team leader.
“I don’t miss it,” Reingold said with a laugh.
Bradshaw also laughed when asked if he knew his predecessor was watching from the corner shadows.
“Oh yeah, I knew John was there,” Bradshaw said. Yet, the new coach was mostly focused on his team, a team that has just one player remaining from last year’s roster — Nick Edwards. But Bradshaw likes the symmetry of a new team learning the game under a new coach. It’s a journey, he says, they are both enjoying.
“There are still some things that they’re trying to figure out and, as a first-year coach myself, there are some things that I’m still figuring out,” Bradshaw said. “We’re all learning together, so as a team we’re all trying to make sure we do our best that we uphold Reingold’s standard of RKA basketball.”
The Tigers are off to a very respectable 3-3 record after their 60-55 victory over rival IN-Tech. It was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout that wasn’t decided until Edwards — who finished with a game-high 35 points — sank a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds to play to seal the deal for RKA.
“I told the guys, ‘These are your rivals and this is for pride,’” Bradshaw said. “I said to them to come out and play like you want it, and they did that, so I was very proud of them. I like this team. There are challenges all around and they’re kids and they do kid stuff, but I like this team. They want to play basketball, so it’s all good.”
Bradshaw’s roster is a little on the thin side currently as he suits up just 10 players for games. But reinforcements are on the way shortly as up to five players — who needed to square away their academics — have done so and will be returning to the team in the coming days. They will be a welcome addition to a roster that has very little in the way of experience.
“Some of the guys on the team right now, this is the first year for them playing organized basketball, and you might have seen some of that in this game,” Bradshaw said. “I was hoping to be around .500 when we got to the point where we were getting players back, and we did that. Now if there is any pressure, I’ll feel it with the guys coming back and hoping we play RKA basketball like I know we can and win the division again. That’s the goal.”
It’s not wins and losses that matter most to Bradshaw right now, but rather seeing his young team mature into what he hopes will be another division title contender.
“It’s getting them motivated and keeping them motivated to play hard and to think while they play,” Bradshaw said. “I see them trying to do that and trying to make plays, so seeing them growing and developing, for me, that’s the best. Seeing them learning how to play basketball and me learning to be a coach in my first year, that’s been the fun part.”
So what would represent a successful first season for Bradshaw? The same that made it so for Reingold, he said.
“Winning the division again,” Bradshaw said. “That’s one part. The other part is to get past the first round of the PSAL playoffs. We always lose in the first round of the playoffs, so getting past that would be the ultimate success story.”