Pictured: Parker Strong was 139-84 in 10 seasons as East Hampton’s coach. (Photo courtesy of Ted Morton)
By Paul Augeri
East Hampton alum Parker Strong recently resigned after a decade as the Bellringers’ boys basketball coach, saying he wanted to spend more time with his young family.
“It takes a lot of time to do the job right,” said Strong, who told players after the season ended in March. “My son just turned six and will be starting school and my daughter will turn three next month. This was not an easy decision, but it’s something that is best for me and my family right now, to step away and take some time off from coaching altogether.”
While aware of other openings around the state, including the job at nearby RHAM of Hebron, Strong said he was not interested in pursuing another opportunity at this time.
“I don’t plan to coach,” he said. “I do expect to coach again but I don’t know when that would be.”
East Hampton athletic director Shaun Russell said he expects a new coach will be in place by the end of the school year. The job was posted on the CIAC’s website on April 5.
“Coach Strong did everything he was capable of doing for the boys basketball program during his 10-year tenure,” Russell told middlesexcountysports.com. “He has decided to step down from the position and we wish him all the best moving forward.”
Strong teaches physical education and health at the school and will continue in that capacity.
Strong was 139-84 in 10 seasons running the varsity program. His squads had some very good years – the 2017 team finished 16-4 and was a top-five seed in the Class S tournament, and the 2018 Bellringers ran the table in the 20-game regular season, won the Shoreline Conference championship and reached the semifinals of the Class S tournament.
“When I first got the job, we just tried to get a winning record,” he said. His first team, in 2011-12, was 7-13.
“You can’t run before you learn how to walk,” Strong said. “It was a great group of kids who gave us everything they had.”
The following season, East Hampton turned a .500 record. The next year, the Bellringers went 17-3, upset Westbrook in the Shoreline semifinals and lost to a powerhouse Cromwell squad in the final.
“We hadn’t won a Shoreline playoff game to that point,” said Strong.
In the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, the Bellringers won 7 of the 12 regular-season games. They defeated Portland in a first-round Shoreline tournament game before losing to eventual champion Morgan in the semifinals.
“I think the program is in great shape,” Strong said. “In 10 years, seven were with a winning record, and we were in the top half of the Shoreline the last six years. Others have had six-year runs like that, but we were the one team the last six years in the top half (of the standings). I’d expect we’ll be there next year with a strong junior class coming back.”
Strong’s time as coach was marked by an incident of his own making that drew attention statewide.
During a January 2018 game against neighboring Hale-Ray, an East Hampton player suffered a broken wrist from a hard foul on a drive to the basket. The Hale-Ray defenders involved played for Strong on the AAU circuit, and after the game the coach sent texts and a video clip of the play in question to the Hale-Ray players. Strong was disciplined with a one-game suspension.
“It was a tough situation,” he told middlesexcountysports.com. “Obviously, I made a mistake in texting the kids.” Asked what he learned from it, he said “you learn to have better boundaries”
Strong used to teach statistics, among other math disciplines, and appreciates numbers and basketball analytics. He said he spent a lot of time away from the court watching tape of his team and his opponents studying trends and ways his team could approve.
And, of course, he relishes the relationships he’s developed with players over time.
“I still talk to a lot of kids who have played for me,” Strong said. “If I’m just teaching them basketball, I’m doing it wrong. Basketball can be life lessons for something else.”
Strong said he won’t know how he will feel being away from the game when next season comes around, but he’s looking forward to spending that time with his family.
“This is definitely going to be quite a change,” he said.