STAMFORD, Conn. – Like his predecessors, Dan Melzer figures to be around for the long term as the coach of the Stamford High School boys basketball team. The difficulty he’s having is trying to figure how to handle a short-term trial.
The Black Knights slipped to 2-9 overall and 1-8 in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference on Tuesday night with a 66-63 loss to Wilton. Melzer, a former Stamford player and former assistant to long-time coach Jim Moriarty, knew his team would struggle with an inexperienced team this winter. He did not figure on this.
“It’s been very frustrating, to say the least,’’ Melzer said. “It’s a learning experience. I know that we do win some games, I’ll appreciate it that much more.”
Melzer was hired in the summer to replace Moriarty, who became the school’s athletic director. Moriarty compiled 445 wins in 34 years as head coach at Stamford, including one league championship and one state championship. Stamford has had just five head coaches since 1927.
Losing seasons were rare under Moriarty, and things figured to stay the same under Melzer. He graduated from Stamford in 2001 and played three years at Connecticut College before joining Moriarty’s staff. He was selected as the team’s coach against a strong field that included 17 candidates.
But Stamford only went 12-10 last year, and most of the key players on that team graduated. This season got off to a rocky start with four straight losses.
“We have not put 32 minutes together yet,’’ Melzer said. “I think we are getting better. But it sure doesn’t seem that way in the standings.”
Melzer’s point was dramatically illustrated in the loss to Wilton. The Black Knights built a 26-17 lead in the second quarter, and were playing with confidence. But the Warriors outscored them 15-2 in the final 4:02, as Stamford became unglued.
Stamford does appear to be improving. It battled back and tied the Warriors at 57-57 with 2:22 to play. The Black Knights battled until the end, but could not get a good look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer on their final possession.
Stamford has nine games left in the regular season, and needs to win six to qualify for the state tournament. Fairfield Ludlowe visits Stamford on Friday. Melzer does not believe the team is playing close to its potential. If it does over the final month, a state tournament berth would be rewarding for a season that thus far has been a disappointment.
“Our younger guys are getting some experience, which is good,’’ Melzer said. “And our older guys are starting to understand what the varsity level is all about. We’re a very inexperienced team and it really shows up down the stretch of these close games. It’s very minor things. Often times, it’s the little things that decide games.”