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Gifford doing double duty at Broadalbin-Perth

Gifford doing double duty at Broadalbin-Perth

Veteran coach leading girls' team this season in addition to boys' squad
Gifford doing double duty at Broadalbin-Perth
Broadalbin-Perth head coach Tucker Gifford talks to his girls' team during their game against Queensbury on Monday.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

BROADALBIN — No, Tucker Gifford is not crazy.

He is a basketball junkie, though, one who saw a need and stepped forward to fill it this season as Broadalbin-Perth's varsity girls' coach.

It's a second job. Third, actually.

Gifford also coaches the Broadalbin-Perth varsity boys' basketball team. It's something he's done for well over a decade in making the Patriots a consistent high-echelon Foothills Council squad.

"I enjoy it," Gifford said Monday as his boys were finishing up practice, and his girls began to show up for a game against Queensbury. "I'm in the gym. It's my life."

Since November, basketball has been a non-stop venture for the the Broadalbin-Perth physical education teacher whose basketball coaching double is extremely rare at the high school level. While some simultaneously lead both boys' and girls' cross country teams and track teams and others coach year-round, Gifford is tackling something completely different this winter season.

In the  B-P gym late Monday afternoon, wearing a t-shirt and sweats, the tall and energetic Gifford led the boys' practice. He emerged later in a dress shirt, tie and slacks for Round 2, a girls' game against Queensbury that ended in a 57-35 setback.

"The first thing that comes to mind is, 'He's got to be crazy,'" Broadalbin-Perth athletic director Matt Ehrenreich said. "No one else could fit this situation."

Gifford began pondering the coaching double over the summer, knowing Mike Magliocca would not be returning to lead the B-P girls.

Gifford presented his coaching plan to Ehrenreich before his approval to run both teams was granted by the Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education.

"I knew they didn't have a coach yet, and as it got closer, I started thinking, 'What if?'" Gifford said. "I wanted to see if it could work out and I began to look at the logistics. I knew it would be seven days a week non-stop, but I was willing to do that."

Ehrenreich said the Foothills Council schedule worked in Gifford's favor, with girls playing Monday and Thursday nights, and the boys playing Tuesday and Friday nights. Gifford fits in practices before games and on Wednesdays and Sundays, and gives the girls Fridays off and the boys a break on Saturdays.

"It works," said Gifford, a married father of two young daughters. "Having good kids around you helps. They understand the situation and have responded in a positive way. They've bought into the idea of one big program."

Ehrenreich agreed that Gifford's plan is working.

"It's been way less of a headache than anyone could have imagined," Ehrenreich said. "It's been so positive across the board."

Broadalbin-Perth junior Kylie Stigberg said Gifford hasn't missed a beat moving from one team to another.

"How is he going to do it with games and everything," Stigberg, a first-year varsity player, thought. "He flips a switch and he's on to the girls. He is organized, and he knows his stuff."

A full day of school done and a boys' practice nearly complete, Gifford still looked fresh and looking forward to guiding his girls.

"It doesn't faze him. He just keeps going,"  said B-P senior Troy Monroe, a two-year varsity player. "When I heard he was going to do both I was thinking how would practices work. I  thought he would have the boys and girls at the same time in a split gym. I didn't think he would want to take that much time out of his day."

Gifford is working with two young teams that combined have only a handful of seniors. The boys are off to a 2-3 start and the girls are 0-6, but, he said, making strides forward.

"When I first found out he would be coaching us I was so happy," said B-P junior Adrienne Morreale, a two-year varsity player. "He's won titles with the boys. He's such a good coach. We're an improved team over last year, and you can tell by the scores of our games. Last year we were getting beat by 50."

Gifford is looking to turn the girls' team into a consistent winner like the boys have been. In 2008, his Patriots were the Section II Class B runner-up, and the next year they claimed the championship.

"I can't fathom giving up the boys," Gifford said. "The girls presented me an opportunity. We're taking it from square one and seeing how far we can go.

"The girls have bought into, 'We're going to change,' and what the boys get, the girls get. They're watching film now. They're being exposed to a whole different culture, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's a process."

And Gifford, who was a schoolboy star at Northville and still resides there, is giddy to be a part of it.

"Don't get me wrong," the 40-year-old Gifford said. "It's exhausting, but it's something I want to do. I'm 99 percent sure I'll do it again."

Gifford said his coaching demeanor changes with his two teams.

"The dynamic is different. Practices are different," he said. "Every day I'm Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's, 'This is my method with you. This is my method with you.'"

Stigberg said she likes Gifford's serious-but-caring approach.

"He'll stop and tell you what you're doing wrong so you understand," Stigberg said. "He'll spend time on you. He wants us to get it right."

The girls' team is learning offensive sets and defensive strategies the boys already have a handle on.

"For the most part we have the same plays," Morreale said. She then laughed.

"The last game, in the middle of the game, he starts calling out, 'Box, box [defense],' and I'm like, 'What play is this?' None of us knew. We hadn't learned it yet."

Gifford laughed, too, about his brief mental lapse.

"I have to be extremely organized doing this," Gifford said. "We're at different stages. Right now we're playing catch-up with the girls."

Ehrenreich has already seen improvement in the girls' team since its opening game.

"It's hard to express the change," Ehrenreich said. "Watching the girls, everything is getting better. They've had a few close ones. He [Gifford] will find a way to close the gap."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-399-3143, jims@dailygazette.com or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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