Jon Dinan | Democrat
Fallsburg head coach Pete Dworetsky believed in newcomers like Jarrett Madison (4) to help replenish a team that lost 11 players from a year ago.
Boys Coach of the Year: Pete Dworetsky, Fallsburg
Story by Eli Ruiz
SOUTH FALLSBURG March 26, 2013 Fallsburg varsity basketball head coach Pete Dworetsky admits that his path to becoming the top-basketball-dog at the school involved equal parts luck and serendipity.
“I got the [coaching] job originally just by walking in the door,” says Dworetsky of the moment in 2001 when he was informed he would be taking over the school’s JV (junior varsity) program. “They just said; ‘you’re our new JV coach,’” affirmed Dworetsky.
It’s been an interesting and sometimes grueling journey, but Dworestky is now one of the top basketball coaches in the county and the recipient of the 2013 Democrat Coach of the Year. He led a Fallsburg team which returned just one player from last year’s team and led them to a 13-7 record, and a sectional playoff victory in what could have easily been a transition year.
“I knew it was going to be tough; I knew we’d lost a lot of talent from the 2011-2012 team, but I believed in us,” said Dworetsky. “I knew we had Rakkir [Watson] back, but I also believed in guys like Jarrett Madison, Jeremiah Fannings and Nick Pinder and I fully expected us to come in and work extremely hard each and every day as a team.
“We had a great early win [Chester] and we followed that with a tough loss [Tri-Valley] and we ended up playing a lot of close games. But my guys always found a way to play together, which ultimately led to the success we saw this season.”
In fact, Dworetsky goes on to name that December 21 loss to Tri-Valley; not his team’s February 7 11-point win versus the Bears, as the game that turned the season. “That was it, the one point loss to Tri-Valley pretty much set the tone for our season. We’re down by as much as 17-points, and at least 15 points at the half. Then Rakkir gets injured while we’re still behind. My other guys [Pinder, Fannings and Madison] stepped it up quite a bit and we just chipped away and chipped away at their lead eventually taking a 4-point lead of our own with just 10-seconds left.”
With a seemingly photographic memory, Dworetsky describes the game and its closing moments in painstaking detail, but then offers the valuable lessons his team learned with that agonizing loss.
“First off we learned that we weren’t a one-man-team and that we had some guys who could really step it up,” said Dworetsky. “We also realized that we can compete with anyone in our league; because for all the hype we heard going into that game, we went into their house and hung with them to the very end.
“We also learned from that game that each and every rebound counts, but most importantly; that playing one hundred percent one hundred percent of the time is really the only way to play and win.”
A Liberty High School alum, Dworetsky, 34 says his interest in the game dates back to when he played organized basketball in his high-school days, but makes sure to add, “I was by no means a standout player, but I certainly had the desire [to compete and had a love for the game.”
Admittedly, Dworetsky’s first three years as varsity coach were very tough, with Comet wins very few and far between. “We played a very tough [Section IX] Class B schedule my first three years here and we won just 11 games the whole three years combined,” says the high-energy Dworetsky.
With former Fallsburg head coach Paul Marsden stepping down prior to the 2006-2007 season, Dworetsky had big shoes to fill. Marsden led the Comets all the way to Final Four of the New York State Public School Athletic Association basketball tournament in 2003. “It was a little intimidating for sure, but I’d learned so much from him [Marsden] in those first five years,” said Dworetsky. “The experience was invaluable to me.”
Dworetsky’s fortunes as coach started to turn about four years ago when he had to call up a young freshman to his varsity squad, recalling, “We’d lost something like twenty straight games combined but had opened the 2009-2010 season 6-0. Then we lost our point guard, Russell Corley, and started losing games to teams we should have been beating. We desperately needed someone who could dribble, so we brought up Rakkir [Watson] from the JV team.”
The team’s undisputed leader and the Democrat’s Player of the Year this season, Dworetsky says of Watson, “He’s come so far from where he started as a freshman. It’s incredible, and it has been just a pleasure to watch him grow. He really became a believer in my message that good, bad, or indifferent, this team was going to watch his every move and his every reaction. He not only became a leader to his teammates but also someone I was confident I could depend on.
“Obviously everyone knew the ball was going to be in Rakkir’s hands most of the time, but he was mature enough this season to give that ball up when he needed to.
Watson credits his growth as a player and person to Dworetsky.
"He's been the only coach I've known since 9th grade,” said Watson. “He's just a great coach and guy. He's always there for us. He's always supported me and let me know when I'm messing up too. And he's helped me work on a lot of my weaknesses and just made me a better player and a better person too."
Dworetsky also credited a return to Fallsburg’s fabled pressing defense from their glory days as a reason for their success. “We showed teams a lot of different schemes with the press this season,” said Dworetsky. “We basically went into games, identified an opponent’s weakness, and we pounced on it.”
An obvious master at working with what little he has, Dworetsky explained that with only two juniors on this season’s JV squad, he’ll almost certainly have a sophomore starting for him, and possibly even an eighth grader on the team next season. He says he will be leaning heavily on returning players like Pinder, Madison and Fannings to provide leadership.
“You know, says Dworetsky, the nicest thing out of anything; including the wins, is that this was the nicest, most respectful and hardest-working group of kids I’ve ever coached. That alone makes it all well worth it.”
Asked how long he intends to continue coaching and mentoring young athletes, Dworetsky an admitted family man with a wife and two young daughters says, “I plan to do this as long as they [his family] allow me to. I could do this forever but when my family doesn’t support it anymore, that’s when I’ll call it quits.”
Watson related that next year's returners were really worried that Dworetsky might not return next season due to the losses to graduation. Says Watson, "They asked him if he was coming back and he said; “of course I'll be back."
Varsity coaching record of Pete Dworetsky at Fallsburg: