BASKETBALL: Wallingford’s Economopoulos furthers the family trade

BASKETBALL: Wallingford’s Economopoulos furthers the family trade

Record-Journal
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Former Lyman Hall and Albertus Magnus basketball standout Jimmy Economopoulos of Wallingford is in his first year as head coach at Daniel Hand. Th Tigers played Wednesday at Cheshire. | Justin Weekes / For the Record-Journal

WALLINGFORD — Jimmy Economopoulos is joining the family business.

Nearly a decade ago, as a high school junior and senior, the sharp-shooting guard was helping Lyman Hall basketball make two straight trips to the Class L final four.

After a four-year career at Albertus Career, Economopoulos traded in his basketball sneakers for a whistle and turned his attention to teaching the game he loves.

Economopoulos has followed his father Nick’s footsteps into coaching. This winter, he is in his first season as head coach of the boys basketball program at Daniel Hand.

“I saw that this job opened up and I was excited because I know how important athletics are to the Town of Madison,” Economopoulos said Wednesday night in Cheshire before his Tigers took on the host Rams. “I know how supportive they are with their athletic programs. As soon as I saw it, I applied right away. The interviews went well and I got the job in July.”

Economopoulos, now 26, had a successful playing career with Lyman Hall and Albertus Magnus. The two Class L final four trips in high school, which including a loss to Maloney in the 2008 championship game, were followed in college by three Great Northeast Athletic Conference league crowns and three trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Economopoulos started his coaching career right after graduating college. He served two years as a freshman coach at Foran before taking last season off from the hardwood.

“Last year was the first winter of my entire life that I wasn’t involved in basketball,” Economopoulos said. “I wasn’t coaching or playing. That was strange, and one year was enough for me, so I decided to get back into it.”

His first year with the Tigers hasn’t been the easy. Hand is 0-9.

Economopoulos said he’s been through lean times on the basketball court before. His Trojans were 1-19 in his sophomore year and made the state final against Maloney the next year.

“That was one of the toughest seasons I’ve ever had to deal with as a player in general,” Economopoulos said. “We struggled, and for the next two years we made two runs at the state title. It doesn’t matter how bad you are doing, you just have to keep working towards it and working hard and it does pay off.”

Lyman Hall lost to Maloney 54-46 in the 2007-08 state final and the next year lost to Torrington 39-38 in the semifinals on a buzzer-beater.

“I cherish those years, especially my junior and senior years,” Economopoulos said. “Those two runs we made at a state title, even though we fell short, are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Coaching is in Economopoulos’ blood. His father Nick had great success in the girls game with stints at Lyman Hall, East Catholic and Coginchaug. He led LH to five state finals and won back-to-back state titles in 1985 and 1986. At East Catholic, he won state crowns in 2002 and 2004.

“I knew coaching was in his blood because he was coaching AAU basketball since he was 16-years old,” Nick Economopoulos said.

“I’m proud of him. Basketball is really a family thing for us.”

The elder Economopoulos would still like to coach a high school team if given the opportunity, but he still gets his coaching fix on the AAU level. He’s also available to lend an ear to his son whenever needed.

“He’s having fun being at all of the games and helping me out whenever he can,” Jimmy Economopoulos said. “He’s pretty hands-off for the most part, but if I ask for help, he’s definitely there to help me.

“He’s never been pushy or tried to get involved. I try to get him involved as much as I can. It’s great having him to bounce ideas off of and to discuss scouting reports with. He loves going to scout games for me and going to see different teams and helping me come up with a game plan. He’s great to have to ask questions because he has so much experience.”

When not on the basketball court, Economopoulos is a teacher at Riverside Education Academy in New Haven. He teaches math to 10th and 11th graders.

Economopoulos still lives in Wallingford and said he is looking forward to the Feb. 10 contest at Lyman Hall.

“It’s going to be weird coaching against Lyman Hall in the Lyman Hall gym,” Economopoulos said. “It’s going to be a weird experience for sure. They come to us next Friday. It’s a league game now. We are in the Housy with them now, so it’s even crazier.”

Economopoulos said Lyman Hall coach Rob Ruys was one of the first to congratulate him on his new job.

“He joined the LH staff in my sophomore year,” Economopoulos said. “He was always great and very supportive. He texted me as soon as I got the job. He’s a great guy.”


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