BASKETBALL: Sheehan turns to a deep home-grown bench to replace iconic head coach

WALLINGFORD — Sheehan has turned to 2011 grad John Wodatch as its new boys basketball coach.

The Titans did not have to look far for veteran coach Joe Gaetano’s replacement. Wodatch, 28, was an assistant coach under Gaetano for seven years.

Wodatch was introduced to the team for the first time as official head coach on Monday.

“First and foremost, it’s an honor to follow someone that has done this for 27 years, and I’m looking forward to instilling the values that Joe instilled,” Wodatch said. “I’m excited to come in with a new outlook and approach and build off of the success that Joe started with the program.”

Wodatch held a brief meeting with his players on Monday. Practice starts Thursday. The season opener is Dec. 15 at home against Shelton.

“There were excited faces and I’m looking forward to getting to work,” Wodatch said.

Wodatch said he’s going to establish clear standards and expectations for everyone to adhere to and live up to.

“Nothing is going to look perfect the first or second time you do it,” Wodatch said. “Kids got caught up in going for perfection. I’m hoping to instill a resilience and understanding that mistakes are opportunities to improve. I want to focus on them to become better people as well as players.”

Wodatch played baseball and basketball at Sheehan. He went on to college at UConn, where he played ultimate frisbee.

He’s now in his seventh year teaching math at Sheehan. He’s also in his second year coaching girls tennis at the school and was an assistant with the golf team for a few years.

In basketball, Wodatch had taken on more responsibilities as his time went on at Sheehan.

Incumbent assistants P.J. Grant and Shante Bacote will remain on his staff.

“All three of us are very excited for this new program,” Wodatch said. “We are all so loyal and thankful for everything Joe has done. We want to make sure we are furthering the Sheehan standard and we also want to leave our own mark. I can’t think of two better people to have on my staff.”

Wodatch said he never thought about coaching when he was a student-athlete at Sheehan. It wasn’t until he went to college that he developed a passion for coaching.

Gaetano said Wodatch will do well in the post.

“I think he will do a very good job,” Gaetano said Monday. “He was a valuable member of our staff. He’s a teacher in the building and knows the system. He has a good basketball mind.”

Gaetano stepped down earlier this month after 27 seasons with a 293-281 record and the 2010 Class M state championship.

“I was very glad to find out John got the job,” Gaetano said. “I was hoping to have one of my assistants take over. I hope the staff stays intact and they don’t miss a beat. John has a good rapport with the kids.”

Sheehan Athletic Director Chris Dailey said he’s excited to bring Wodatch aboard.

“He has big shoes to fill with Joe having been here for 27 years, but I have no doubt he’s prepared for the challenge,” Dailey said. “As an assistant coach, I observed John become more confident and valuable every year, whether it be taking initiative to incorporate a strength and conditioning program, practice planning or breaking down film.

“He has always looked for ways to improve the team and improve the program,” Dailey added. “I have no doubt that he will continue to do that every year and continue to grow as a coach.”


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