The Hills West Basketball Program proudly welcomes Coach Bill Mitaritonna into the head coach position following a 6-year absence. Mitaritonna, a social studies teacher here at West, was instrumental to the Colts’ success from 2000 to 2017.
Mitaritonna’s journey began in the fall of 1999 when he accepted a social studies teacher position. He immediately became the Junior Varsity basketball coach, a role that would not last long as it only took one year for Mitaritonna to be appointed the Varsity Coach in 2000. Since that day, basketball has been an integral part of his life.
Despite this, Mitaritonna had to step away from the game he loved coaching in 2017 as he retired as head coach as Mitaritonna “needed to be closer to home and the family.” However, things changed this year when his son returned to playing basketball at the high school level, giving Mitaritonna more time on his hands and the ability to return to doing what he loved, which was coaching Hills West Basketball.
As for Mitaritonna’s journey as a coach before 2017, it wasn’t all smooth sailing right from the start. “The first five years of coaching here at Hills West, I didn’t do a great job because I was 27 when I took over,” said Mitaritonna. It wasn’t until Mitaritonna went back to his roots and “got his philosophy down from [his] old Division III coach in Maine” that success was seen in the program. “The first five years I coached, I made the playoffs once. When I put in that defensive philosophy, I didn’t miss the playoffs again”.
During that time of success, Mitaritonna had many memorable moments, with the 2015-2016 season at the top of the chart. “I took a bunch of guys as freshman and sophomore and brought them up along the way, and we had a great run through the playoffs,” said Mitaritonna. Mitaritonna and his players would face up against the 2-time reigning Suffolk County Championships, Brentwood. In this county final matchup, Mitaritonna described this game as “we mopped the floor with them.” That night was “memorable, to say the least,” according to Mitaritonna.
With this 2015-2016 run, Mitaritonna highlighted his first championship as he coached the 2008-2009 team led by NBA Star Tobias Harris. As expected, Mitaritonna described the future NBA star as “a great human being.” He then went on to say, “he listened to everything we taught him and he wanted to be coached. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 years into his NBA career that he finally acknowledged me and said he realized what I’ve been saying when defense is key.” These two years are just a small sample size of some brilliance coach Mitaritonna created and experienced during his 18-year stint at the helm.
As for his return to Hills West Basketball, coach Mitaritonna returned to what gave him success before stepping away from the program. “When I started coaching in the 2000 season, the one word that came to mind was ‘TOGETHER.’ I wanted us to be together. Every time we get out of the huddle, it’s ‘together.’ That’s the only way to do it”, said Mitaritonna. Not only is Mitaritonna bringing back the brotherhood of Hills West basketball, but he is also bringing back his philosophy of defense winning championships. Despite admitting teaching these kids is no easy task, Mitaritonna says, “We teach it positively. If the kids can’t pick it up, we teach it again the next day”.
This year’s team is a young one. With a roster of just three seniors, coach Mitaritonna acknowledges the youth on this team but says, “They all want to be coached.” The season started with three games that all came down to the wire as they were all decided by 5 points or less. The Colts came out on top in one of those as they defeated Whitman 51-47 back on 12/6. The Colts started their league schedule earlier last week against Eastport South Manor and Comsewogue. The Colts had a double overtime thriller with the ESM Sharks on 12/13, ending in favor of Hills West as they prevailed 75-70. Mason Reisch led the team with 22 points and 14 rebounds, both career-high numbers. Reisch hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer in overtime to send the game to double overtime. Vince Corso also contributed with a career-high 19 points, all coming in the 2nd half. The Colts followed up this victory with another close game, a 45-42 against Comsewogue. Mason Reisch continued his strong play with a 13-point outing. As of 12/20, the Colts sit at a record of 3-2 with an undefeated 2-0 record in league play.
The Colts have a long season ahead of them as Coach Mitaritonna looks to re-establish the level of success and respect for the program before his 6-year pause from Hills West Basketball.