by Jim Fenton (Enterprise)
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BROCKTON – He has been on the bench for more than 400 games since becoming head coach of the Massasoit Community College men's basketball team in 2001. Now in his 17th season guiding the Warriors, Jim Stapleton has been rewarded with the program's first trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.
"He definitely deserves that,″ said freshman forward Rollsky Edouard of Brockton. "I think he's done a tremendous job. He's a really good coach. He's gotten a lot of success here.″
Stapleton, who is the program's all-time winningest coach with a 257-170 record, has guided Massasoit to a spot in the national quarterfinal round against Nassau Community College Thursday at 5 p.m. in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.
A school teacher in the Brockton system, Stapleton has also been the Massasoit women's soccer coach for four seasons.
Now, he gets the chance to coach on the national level with a team that is 20-6, taking them to a tourney being held near the Catskill Mountains.
"It'll be fun,″ said Stapleton, who'll be matched up against Nassau coach A.J. Wynder, who played six games for the 1990-91 Celtics on a 10-day contract. "We have enough talent, but we're not going to overwhelm anyone with talent. But this team finds a way to hang around against everybody.
"We are the Rocky Marciano of basketball teams in the sense that he wasn't the biggest, he wasn't the quickest, he wasn't the fastest, but he was the toughest. Maybe that's what we are.″
Massasoit won its second Region 21 championship under Stapleton last weekend, defeating top-seeded Bristol Community College in overtime in the final. It marked the high point of Stapleton's tenure with the Warriors and his players are happy to have delivered a championship for him.
"He works hard every day,″ said point guard Rael Handy of Easton, an All-Region 21 first team selection. "He preps us for the game. To see the work he puts in finally pay off for him, we were all happy for him. That's why we go out there and fight so hard because we know who we're playing for and we all love playing for him.″
Avon High graduate Mark Georges, a third-team All-Region 21 pick, played briefly for Stapleton as a freshman in the 2013-14 season and returned this year.
"It's definitely rewarding for him and all of us,″ said Georges. "He's definitely a good coach. He knows exactly what he's talking about. When we listen to him and stick to the script, we win. When we try to defer, it doesn't always end up in our favor. It's rewarding for him to get the recognition.″
Massasoit arrived at the site of the national Division 3 tournament on Monday, leaving one day ahead of schedule because of the snowstorm. The Warriors will play three games in the tourney this week no matter how they fare in the opener against Nassau, thanks to consolation rounds. The tournament concludes with the title game on Saturday.