BY STEVE BARLOW
THOMASTON — Most people can’t remember who replaced John Wooden at UCLA or who took over from Vince Lombardi at Green Bay.
Brian Mozelak understands this, but is undeterred.
“You don’t want to be the guy who replaced the guy. You want to be the guy who replaced the guy who replaced the guy,” admitted the new women’s basketball coach at Thomaston High.
“After Bob (McMahon), there is a little pressure, but he does not leave the closet empty. Certainly, there is pressure in his steps, but there is a chance to bring my touch to this program,” he added.
Thomaston recently hired Mozelak to replace McMahon and feels like he has the right guy for the Golden Bears. Mozelak is already part of the city’s rich basketball tradition. He was an All-State player on Thomaston’s consecutive 1990 and 1991 men’s state championship teams and MVP in the 1991 title game. He finished the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,614 points.
Now, after four seasons as a JV coach, he takes charge of the women’s basketball program as head coach. His relationship with many players goes back even further since he has been coaching them since the fifth year.
“(The promotion) was kind of a natural progression because I was part of it,” Mozelak said. “My job is going to be to maintain what Bob has built.”
In 19 seasons, McMahon has guided the Golden Bears to nine Berkshire League titles, six state finals and three Class S state championships, including the one last spring, even though Thomaston is one of the smallest schools of State.
But Mozelak is right that the closet isn’t empty. Thomaston returns three starters and a total of six regulars in Nicole and Kylie Decker, Ava Harkness, Kiera Fainer, Marissa VanOrmer and Payton Mozelak, Brian’s daughter.
They will be BL favorites this winter, and the overall goals for the season will not change as there is a new head coach.
“We don’t actually say ‘Mohegan Sun or Bust’, but these girls on the program have been there either as spectators or last year as players their whole lives. The goal is to find a way to get back there. -down,” he said.
A resident of Thomaston, Mozelak, 49, is director of continuing medical education at Cine-Med Inc. in Woodbury. He expects the rest of McMahon’s staff – Kelly Finlay, Laura Miller and Bill Ryan – to stay with the program.
Asked about the key to McMahon’s success, Mozelak replied, “He’s a great motivator, breaking the kids down in December and building them back up to peak in March. I think that was his greatest asset. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’ve got the last four years watching it under my belt.