Russ Long hired as Gillett boys hoops coach

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Coach hoping to bring stability to program

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

Russ Long was hired as the new Gillett boys basketball coach. (Contributed photo)

The Gillett boys basketball varsity head coaching position has been a revolving door.

The Tigers will have their sixth person at the helm in the last seven seasons. Russ Long is looking to bring stability to the program.

“We’ve had quite a few coaches who have come through and done one season coaching and left,” Long said. “I know the kids. I’ve been coaching a lot of these kids since they were in youth, and I have a pretty good rapport with them. I thought I’d come on in and see what I can do.”

Long, who was the junior varsity coach for the past three years, takes over for Kelly Willson who went 10-36 during his two seasons.

This is Long’s first head coaching job at the varsity level. However, he’s been a mainstay for a while with Gillett sports. Long coached his son Clint, who graduated from Gillett in 2013, as well as Cole, who is a senior this year, during their youth. Long has also coached at various levels for the Gillett football program for 11 years.

Having coached up through the ranks, Long and his players are well acquainted. That should definitely help in the transition period as Long implements his own systems.

“They know what I expect,” Long said. “One thing that I think we’ve lacked in the last couple of years is attention to playing defense, attention to conditioning. I’m a big proponent of conditioning for these guys, I think everything starts with that. The guys that know me know that I expect them to come into the season in shape, and if they’re not in shape we’re going to get them in shape. I just expect guys to give all they’ve got.”

Long has a solid group to work with this coming season. The team returns all but one player from a year ago — Jesse Schaefer graduated — when it went 8-15. That’s the highest number of wins for the program since the 2014-15 season.

The Gillett players are taking the upcoming season seriously.

“The guys have put in a lot of work this offseason,” Long said. “We’ve had quite a few of our players who went and did AAU. … I think it’s finally got through to guys that the season we’re going to have is based on how hard they work in the offseason. We’ve had guys decide that it’s really time to turn it up here and make things happen for the better.”

Long hadn’t really given it much thought to become a varsity head coach, but when Willson called him in the spring and notified him that he was stepping down as basketball coach, Long decided to apply for the position.

“It’s not just a one-year commitment for me,” Long said. “I’m not just going to see my son graduate and say, ‘Well, that’s it.’ It is definitely a multi-year commitment, and I know basketball’s become a deal where it’s beyond October-March. It truly is a year-long commitment, not only from the kids but the coach also. I knew it was going to be a lot of work.”