‘We learned a lot’: After 3-15 season, Tim LaTorra still optimistic about the future for Concord boys’ basketball

Concord guard Japhet Nduwayo scores on a one-handed layup against three Winnacunnet players during the second half on Feb. 2.

Concord guard Japhet Nduwayo scores on a one-handed layup against three Winnacunnet players during the second half on Feb. 2. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Tim LaTorra talks to his team during Senior Night against Salem on Feb. 20.

Tim LaTorra talks to his team during Senior Night against Salem on Feb. 20. CHIP GRIFFIN / Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-28-2024 11:41 PM

The 2023-24 season for Concord boys’ basketball was supposed to be one of promise. In head coach Tim LaTorra’s first season last year, he’d taken a team that finished 2-16 the year before to 6-12, a tiebreaker away from reaching the playoffs.

But the 2023-24 season was anything but one of promise. 

Concord started the year 0-10, losing its games by an average margin of over 20 points. The team provided some reason for hope in mid February with two wins in a week, over Manchester Memorial (74-64) and Salem (84-58), but ended the year with a 90-33 slaughter against Dover, the type of game you forget about as soon as the final buzzer sounds.

For LaTorra, there were far too many of those types of games throughout the 3-15 season.

“I think a lot of us were frustrated,” he said. “I think maybe we thought that it would pick up from where we left off last year. … But I think we learned a lot, both as players and as coaches about what we need to do moving into the offseason into next year.”

The Tide faced multiple blows before the season even began. Starting point guard Eli Bahuma and 6-5 forward Sam Pfitzenmayer suffered injuries that sidelined them for the entire year, hampering a roster already light on varsity experience.

As the losses started to pile up, there never felt like an easy fix. Looking back, though, LaTorra said he needs to find a better way of outlining his expectations for his players. The program’s not at the point yet where those expectations are widely understood, he explained, so he’ll spend the next few months working through how to best communicate those foundational components. 

On the floor, he added, he plans to make increased intensity during practice a priority.

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“We’ve gotta make things more competitive in practice to help prepare us for the games, try to get all of our guys caught up to speed with the things that we want to do on offense and defense,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t make it competitive enough to simulate real game speed.”

LaTorra knew when he took over the program that it would be a long-term rebuild. Still, it’s one thing to know your teams will take their lumps; it’s another to endure game after game of dispiriting performances. He’s keeping the faith that greener pastures lie ahead. 

Rebuilding Concord boys’ basketball at the varsity level doesn’t start with the high school players. It starts with the players in elementary school and developing them through the system so when they reach the varsity team, there’s a shared level of experience and understanding of what the Concord boys’ basketball program is about.

That program identity is still in the early stages of development, but next year could be a turning point. The incoming freshman class was part of the first group of travel teams the community started when those players were in fourth grade. And while next year might not be the year the Tide finally make it back to the playoffs, LaTorra’s hopeful the path to achieving that feat won’t feel so far-fetched by this time next year.

“We have a good young group coming up that’s excited about basketball, enjoys playing basketball and will bring that competitiveness and daily focus that we talk about,” he said. “And I’m hoping that some of the guys we have coming back will make some adjustments just like we will as coaches and do a better job next year.”