March 14, 2021, Story and photos by Joshua Ross
In the winter of 2013 (during Christmas break), first-year Girls Varsity Basketball Head Coach Eugene Buczynski, was stuck on Route 1 in the middle of a snow storm with his team waiting for plows to free them so they could get to the only tournament that would extend them an invitation. The Rookie Coach and his team were not good enough to be invited to any of the major holiday tournaments on the South Shore, so they accepted an invitation to play in Hamilton. When they finally arrived, they proceeded to lose both games. As they were leaving, Coach Buczynski turned to long-time stat man/voice of the Harborwomen Greg Partyka and said, "We are going come back here next year and win this thing."
Not wanting to burst the new coach's enthusiasm, Partyka cautiously pointed out that the other teams competing are some of the North Shore's top ones. Sure enough, the following year the team was back on the bus heading up Route 1 to Hamilton. This time, the team not only made it to their first-ever tournament championship game, they did exactly what Buczynski said they would do - win the whole thing.
"That was the first championship game we participated in, and we won it," Buczynski recalls. "It was at Christmas time. That's a good time to realize that you're going to be all right. That everything's going to be good."
Eight seasons later, things have been more than good for Coach Buczynski. He took a program that could barely win a game to become one of the top programs in the state. He has managed to build a program from the ground up by instilling his coaching philosophy and making his players believe they can win. While the turnaround happened relatively quickly, there were still some challenges at the beginning.
“The most challenging thing was developing the identity of the girls’ basketball team,” Buczynski says. “I wanted them to play tenacious defense. I wanted them to be the best rebounding team around. And I wanted to be competitive in every one of our games, whether we were the better team or, the weaker team.
“When I took over, we weren’t highly regarded,” he goes on to say. “I wanted to compete in every game. In my first and second year, those were the years Duxbury won the state championship. We just went into those games and competed. After the first year, everyone bought in. And obviously, we had some new players coming in at that point too. That made a big difference."
Coach Buczynski has had more than a few great players funnel through his program over the years. Players like Abby Landry, Steph O’Connell, Emma Holler, Sarah Murphy, HHS’s only 1,000-point scorer Grace Bennis, and of course, the Blasetti sisters - Sydney, Haley, Riley, and Perry.
Buczynski credits that initial group of players in his first few years for buying into the system that built the foundation of this program that has continued to grow and get better each year. This didn’t happen by accident.
“One of the things that surprised me the most was how quickly the girls wanted to get involved with the younger kids,” Buczynski recalls. “The captains at the time really felt it was important to tie the youth program into the high school program. The Hingham Youth Girls Basketball boards for the in-town and travel team were super positive and willing to connect the two programs, and instantly, the youth programs started showing up at our games. I feel like the older girls in the first couple of years knew how important it was to give back to those programs. Kind of like a grassroots program. Leading up to this year, most kids who came to the games were not the student body, but the girls who wanted to be part of it (in the future).”
"Coach B" (as his South Elementary students call him), didn't get started in coaching girls' basketball. The current gym teacher has coached everything from the girls' track team, to cross country, to assistant boy's basketball coach, to head boys basketball coach at Archbishop Williams, all before landing the head coach of the HHS girls' basketball team. Whether basketball, track, or gym class, it's clear that Coach B has an impact on his players' and students' lives.
The Anchor reached out to a few former and current players on their thoughts about what the coach has meant to them.
"I've known Coach B since before I was in elementary school. When I got to elementary school, he was no doubt my favorite teacher. I looked forward to his classes every time we had gym and made sure to sign up for Fly South after school programs with him every time he offered it. Elementary school is really where his impact on me started. I remember one specific instance where I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing, and he told me that to be a leader I needed to lead by example. Without getting into details, to this day I remember his one-on-one talk with me vividly. Since then, he was a consistent presence for me as I moved into middle school and high school. I would always go to Harbormen Hoop Camps (that he helped run) in the summer during my middle school years, and I remember feeling like he was always looking out for me and had his eye on me. I could tell he was someone who really believed in me and cared about my development as a person. When I finally got to high school I remember wanting to be on the JV team so badly because he was the coach. I knew he cared about me and would push me. That year on his team, I had a blast working with him every day. He made it fun and challenging, and he did a great job pulling us together as a team. It was that season when I realized how much I really appreciated him. Being around coaching my whole life, I knew he was a good coach. I always admired how he could consistently care for individual players while always putting the team's success above any one individual player. I believe this is why he has been so successful as a coach. Coach B has been someone in my life that has inspired me to be the best I can be and is part of the reason why I've chosen to pursue coaching as well. Hopefully someday I'll be able to have an impact on young people like he had on me," Joe Spaziani, former student and JV basketball player.
"I had the privilege to be coached by Coach B all of my four years at Hingham. Throughout my time on the team, Coach B's passion and dedication to the program, our team, and each player was unparalleled. When I was getting recruited to play college lacrosse, I wanted to find a coach that cared about me and my teammates as both people and players just like Coach B did. He showed up to every practice and game with a big smile on his face excited to compete and coach the sport he loves. This taught me how to always find the joy in sports whether it be in basic skills training or competitive games. These are some reasons why he's had such a positive impact on me and I'll always be grateful for Coach B pushing me to be a better basketball player, athlete and person," Abby Landry, former varsity basketball player.
"I want to give a special thank you to Coach B for everything he has done for this program. I appreciate how much dedication and time you put into this team for the past eight years. I've watched you coach all three of my sisters, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to have you as my coach. I have known you since you were my elementary school gym teacher. I would always look forward to coming to gym class and having an absolute blast every time. You have watched me grow up through all these years, and I have always looked up to you and the way you light up a room with your positive energy," current captain, Junior Perry Blasetti's recent remarks at the girls basketball team's year-end banquet.
It was 2016, in the post-game interview after Haley Blasetti made the game-winning layup in the final seconds sending the team to the finals of the state championship, when Buczynski was asked about his thoughts on reaching the finals.
“Eugene stopped, looked up, and asked me if Hingham had ever done this before?” Partyka retells the story. “I thought about it and said I don’t believe so. I don’t remember the program getting this far before.”
Coach B made it to the championship game two more times in the next four years after that year. Partyka explains that his work ethic, especially around tournament time is unmatched.
“No one works harder to prepare for an opponent than he does. This is especially true at tournament time. Grabbing game film for analysis on potential opponents becomes a full-time job. Eugene and I will analyze the brackets, look at the results, decide on likely matchups, and I will scour my sources looking for film. We are looking at least one if not two games ahead in order to turn the tape in time for analysis. Generally, the more film on a potential opponent, the better.“
While the program-changing tournament wins are unforgettable, Buczynski rattles off a number of regular season games that stand out to him the most over the years. A game against Hanover where they were down by 8 points with a minute left and won, a holiday tournament game against Rockland, last year’s game against Quincy in which they were down by 17 points in the second half and came back to win.
“You know, everyone knows the big names that come through our program,” Buczynski adds. “But if you watch those games, those big comebacks, it was the role players and the support of their teammates that really allowed us to come back in those games."
Anyone who has covered Coach B and his teams over the years knows that he’s just as much a people person as he is a basketball coach. It’s apparent as he talks about all his players and the fact that he said the biggest thing he’s going to miss is “the relationship with my players.” He says he won't be gone from coaching for too long as he takes some time off as his own daughters make their way through high school.
One can argue about whether a team’s success is due to the coach or the players (Belichick vs. Brady) until the cows come home, but it’s undeniable that in order to win you need an identity and winning culture. Coach Buczynski brought those things to the Hingham Girls Basketball team eight years ago. He built a competitive, inclusive, and successful program by instilling in his players to not be intimidated, play their hardest, and never back down to a better opponent. Sometimes he taught these traits, and sometimes he just led by example.
In a passing comment about how the Duxbury Girls Basketball coach, Bob Sullivan, is also retiring this year, Coach B went back into story mode about his battles with the Patriot League powerhouse Lady Dragons.
“Sully and I met when we were both JV coaches,” Buczynski enthusiastically recalls. “He went onto the Girls Varsity, and I went to the Boys team before coaching Girls Varsity. He was part of three or four state championship teams, which is really impressive. He brought the best out of me. We had to be separated twice in games. Just from being fiery, and he’s the only person I ever that kind of relationship with, but it was awesome. Then we would talk on the phone after the games that they had to separate us. We’ve had games where we both had technicals and had to sit out the rest of the games. He’s fantastic.”
You’re not too bad yourself coach.