By Ruth Kehinde – Digital Editor
In an article published on the Lasell athletics website on August 26, it was announced Todd Montana was stepping down as head coach of the women’s basketball team. Montana had roamed the Laser sidelines for the past six years.
His departure paved the way for Professor of Mathematics Neil Hatem to become the interim Head Coach.
Hatem has been part of the coaching staff on and off as a Volunteer Assistant Coach for the women’s basketball team for two different three-year periods: 2005-2008 and 2016-2019. Besides Lasell, he gained coaching experience with women’s basketball at Newton North and South high schools and through coaching his daughter.
With the absence of Montana, Hatem brought the aspects of his parenting abilities to the court, making his coaching experience not just beneficial to the student-athletes, but for himself. “I’m enjoying that aspect of it. My main goal is to keep on helping the kids… I want to make sure the kids have some continuity,” said Hatem.
“I think he’s a great leader, has a great personality and is a great motivator,” said Director of Athletics Kristy Walter. “He’s got a great record as an educator which is coaching too. I think students respond well to him…He has that personality that draws you in. I think it’s a perfect fit for us right now.”
Although the team as a whole hasn’t been able to practice much this fall due to COVID-19, a Canvas page was made for introductions and a place to refer to offensive and defensive drills that were set up in case a winter season did occur. The team also has Sunday Zoom calls for check-ins to get the bonding experience with each other.
Unfortunately, the winter season was recently canceled, squashing any hopes of seeing the women’s team compete under their new leadership this season.
Although this wasn’t the year players were expecting, Hatem “is taking on recruiting, coaching practices, and keeping us together as a team despite us not actually being able to be together. He cares a lot about the program and the players and stepped in because he knew we deserved to have someone in our corner to support us, especially during these times,” said Senior shooting guard Peyton Young.
Tackling his duties as a professor and now interim Head Coach, Hatem said, “I really like trying new things. With tutoring kids every day, every lesson is different. So to me, it’s just always keeping myself busy with new challenges.”
Hatem said the group of athletes wants to play, and he believes they would be lined up at the door before he got there if they were given the chance.
Hatem uses his strengths as a teacher and communicator to lead this team, however, he’s fully aware that he isn’t a basketball expert. “At the end of the day, great coaches are great teachers,” he said.