By Kevin J. Stone, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – There’s officially a new man in charge of the Hudson Hockey program.
With Mike Nanartowich’s retirement, someone was eventually going to have to step up and take over. Of course, it’s a fairly high-pressure job as far as Massachusetts high school hockey goes, as the Hawks have been one of the most well-respected teams in Central Massachusetts and across the state for quite some time.
If anyone was fit to handle that pressure, however, it’s a former alum who has plenty of experience behind the bench. Enter Scott O’Connor, who was recently named the new head coach.
“I actually grew up in Hudson, and Mike [Nanartowich] was a sophomore my senior year,” O’Connor explained in an email.
Prior to Hudson, O’Connor spent 10 years as the assistant varsity coach at Hopkinton. Before that, he was the Varsity B head coach at Cushing Academy. That gig came after O’Connor was the head coach at Berkshire School. He has also been a co-coach at Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, NJ. All that, in turn, is after he started his career as a head coach at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School.
“As an alum, it has been a desire to coach at Hudson,” O’Connor said. “In fact, I told Chris MacPhearson, (the head coach at Hopkinton) that the only reason I would ever leave Hopkinton would be if the Hudson job opened up. When it did, I had to apply.”
Has O’Connor talked to his predecessor about the new role yet? No, but hopefully it’s coming soon.
“He retired, and I wanted to let him enjoy that,” O’Connor said. “It’s rare that a coach would have a voice in their successor, so I didn’t feel it was appropriate to bother him in any way.”
“I was also aware of his preference for his assistant to get the job, and so did not want to put him in an uncomfortable position,” he continued. “However, I’m sure as the start of the season draws closer, we will talk about the upcoming season.”
Nanartowich had openly called for Tom Fahey to be hired as Hudson’s next coach, telling the Community Advocate in February, “They can expect me to be quite vocal on who I think should replace me.”
As far as taking over for Nanartowich, though, O’Connor has a firm belief in his abilities. He said his strong connection to Hudson should make handling the role that much easier.
“Clearly, anytime you replace a legend like Mike, there is some pressure,” he said. “However, I have over 30 years of coaching experience, and I believe that that factored into my being hired.”
“I have the necessary experience to guide the program through the transition from a long-time, successful coach to the next era for the program,” he continued. “One thing I believe is I am not a new coach for Hudson Hockey, I am simply the next coach. The program transcends us all, and I am simply the next person entrusted to guide it for the moment.”
It’s far too early to know what type of team Hudson will be this winter. But that doesn’t mean O’Connor hasn’t thought about what type of team he wants them to be.
“I believe speed kills, and so I like to have a high-pressure attack in most areas of the ice,” he said. “However, that obviously depends on the talent of your players, and so that ultimately dictates your game plan.”
“At the same time, you can make up, somewhat, for a lack of speed or size by being disciplined and running your systems effectively,” he continued. “That takes hard work and faith in your teammates to do their job.”
Whatever the first year in this new era for Hudson looks like, the seniors will be leading the way, and O’Connor is looking forward to taking the journey with them.
“Based on the returning roster I’ve seen, we will be young and a bit undersized while having a great core of seniors,” he added. “The key will be blending those things into a cohesive unit where individuals will sacrifice and give the extra effort for their brothers in the locker room.”