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From the Bench: After More than Four Decades and with State Title on Résumé, Hutson Stepping Down

By Jeff Toquinto on March 10, 2019 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When Dennis Hutson left the podium in the Charleston Civic Center following Bridgeport’s season-ending loss in the Class AA girls state basketball tournament, it wasn’t for the last time this season. It was for the last time.
 
Hutson who has coached nearly as long as I’ve been on this planet coached his last game for the Indians. The man who started his career in the 1970s, will not be back in 2019-20.
 
“It’s been a good run and I’ll miss it,” said Hutson.
 
A good run indeed.
                                                                      
It was 41 years ago when Hutson got his start coaching, back in 1977 for Salem Junior High. He was there for six year before he headed to Liberty High School and coached one year with Jim Clevenger on a team that made it to the Class AAA state tournament with names like Robbie Linville, Julius Lockett and others.
 
It was here where I got to see Hutson not from the stands or as a person asking him questions, but as someone he was actually coaching. He was the junior varsity coach and I was a junior varsity player. In the interest of full disclosure, he didn’t actually coach me a whole lot in action settings as I spent more time sitting than actually playing.
 
I digress.
 
It should be noted since 1977 the only break he had from public school coaching came after the year he had to deal with myself and other degenerates I was associated with. Although he was still involved with coaching on the AAU circuit with guys like Bridgeport’s Josh Peasak in tournaments that featured players like Shawn Kemp (please watch a YouTube video), Huston worked for Consol Energy for two years.
 
Hutson admitted a few years ago to me in this very blog the offer and money was too good to pass up so he left coaching and teaching. He also admitted his heart wasn’t into and he missed the chance to teach in the classroom and on the court.
 
So he came back. And he’s been coaching ever since.
 
After leaving Consol, Hutson assisted for two years with the Lincoln boys program under Mark DeFazio and then coached the Cougar girls. When DeFazio stepped down, he coached both the boys and girls programs back when girls played basketball in the fall.
 
When the switch came, Hutson opted to say with the Lincoln boys. He was there until 1999 when he came to Bridgeport and became part of one very unique championship experience. Hutson was an assistant – and a very hands-on assistant – with Gene Randolph for nine years. During that time, he helped lead the Tribe to a Class AA state title in 2001.
 
“Winning that title is still one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had in coaching and working with Gene, a guy that had no ego, was fantastic because he allowed me to have so much input,” said Hutson. “That team, that season, that state tournament run was all special.”
 
After the title, Hutson didn’t leave BHS even though the winds of change did start blowing again. And for the second time, he found himself coaching girls’ basketball at Robert C. Byrd starting in 2008-9 before coming to Bridgeport at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.  Hutson helped lead the Eagles to their first-ever state tournament appearance and he’s been a regular in Charleston with the Indians, including his final trip this year.
 
Hutson has coached 19 years as the head of a girls program. Only once has he had a losing season and had 297 wins heading to the state tournament this year on his girls coaching resume. He attributes it to good players and plenty of good assistants.
 
“I’ve really been blessed with good assistants. When you trust who’s on the bench with you, it makes things a whole lot easier,” said Hutson.
 
One of his assistants is current Lincoln girls Coach Rob Hawkins. When the Cougars toppled Bridgeport in the sectional final, Hutson was caught off guard by Hawkins in the handshake line.
 
“I’m going through the line and Coach Hawkins has tears in his eyes. He knows I’m stepping down and he tells me how much he enjoyed his time with me and how I helped him,” said Hutson. “That was a nice tribute. I’m going to miss that. I appreciated that. That meant a lot to me as a coach and as a person because he’s one of those assistants that makes you better as a coach.”
 
Those are among the reasons Hutson has coached for so long in a thankless job where the pay and hours worked are far from equitable. Those issues, and the changing times, were enough to say enough.
 
“It’s a lot tougher to coach today than it was 40 years ago. Parents are different today and we also work harder today by putting more time and detail into coaching than we ever have, but it’s never enough,” Hutson said. “The compensation isn’t good enough, the respect for the profession isn’t there either because 20 years ago you may have gotten questioned by a parent or a player, but it was the exception and not the rule.
 
“Part of it is social media where everyone knows the answers to everything and just lets you know how to do your job and part of it is other matters that just wear on you,” he continued. “It’s not that simple because, if it was, everyone who thinks they’re a coach would be coaching.”
 
Yet he also admits there are other factors. First off, more than four decades is a long time. Then, there are some personal issues as well.
 
“My mother is not well and that’s something on your mind,” said Hutson. “There’s also a consideration to perhaps move down south.”
 
If he goes, he’ll take a whole lot of wins and a whole lot of special memories of some great players with him. The list includes his standouts Jean Dennison, Shannon Minor, Heather Connor, Robin Right, Monica Clarke and Christie Lambert at Lincoln. Then there’s Danny Hardesty with the Cougar boys, to Bryant Irwin with the BHS boys and a whole host of players that one year at Liberty in his first high school gig along with Corin Todd and a great group he said he had at RCB.
 
“The kids at Bridgeport, including this year’s group, have all been special,” said Hutson. “I know I left some kids out, but I hope after all those years I’ve taught all of them something about life, about discipline, and structure that you can take to other walks of life through athletics. Even if it’s just one kid, the 41 years have been worth it.”
 
So is that a wrap? Hutson left the door open.
 
“I still like the competition that coaching provides,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if I show up somewhere down the road.”
 
Wouldn’t be a surprise to me. He only needs nine more years to get to 50. Whether he comes back or not, congratulations on four decades coaching. And on a personal note, thanks for always being a professional and dealing with me win or lose.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Dennis Hutson coaching in sectional action, while he receives an embrace from his former assistant and current Lincoln head Coach Rob Hawkins. Third photo shows Hutson, kneeling front row left with beard, during his first high school coaching gig at Liberty in 1983 with the blogger - Jeff Toquinto - second from the right in the front row. In the fourth photo, Hutson is shown with the 2001 Bridgeport state championship team. In the fifth picture, Hutson is shown doing something he's done many times - cutting down the nets after a postseason win. Below, Hutson is in the huddle with one of his early BHS steams. Top and bottom two photos by www.benqueenphotography.com.


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