Masto Selected as Natick High’s Boys Basketball Coach

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
October, 2019
Article Body: 

Natick High’s new boys basketball coach is no stranger to the Bay State Conference.
Michael Masto, who coached Walpole High’s varsity squad for the last two years, will replace Sam Doner, who has moved on to direct St. Sebastian’s team. Masto’s two-year record at Walpole may raise some eyebrows but the Rebels’ 10-36 mark during his tenure doesn’t measure the 31-year-old’s intangible assets — like building character and embracing ethics. The numbers also fail to reveal the valuable life lessons that his former players learned.
“Leaving Walpole to go to Natick is not an anti-Walpole decision,’’ said Masto, who is in his 10th year as a health and physical education teacher in Franklin. “It’s a pro-Natick decision. At Walpole we measured success by the growth of kids and the growth of the team. The kids at Walpole displayed a tremendous work ethic and they bought into what we wanted.’’
Walpole is a Division 2 school and it played almost all its games against Division 1 opponents in the BSC. Yet, the Rebels qualified for the playoffs in Masto’s first year, thanks to the Sullivan Rule, which enables a team to qualify if it plays .500 against squads in its respective division.
Masto’s arrival at Natick is a solid choice, primarily because his background is extensive and he paid his dues as an assistant at Franklin High. “I was an assistant to Dean O’Connor and CJ Neely for a total of six years,’’ Masto said. “I got a great opportunity to work with two excellent coaches. CJ succeeded Dean and he’s done a tremendous job, just a special person and an all-around coach.’’
Masto’s goals and the attributes he admires in prospective players are very telling and provide clues why he should be a good fit at Natick. He’s competitive and he obviously prefers victory over defeat. But, it’s his approach and his desire to instill top-quality values in his players.’’
“Three core values I’ll stress are that every situation in life is a learning opportunity,’’ he said. “Also, that it’s imperative to control what’s controllable and that hard work is the price of admission. The attributes I want in our players are a strong work ethic, resilience, passion and an ability to be good decision-makers. Resilience means to react to adversity in a positive fashion.’’
The Redhawks didn’t qualify for tourney play last year but Masto emphasizes that the key to return to that venue “is to focus on basics, be fundamentally sound and to rely on defense.’’ And, he likes the adage that emphasizes that “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.’’
Hired in early June, Masto was unable to meet with his potential players but he did see some of them compete in summer league action. “They seem hungry,’’ he said. “And, they’re talented and competitive.’’
A native of East Haven, Conn., Masto greatly admires the environment that surrounds Natick High and he also likes its winning traditions. “I was at Natick’s gym to scout them for Franklin in a potential tourney matchup and I was so impressed with the environment and the tremendous community support,’’ he noted. “There wasn’t an empty seat available.’’
After three interviews and about a month-plus of time, Masto was hired and looks forward to working with Tim Collins, the Natick A.D. “Tim coached at Walpole and we’ve known one another from the games Walpole and Natick have played. He’s welcoming, encouraging and supportive.’’
Masto played basketball (forward) and ran track (javelin, 4x400 relay) at East Haven High. An all-scholastic as a senior in both sports, he enrolled at Springfield College where he focused on health and phys-ed. He later earned a masters degree from Endicott College in athletic administration and added another masters from West Virginia University in physical education. Masto and his wife Lauren reside in Franklin.
Masto’s competitive philosophy has a common-sense flavor. “I want our team to be successful on and off the court,’’ he said. “Our players are student-athletes and that means building strong relationships with the person first. Ensuring that they reach their potential and enjoy their athletic experience are also keys to my philosophy.’’
A road victory over Norwood on senior night is a dynamic example of Masto’s competitive teachings. “We were hot early and took a 15-point lead,’’ he recalled. “They bounced back and led in the fourth quarter. But, with 30 seconds to go we tied the game and forced two overtimes. We won by four. “The kids showed character and a strong work ethic.’’
Masto’s work ethic can only be described as “insatiable.’’ He takes pride in what he does, whether it’s scouting, watching film or diagramming plays. “I learned a lot from my high school coach (Rick Narracci),’’ Masto offered. “He instilled a strong work ethic and he was a dynamic motivator.’’
There’s little doubt that Natick High’s players will know the basics, they’ll work as a team and be able to deal with adversity. “Life lessons, like resiliency and knowing how to control what’s controllable, are important,’’ Masto said. “Developing relationships, stressing teamwork and learning leadership will go a long way in life.’’
When NHS and Walpole High face one another this winter, it should be a contest filled with emotion. Masto puts it in proper perspective.
“I hope it’s a very competitive game,’’ he said. “And, I’m sure the winner will be deserving. I know the Walpole kids will feel some emotions. They always worked hard.’’
And, it’ll be obvious that Michael Masto’s Redhawks will display all the outstanding attributes and characteristics that he admires and strives to instill.