STRATFORD—Francisco Salazar had to wait longer than he wanted to become the new girls varsity basketball coach at Bunnell High School.
Now he has to wait another 24 hours before the Bulldogs get to play their season opener.
Salazar—a former boys varsity coach at Derby High School, who coached girls JV last year at A.F. Amistad—was finally approved as the new Bulldogs coach by the Stratford Board of Education, almost two weeks after the start of the preseason.
“We chose Francisco for not only his basketball experience and knowledge of the game, but his instructional background which will assist in teaching the fundamentals of the game,” Bunnell athletic director Wayne Thrall said. “We believe it to be a great fit for the current state of our program as we look to build the girls basketball team into a competitive program year in and year out.”
Salazar replaces Cheri Eleazer, who stepped down after three seasons in mid-November.
After a search for the new coach, Thrall had offered the position to Salazar, but the program was forced to wait for the Board of Education’s approval before the new coach could set foot on the court with his new team.
Because of the BOE’s delay, Bunnell might be behind the rest of the SWC and state in terms of player-coach chemistry, but Salazar expects everybody to get up to speed in time.
“They’ve worked hard right off the bat,” said Salazar, who has officially been with his team for just three days. “It’s going to take a while to adjust, but I think it’s working.”
Thrall and an assistant coach ran the preseason practices until Salazar could officially take the court.
“I watched a scrimmage and saw what they were all about,” the new coach said.
Salazar added that he felt starting five could play competitive basketball in the SWC, but depth in the program is the biggest concern.
“I think the starting five are capable of competing in this league,” he said. “We’re a little short-handed on the bench, but they have to keep working hard. They’re growing.”
Six starters from an 11-player roster graduated from last winter’s Bunnell squad, which posted a 4-16 record.
Seniors Amanda Zdru and Kristin Zack will lead the team this year along with junior Toni Greene, and sophomores Mariana Trovarelli and Adriana DeBernardo.
Salazar, a Spanish teacher in the Derby school system, became a coach in 2004 within the Derby program.
After coaching at the sub-varsity level for a handful of years, he coached at Woodland Regional and North Branford before returning to Derby as the boys varsity coach for five seasons.
He resigned his post in order to pursue his administration degree, but still had the itch to coach and returned to the sidelines last year at Amistad.
When the varsity coach left Amistad and the administration hired a whole new staff, Salazar applied for the Bunnell job.
“First of all, my main objective is to make sure they’re learning, they’re growing and they’re enjoying the game,” Salazar said. “We’ll just take it one game at a time. I’m excited for us as a group, just to learn from each other, and the way that practices have been going is great. I want that energy to be matched when we play West Haven.”
The Bulldogs were supposed to play West Haven on Tuesday, but the icy conditions forced a postponement until Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Then, the Francisco Salazar Era at Bunnell High School can finally begin.