When taking over as head coach of the West Chester Henderson varsity hockey team in 2012-13, Scott DiRico told the parents and the board to give him just three years to see what he could do with the team.
Now, at the end of that third year, players and parents alike are asking him to stay on for longer — which he has happily obliged to do.
In his tenure as coach, DiRico has compiled a 41-15-7 record during the regular season and has made a deep run in every Ches-Mont playoffs and Flyers Cup tournament — winning the 2014 Ches-Mont championship and runner-up in 2013 and 2015. DiRico adds one more honor to his trophy case, being named the Daily Local News All-Area Ice Hockey Coach of the Year.
“He has learned so much in the three years he has been head coach here,” said DiRico’s assistant coach Brad Wentzel. “He has gotten a lot better with the kids, the systems and the game management. The decisions that he has made has helped win us hockey games and get us to where we are. It all goes back to him being passionate about the school and the team.”
Senior goaltender Tyler Bonjo can remember back to the first time he had to deal with his new coach — and it wasn’t always the best.
“When he first came here, I honestly did not really like him that much,” he said. “I was really young and didn’t really know what he was like. He was very strict and was straightforward.
“As the years have gone on, he has eased up and has actually become a really good friend of mine and someone I talk to quite often. He’s a great coach. He has benefitted me in many different ways by helping me talk to colleges and everything to get me onto the next level.”
Unlike some of the other coaches in the league, DiRico is an alumni of Henderson and spent his high school career playing for the Warriors.
“He’s very good at keeping the tradition going,” Bonjo said. “The fact that he was a student at Henderson and he was a player just makes it that much better. It helps in the fact that we can relate to him.”
Being an alumni also gives DiRico arguably more of a drive for Henderson to win the state championship, especially since it eluded him as a player.
“He wants (a state championship) so bad,” Wentzel said. “As a player he didn’t win it and now he wants to do it and hopefully he can do it next year.”
His passion for the game and the team is something Henderson players take note of.
“He wants it more than anyone else,” said Henderson captain Matt Carreras. “He’s willing to do whatever for the team and with the team. He’s very passionate and a very good coach. He comes down to our level as kids and tries to connect with us as players. He’s our leader. He runs fun practices and we always have a good time when he’s there. He’s just a great guy.”
This year’s senior class is the first to have DiRico for all three years and in doing so, has learned the most from him.
As they have grown as players and people, their coach has been right there with them along the way.
“When he first became our coach three years ago, we were the first class for him to see,” Bonjo said. “He basically watched us grow up all throughout high school. The fact that he watched us grow up and that our senior class is so big, it really helped us a lot to go that far with him.”
The other coaches on the team have noticed the way DiRico handles the players and, in return, how they are with him.
“They respect him so much more,” Wentzel said. “For him to listen to them when they have decisions they want to get made — if they want to move to forward or move back to ‘D’ — he listens to them and does it. It ends up showing up on the scoreboard and through the year.”
This style of coaching is something many of the players have never seen before.
“His tactics before and after games are something I’ve never seen from a coach before,” Bonjo said. “He talks to us more as friends, not as him being the coach and us as the players. He talks to us as an actual person, which I have not seen from many coaches before.
“Everything he has done all season has been very effective on and off the ice with our friendship as a team and our friendship as him being our coach.”
Wentzel had the perfect way to sum it all up.
“He is like Pete Carroll,” he said. “He’s a player’s coach. Those guys would go through the wall for him and he would do whatever he could for those kids. The kids love him and he loves them — it’s just how he is.”