by Michael Letendre
Bristol Eastern girls basketball assistant coach Mike Stokes has been a big part of the Lancers’ program since the late 1990s.
Stokes have been head coach Tony Floyd’s right hand man for years now but the career assistant was looking for a bigger challenge and a team of his own.
He’s been getting that head coaching itch over the last few years but the right job just hasn’t popped up.
That was until Lincoln College of New England – formerly Briarwood College of Southington – went looking for a head coach for its women’s program.
Stokes applied, earned the job and come the 2013-14 campaign, he’ll be at the helm of the Wildcats’ ever growing program.
“Stokes is just the right individual to bring our women’s program to the national level,” said Director of Athletics Preston Beverly. “He is well known throughout the Connecticut community which will aide in retaining Connecticut residents who want to stay in state to play sports, but also has strong national ties that will attract others to his program.”
Lincoln, located just down the street from Lake Compounce Amusement Park, is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
It’s the national governing body for two-year college athletics which covers junior colleges and community colleges nationwide.
Former NJCAA players include Miami Heat’s Chris “Birdman” Anderson and teammate Joel Anthony so there’s a wealth of talent that comes through those institutions and Stokes hopes to add to those totals.
But getting that job at Lincoln was a big deal for Stokes as he was looking for a coaching upgrade.
“I was looking for two things,” said Stokes. “Either get a varsity job elsewhere or you know, just build my own thing. The Lincoln job was an opportunity where I took an aggressive approach and even though I didn’t have any varsity experience, I think that my credentials and my experience that I had helped me get an opportunity.”
When it comes to Lincoln, Stokes wants to build more of a local program and that means getting kids from Bristol, Plainville, Southington and other surrounding towns into the two-year program and keeping them in state.
With Beverly at the helm of Lincoln, keeping that local feel is very important. Beverly, who was originally hired as the resident life coordinator, is the new athletic director and will also assume the role of men’s head basketball coach.
So while Stokes will be building his program, so will Beverly.
“They have some very good ideas not only building a program but to sustain it long term,” said Stokes of Lincoln. “In conversations with Athletic Director Preston Beverly, he has a great vision on where he would like to take the program. The men have has some success and he’s done a great job in trying to build that part of the program.”
“He’s looking for me to use my relationships I’ve built over the years to keep our kids in state that want to play junior college basketball.”
Stokes doesn’t want those potential, local players going elsewhere and that’s where his understanding and knowledge of the land in Bristol and the rest of the CCC will certainly come into play.
It’s never easy building a program from the ground up but it’s something Stokes is looking forward to.
And who knows what this job will lead to once Stokes gets the Wildcats up and running.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge,” said Stokes. “My time that I spent at Eastern, one thing I learned from Tony and other coaches that left this program is that they build strong programs. You can look at what’s going on at Eastern, the job (Gary) Fleming did at Bristol Central, obviously the job (Joe) Mone is doing over at St. Paul and I’m looking to follow the same footprint.”
“I’m trying to put a stamp on the program and build it,” he said. “It’s a little more intense at the college level but I have a good foundation which I learned from.”