By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington native Mike Forgione believes he has more coaching left in him. It just won’t be on the sideline with the Lady Knights girls basketball program. Forgione resigned last week after nine seasons and a 120-85 record.
The Lady Knights had a difficult 5-15 season in 2018-19, one that Forgione said he had never experienced in his previous 15 seasons as a head coach. That season turned out to be his last with the Knights.
“This is the next phase of my coaching career,” Forgione said. “My first phase was the 11 years at Farmington and Wethersfield, and now nine at Southington. I’m excited about the third and final phase of my coaching career. I put in 20 years at those schools and I’m looking forward to what is going to happen down the road. I feel there’s one more run left in me.”
“Mike was a hard-working coach who cared greatly about the program and really put his heart and soul into everything that he did,” athletic director Greg Ferry said.
Forgione spent some time recently looking back on what was accomplished during his time at Southington.
“I’ve also talked to a lot of coaches and former players on the phone and through text messages, and it’s been so much fun reminiscing about all the different seasons,” Forgione said. “It has been an honor and pleasure to come back home to Southington and coach these kids and teams.”
Forgione’s best Southington season by record was 2015-16, when the Knights went 20-5 and were a CCC Tournament semifinalist. Southington was the No. 7 seed in Class LL and was knocked out in the second round by No. 10 Greenwich, the eventual state runner-up.
“The 2015-2016 starting lineup was Maggie Meehan, Hartlee Meier, Sarah Minkiewicz, Janette Wadolowski and Natalie Wadolowski,” Forgione said. “Another 20-win team who played in a classic double OT, CCC semifinal vs EO Smith, falling 66-62. They end up beating a really talented Norwalk team in Class LL before losing to state runner-up Greenwich in a great game, 56-52. “
Forgione’s deepest run in the state tournament came the next season, 2016-17. Southington had a 12-8 record but was just a No. 23 seed in a loaded Class LL bracket. The Knights upset No. 10 Ridgefield, 70-60, in the first round, before taking down No. 7 Hall, 63-60, in the second round. Southington trailed by 16 points at halftime before rallying to stun Hall in that second round game.
“After those great games, wins and losses, it was so rewarding as a coach to see all of their success with all the hard work I asked of them,” Forgione said. “They earned and deserved all of their success.”
Southington’s 2016-17 run ended with a 54-43 quarterfinal loss to No. 2 Enfield. Janette Wadolowski, Meehan and Meier were on that Knight team.
Forgione has deep roots in Southington. In football, he was a captain and an all-state wide receiver on the 1987 team. He played basketball and also ran track for the Knights. Forgione graduated from SHS in 1988, then made his return for the 2010-11 girls basketball season, replacing Jim DiNello. Forgione also coached Southington football as an assistant from 2011-17.
Forgione also had tremendous success as a girls track and field coach at Bristol Central from 1996-2016. At one point, the Rams won 61 straight dual meets over a six-season stretch.
Ferry said the job has been posted and will be for 30 days.
“I’m looking for somebody who’s a high quality person, someone who has a high basketball acumen, and someone who will look to educate and empower the girls to be their best, both on and off the court,” Ferry said.
Ferry said candidates will be interviewed by a committee, then he will bring the recommendation to Southington Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan. Forgione believes whoever takes over for him will have a good group to work with. That group will be the players from this year’s team, along with a strong freshman class.
“They will be back at the top again,” Forgione said.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com