SOUTHINGTON — Howie Hewitt looked different not donning in his customary dark green and white that he’s worn for more than four decades.
Maloney’s longtime boys basketball coach seemed at home in his new colors — a white shirt and a royal blue tie — as he was introduced as Southington’s new girls basketball coach on Thursday afternoon at the Southington High School library.
“This is a very big get for our school,” Southington athletic director Greg Ferry said. “We were super-excited. During the interview, I asked, ‘Howie, are you sure? You have been at Maloney for so long. Is this something you really want to do?’ The answers resonated with the committee our values and what we are trying to do here.”
Hewitt, 66, officially resigned from Maloney boys basketball on Monday, signing off with a 457-285 record after 33 years as head coach. He brought home the program’s lone state title in 2008.
His next stop was revealed on Tuesday when Ferry released a statement announcing Hewitt as Southington’s new girls basketball head coach.
Hewitt said the timing was perfect to find a new challenge. He met with many of his new players prior to speaking to the media on Thursday.
At the beginning of the press conference, Hewitt spoke about being born in Southington and living there at a young age. He mentioned his late father, Howard.
“My dad’s passed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he rose from the dead if he ever heard that I got a job here coaching at Southington. It would have made his life,” Hewitt said. “I’m just looking forward to a great opportunity. This is just a chance for me to try something different.”
Hewitt replaces outgoing coach Mike Forgione, who stepped down in March after nine years with the Lady Knights. Forgione totaled a 119-83 record during his Southington tenure. His teams made the state Class LL tournament in eight of his nine years at his alma mater.
Hit hard by injuries, the Blue Knights were 5-15 last season.
“I’m enthusiastic about what I do and I love seeing the players grow as people,” Hewitt said. “Playing sports, there’s not many better places where you can have success, have some failure and have to learn and grow from it so readily without it being planned. To watch kids deal with successes and failures, and see how they respond and grow from it, is something (to which) I can really add.”
Ferry said Hewitt can take a traditionally successful program and grow it even more.
“Our numbers have dwindled the last couple of years and having Howie will build more excitement in the program,” Ferry said. “We had some great candidates, but Howie rose to the forefront and we are pumped to have him as our next girls varsity basketball coach.
“We were all kind of like, ‘Wow, we put in; he really wants this,” Ferry added. “Meeting with him and speaking with him, it became evident that he really wanted this. It’s great and it’s a good fit. I’m excited for a good male role model to teach these girls the game of basketball. Look at his career. I love that he’s so excited to be here to finish his career here at Southington.”
Hewitt said he plans on watching a few of his new players in AAU in the near future. Colleen (Roarty) Murphy will remain on the Southington staff as the freshman coach.
“They all seem anxious to play and get going,” Hewitt said of meeting with his players. “The interaction I felt was great. You just want kids to compete and this is a great opportunity for me and for them, I hope.”
Despite stepping down from Maloney, Hewitt said he’s thankful for all of the experiences he had at the school he graduated from in 1970.
In addition to 43 years coaching basketball at Maloney — the first 10 were as an assistant coach — Hewitt coached baseball for 23 years. He also had stints as a golf and cross country coach and was the school’s assistant athletic director and athletic director at various times.
“I’m thankful for all of the support I’ve ever had,” Hewitt said. “We’ve had people that have followed us around for a long time and were supportive of me. I’m sure there were people that weren’t supportive of me, but that’s OK. That’s life and that’s how things are. But the kids I have had the opportunity to coach and the coaches that have been coaching with me, I’m so thankful for them. I’m thankful for so many people that were so loyal to our program and to me.
“In the last day or so I’ve gotten some really nice emails and calls from kids that I’ve coached. They know how I feel about them. That message is relayed with a hug or a handshake. But it’s mostly a hug. I’m thankful for all of things I was a part of because I was the coach at Maloney High School.”