Will the Tigers roar or will there be Magic in the air Friday, Jan. 7, at the Monticello High School Fieldhouse?
Princeton boys basketball Head Coach, Brett Cloutier and new Monticello Head Coach, Dillon Naumann first came together because of basketball.
Starting eight years ago, Naumann joined Cloutier’s coaching staff, beginning the blossoming of a deep friendship that stems on and off the court.
That friendship will be put aside for the first time this Friday when Naumann and Cloutier will square off for the inaugural time as rival coaches after building up the Princeton program together.
Meeting at a teaching workshop at the beginning of Naumann’s first year in Princeton, Cloutier then approached the current rookie Magic head coach about joining his staff. “I actually had ran into Brett Cloutier the head coach at a beginning of the year workshop and he talked to me and knew me from my coaching time at Milaca because it was his first year as a head coach. I had coached against him when he was a JV coach in Princeton and they have a ninth grade opening so he asked if I would be interested in doing that and I took him up on the opportunity,” said Naumann.
From that conversation stemmed a seven year span where Cloutier and Naumann toed the same bench as Naumann spent the last of those four as an varsity assistant to the long time Princeton head coach.
Developing that relationship on the court led to the two building a strong bond off the court including Naumann being a part of Cloutier’s wedding. “He was a groomsman in my wedding. We’ve grown pretty close both professionally and personally,” said Cloutier.
Naumann wholeheartedly agreed. “You know our girlfriends at the time, wives now, would kind of always joke, you sure you guys aren’t dating each other? Since we were constantly on the phone with each other and trying to gameplan a team and you know, we just really both love basketball and bonded around it and you know I was fortunate enough to be in his wedding when he got married to his wife as well, so I think it was really just friendship that started around basketball and trying to build a basketball program,” said Naumann.
Even after being presented with the difficult decision to pursue his own head coaching job, at a rival Mississippi 8 School nonetheless, Cloutier still supported friend Naumann’s strive for the jump, respecting his choice. “It was a hard decision to even just apply and think about leaving because I was happy with where I was at. We had put a ton of work into the program and building it up to where it is today. He (Cloutier) is my biggest supporter and cheerleader,” said Naumann.
“I’m super proud of Dillon. I knew he was going through the process, he reached out to me right away and he had my 1,000 percent support,” added Cloutier.
But now after departing from the Princeton Tigers’ program this past summer to accept the head coaching position for the Monticello boys basketball team, the two will now clash.
Though having that strong tie off and on the court, there will be no love lost as the two battle.
“You are going to be buddy-buddy and have good conversations before and after the game but we are all competitors and those 36 minutes, we are going to want to win and we are going to do what we need to do to get our teams prepared to beat the other person,” said Cloutier.
The first-year Magic coach looks forward to the chance to see some of his old colleagues but shares the sentiment that it won’t affect the results either team aspires for. “Honestly I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be good to see everyone on the coaching staff because we were a really tight-knit coaching staff. The coaching staff has gotten along great despite some of the changes through the years. It’ll be good to see the kids as well, but ultimately Brett and I are very, very competitive.”
Having that competitive fire between the two, Naumann might have the upper hand with the familiarity he has gained from coaching the Princeton program.
Namely, the high pressure defense and press the Tigers are known for.
Being an up-tempo offense, Naumann thought a press to match that attack would be fitting for Princeton. “I think he always felt like there was kind of a disconnect between offense and defense and that’s where I was able to say, well, why don’t we press? Why don’t we try and get more possessions out of a game and try and maximize possessions that way against teams and it kind of ended up working out really well together,” said Naumann.
That idea is still featured today. “We are still running the same stuff that he installed defensively here. Our press is still kind of his baby,” said Cloutier.
Princeton senior forward Evan Schimming expects to see that defense carry into the match up on Friday night. “A lot of his pointers were really getting the other team to move when we played defense and we are expecting that from them. We are expecting Monticello to be flying around, kind of like how he wanted us to do when he was our coach,” said Schimming.
Sitting at 7-0 and ranked in the top-10 for Class AAA, the Tigers will still pose a big threat to the Magic despite Naumann’s knowledge of the Princeton team.
In order to go blow for blow with the Tigers, Naumann will lean on the experience they have gained from battling a difficult non-conference slate while hoping to get a full effort from the Magic squad. “We’ve had stretches early this year where we’ve played extremely well. We got a couple 4A wins under our belt and the big thing is just going to be consistency. Are we going to give good consistent effort? Take the shots we want to take?”
Cloutier knows that difficult stretch to open the year will not have Monticello intimidated by taking on the Tigers. “They are battle tested with the non-conference that they have played; we are not going to be throwing anything at them that they haven’t seen from some of the 4A teams they have already played.” he said.
Regardless of how the contest bounces on Friday night, Cloutier knows after the clock hits zero, he and Naumann can return to their usual ways. “You have to put that to the side for 36 minutes and know that what happens on the court is not anything personal,” he said.
Naumann agreed, looking at the match up as a good early season test for both teams, as he looks to differentiate from the program he spent years with. “We don’t have to be carbon copies of them. Stay focused for 36 minutes and just putting your best effort out there and the outcome will take care of itself. It’ll be a good test. First conference game of the year to see the conference and section favorites.” said the Monticello coach.
The Tigers and Magic are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m., Friday night on Monticello’s home court.