New Coach Brings New Hope to Einstein Boys Basketball

by Eric Meany

KENSINGTON, Md. — The 2007-8 season was a special one for the Albert Einstein High School boys basketball team. Led by high-scoring guard Dennis Bassich, coach Ken Bunker’s squad posted a winning record and notched a first-round playoff victory in what was one of their best campaigns in recent memory.

Times have been tough for the Titans since then, though, as the team has failed to win as many games in the past three seasons combined as they did in that one year.

But with a new season comes new hope, and this year one reason for that hope is the arrival of first-year head coach Rich Porac. The 33-year-old Hagerstown native has had stints leading the junior varsity squads at Magruder and Blair, but Tuesday’s 82-29 home loss to Blake marked his varsity head-coaching debut.

The majority of last year’s team has moved on, leaving a roster full of fresh faces looking to help Porac turn things around. He said that what the Titans lack in experience they will make up for with athleticism, and he has instituted a new approach on offense that he hopes will take advantage of the team’s speed.

“We’re not going to do the flex,” Porac said. “I want to play towards our kid’s strengths, and we’re very athletic. The open offense, I think, allows the athleticism to shine.”

Athletic Director Patrick Belott has expressed excitement at the enthusiasm that Porac brings to his job, and is also in favor of the revamped offense.

“He brings an enthusiasm for the game of basketball that the kids here just latched onto,” Belott said. “He also runs an offense that kids like to play in — it’s wide open with a lot of passing and movement, an uptempo style where everyone touches the ball.”

One key to success for the Titans this season will be Josh Ogburn, last year’s junior varsity Most Valuable Player. The junior swingman will miss the team’s first three games for disciplinary reasons, but Porac says he will be available to return at home against Northwood on Dec. 16.

“His understanding of sports is way more mature than any high school kid,” Porac said. “He can do it all. He can pass; he can shoot; he can drive. If we don’t have him, we’re a different team. There’ll be games where I’ll be coach of the year by saying nothing once he gets going.”

With projected starter Eric Mejia having left the team, senior guard Keith Gaye has moved over into the point position. Gaye, who was a critical component of the Einstein football team for the past three seasons, brings valuable speed to the Titans’ backcourt.

“Keith Gaye can get going,” Porac said. “He can really move. He’s quick. He’s going to be a ball hawk.”

Porac says he will also be counting on seniors Chap Banda and Mark McIntosh, and hopes to see what he can get out of newcomers such as sophomore Abraham Camara and juniors Teddy Kassa and Peter Belony.

Porac has learned from some of the best in the business, as a player for Kevin Murphy at Williamsport High School, as a manager under Gary Williams at the University of Maryland and as an assistant under Dan Harwood at Magruder. He also has strong family ties to basketball, with his father having been a member of Lefty Driesell’s 1972 NIT Championship squad at Maryland.

All of those factors, along with his experience as a junior varsity high school basketball and baseball coach, have prepared Porac to lead the Einstein basketball program. Now that the season has begun, he seems eager to see how his new team stacks up against the competition.

“There’s athletes here, and we have some pieces to be competitive for sure,” Porac said. “I think people are going to be a little bit surprised how competitive we are.”

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