A dozen years removed from his basketball playing days at Malverne High School, Sean Dooley returned to his old stomping grounds for the second time in as many seasons to guide the Port Washington varsity boys basketball team in a tournament named in honor of one of his former coaches at Malverne, Hank Williams.
But Dooley didn't get to face his alma mater this time around. The Vikings fell to Elmont on the opening night of the event and knocked off West Hempstead in the consolation game on Tuesday night, Dec. 29, giving the team a record of 3-3 on the young season. Elmont beat Malverne for the tournament title.
"It's always fun to come back," said Dooley, who started at point guard for three seasons at Malverne and served as an assistant coach there for three years before coming to Port Washington in 2002. "As a player, I always got by more on my knowledge of the sport than anything else. A lot of what I try to teach defensively came from what I learned and coached at Malverne.
"We use man-to-man principles," he added. "I thought we played our best help defense of the season on Sunday against Elmont, and hopefully it'll carry over to January when we get back to conference games."
Dooley, a 1997 Malverne graduate who played two seasons of JV ball under current Mules varsity coach Darrol Lopez, lets his personnel dictate what the Vikings do offensively. "It's an up-and-down game at Malverne," Dooley explained. "They always have great athleticism and run, run, run. They do the same thing every season, but we can't play one style."
Port Washington pushed the tempo in recent seasons with All-County point guard Ryan Goldstein running the show and saw great results. It reached the Nassau Class AA semifinals in the 2007-08 campaign and last season captured the Conference AA-II crown and advanced to the county quarterfinals. The Vikings also won the Conference AA-III title under Dooley in 2006-07.
Running with the big dogs again in Conference AA-I, Port Washington is relying on senior guard Adam Epstein and senior forward Dan Bernstein to lead the charge. Epstein hit for 24 points and Bernstein added 22 in a conference-opening overtime victory over Farmingdale, and Bernstein has scored in double figures in all six games so far.
"We've had three really nice seasons in a row and we're trying to keep a good thing going," said Dooley, who features a pair of conference Coach of the Year awards on his resume.