When Windham Tech girls basketball Ray Elliott reached his 200th career win Jan. 4 against Parish Hill, it was a nice milestone.
But he and his fellow coaching friends at Windham Tech couldn't help but look at the number of victories he had on each side: 102 wins with the Mighty Tigers girls basketball team and 98 split between the Griswold and Windham Tech boys basketball teams.
Two short of 100.
Only five coaches have won 100 girls and 100 boys games in Connecticut: Bacon Academy's Dave Shea (all at Bacon), Manchester's John Reiser (Manchester girls and Rocky Hill boys), Marty Musket (Guilford boys and girls), Bill Reagan (St. Thomas Aquinas boys and Old Saybrook and East Lyme girls) and Pete Shuler (East Hampton boys and Westbrook and Coginchaug girls).
But not Elliott, who is now 104-89 on the girls side and 98-75 on the boys. .
"I have contemplated as [athletic director] suspending the boys coach [myself], due to illness and fatigue [everyone is sick and tired of me] for a couple of games when the boys team should win so Ray can fill in and achieve 100 for both," Windham Tech athletic director and boys basketball coach Jeff Belanger joked (sort of) in an email last week.
"It would be Windham Tech's Nykesha Sales moment."
Elliott, 56, of Lisbon, who has taught social studies at the school for 30 years, is not entertaining any such thoughts. He's happy with his team, at 6-4 on track for its seventh consecutive winning season. He has a potential 1,000-point scorer in Kara Thibodeau, who is only a junior but already has almost 800 points. It would be his fourth 1,000-point scorer, and first as a girls coach.
But about those two wins …
"My first year [coaching boys in 1983], I had Larry Slyman, the greatest player in our history," Elliott said. "The year after Larry's class graduates, we go 5-14. We lose three [games] by 1, three by 2, two by 3.
"I was joking with Jeff, 'If I did a better job in two of those games, there's 100 and 100.' "
His friend and former fellow coach and colleague Steve Cervizzi, now an assistant baseball coach at Trinity College, often tells people how much harder it is to win at a tech school, which obviously attract kids looking to learn a trade and not necessarily top athletes.
"That's a credit to Ray," Cervizzi said. "You know, tech school, not insulting anybody, but you don't get the best of all the athletes. The [tech school] guys, for crying out loud, they would have won 100 games much earlier if they weren't here. I've said [to people]: 'Tell those guys [top high school coaches] to come coach at a tech school. See if they can really coach.' "
Cervizzi has known Elliott for 30 years. During that time, the two coached football, baseball and basketball together at Windham Tech. But they probably had the most fun coaching girls volleyball, a sport neither knew much about, between 2003 and 2008.
Cervizzi was the athletic director when an assistant coach decided not to take over the volleyball team after the head coach left. It was the first day of school, and the kids were asking him, Who would be the coach? Would he coach the team? No way, Cervizzi said. Then he thought of Ray.
"I said, 'Give me a night to think about this,' " Cervizzi said. "I said to Ray, 'I'll do it if you do it.' Ray said, 'I'll do it. But I'm the assistant. You're doing it.' "
During one match, Cervizzi remembered, he was complaining about an official's call like he was at a baseball game, and he was reprimanded by the official with a card.
"We didn't even know the rules," Cervizzi said, laughing. "I'm yelling and [Ray] goes, 'Sit down and shut up.' "
The bottom line, Cervizzi said: Elliott didn't want to be out there by himself.
"We ended up [coaching volleyball] for six years," Cervizzi said.
Elliott had two basketball coaching stints at Windham Tech. He coached the boys from 1983 to 1990, where his best team (in 1987-88) went 22-3 and lost in the Class S quarterfinals to Kolbe Cathedral and Chris Smith. He coached the girls from 1992 to 1995, took a few years off to coach at Mitchell College and to coach his son's middle school basketball team and then came back in 2006 to coach the girls.
He's one of a group of coaches who've been there for a long time: both boys soccer coach Charlie Rayner and cross country and track coach Rich Zadroga have each been at the school for more than 30 years.
Belanger played freshman and junior varsity basketball at Windham Tech when Elliott was coaching the boys.
"The first thought I ever had about coaching, we were doing a chalk talk in his room and he starts rattling off questions and, not thinking, I just started blurting out answers," Belanger said. "He said, 'Maybe one day you'll be a coach,' and that kind of put the thought in my head."
The boys coach for the last 15 years, Belanger often finds himself going to Elliott for advice.
"Ray has been such a big part of Windham Tech basketball for so many years," Belanger wrote in an email. "Countless times, he has helped guide myself and other young coaches in this building through rough stretches, seeing the big picture and teaching us how to be a professional."
And those two wins Elliott is short on the boys' side? Really, in the big picture, they don't matter all that much.