DARIEN, Conn. – It took Stamford’s Ira Cobb a long time to pursue coaching. But after getting a taste of it with the Darien YMCA teams in the Fairfield County Basketball League, he’s glad he pursued it.
“What I enjoy the most is their tenacity,’’ said Cobb, a former star at Westhill High School and Green Mountain College in Vermont. “I don’t have the tallest kids, but they’re tough and they play hard. They want to win, which I understand. They don’t give up. They fight all game long.”
It took Cobb nearly 15 years to get back into the game. At Westhill, he played on terrific teams coached by Mike Saccardi and Jeff Bussey and helped the Vikings reach the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game in 1990 and 1992. At Green Mountain, he twice earned all-conference honors. And he worked as a referee.
Before the start of the travel season in 2011, Darien YMCA sports director Joe Marzano asked Cobb about coaching. “I was a little skeptical at first,’’ Cobb said. “I didn’t know how I’d be with kids. I was worried about how I’d come off to the kids. I talked to my mother about it and she said I’d be great at it.”
Marzano had similar thoughts. “He was such a competitive and successful athlete at the high school and college level that he wasn't sure if he would be able to tone down his intensity and competitiveness working with middle school-age players,’’ Marzano said of Cobb. “His knowledge was never an issue. I knew Ira would make a great coach because above all he is a great person.”
Cobb coached a sixth-grade team sponsored by the Darien Y to a 7-10 record last season. This year, his fifth grade squad is 6-2. Most important, he has developed a rapport with the boys and demonstrates a true passion for coaching.
“I am not surprised at all at how well he has embraced the role of a coach,’’ Marzano said. “Ira is a very passionate person, and it translates into his style of coaching. He really cares about his players. He wants to see them improve and be the best they can be. His players see how much he cares and how much he wants them to succeed so they try even harder because they want to meet his expectations and not let him down.”
Cobb brings the skills he learned under Saccardi, Bussey and his AAU coach, Jeff O’Connell, to his players in Darien.
“I try to teach kids the best I can,’’ Cobb said. “I was a very aggressive player, a hot-headed player. I try to not let that come across to kids. I work hard at teaching them the fundamentals. It has worked out well.”
With his passion and knowledge, it’s easy to see Cobb as a coach for a high school team. But for now, he’s content with his kids in Darien.
“I’m going to enjoy spending a few more years here,’’ Cobb said. “I’m just starting out and having a good time. When you get to another level, everything gets a lot more complicated.”