Ed Huydic epitomizes what a successful program should be about. Huydic, in his 30th year as the Staples girls basketball coach, won his 400th game last Wednesday in a 40-25 victory over Barlow in the consolation game of the Notre Dame of Fairfield Christmas tournament.

"It feels great," said Huydic, who has a 400-258 career record. "It's a cause for a lot of reflection, a reason to feel validated and lots of gratitude. I'm grateful for all the coaches I worked with through the years, most definitely Coach D [varsity assistant coach Karen DeFelice]. Also, I'm grateful for a lot of the players and their parents."

DeFelice, Staples '82, also played for Huydic.

"It was another page turned in the history of girls basketball and he has been there for most of it," she said. "It's a tremendous accomplishment and milestone and included many players over the years. It's a special season to be a part of this mark."

Senior captain Suvi Puripattarapan confirmed DeFelice's statement. Puripattarapan is grateful to have Huydic as her coach.

"I feel great being a part of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said. "It's a great opportunity for me and my teammates as well. He taught me a lot about the game of basketball and he helped me on and off the court. He's a good coach and I learned a lot from him, not just basketball, but life in general. He has given me good advice for the future."

Staples has made the state playoffs 25 straight years and Huydic has been at the helm for 24 of those seasons. He took a sabbatical in 1992 when he got a master's degree at Wesleyan University and served as an assistant coach there. His head coaching career began in the 1979-80 season and before that, was an assistant coach for two years under Janis Stanczyk.

"We want student-athletes, whether they are basketball players first or not [other sports]," said Huydic. "We want them to be the best players they can be and fit them into the system. There's no secret to winning in basketball, you want players who are willing to work from November to March."

Although Westport was never known as a hotbed for girls basketball, the Lady Wreckers have been perennial contenders and won the FCIAC championship in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1995 and the Class LL title in 1995. Huydic deserves most of the credit for the team's continuous success.

"No matter what the makeup of the team each year is, he gets the most out of everyone," said DeFelice. "He has a lot of passion and has evolved as the game has evolved. The game has changed a whole lot and he's a student of the game."

Huydic says, "You increase your knowledge of the game and treat the players with the rightful respect they deserve."

This expertise has played a role in outcoaching many of his contemporaries.

"His knowledge of the game is amazing," said Eddie Huydic Jr., who is in his second year as the Staples JV coach. "He and Karen know how to put together a game plan."

The younger Huydic credits his father for his development as a coach.

"I'm so happy to coach under him and I feel blessed to be guided by his experience," he said. "He's a great coach and father and I'm grateful to have him pass on his knowledge to me. He's a good man, very trusting and I feel I learned a lot in the two years under him."

When he began coaching, two Staples coaches, who have retired in the middle of his tenure, Paul Lane (football and track) and Brian Kelly (boys basketball and baseball), acted as his mentors. Lane and Kelly coached boys and Huydic learned through his career that coaching girls is different than coaching boys.

"As time goes by, I learned not to just treat girls as athletes but I realized they are different than boys and adapted to their needs," said Huydic Sr. "I learned how to have fun and trust the positions of my staff and players. You have to learn how to adapt to be successful."

Moreover, he cares about the players as people.

"He's an intense coach but I learned a lot from him and he always has his players' backs," said Huydic Jr. "He can do it all and I'm blessed to have him as a father and to coach under him."

Remembering alumni

Lady Wrecker gymnastics coach Melissa Zigmont deserves kudos for opening the season with an alumni meet. Each year, former Staples, Weston and Norwalk gymnasts get recognized during the meet for their contributions to their respective sports and this year, Zigmont recognized Darien's alumni gymnasts (Staples' season-opening opponent) as well.

It may not be feasible because of varying logistics (alumni in college or living out of the area) but all other sports teams should try to recognize their alumni during one of their games. This helps connect the past performers with the current and future players.