What the Hale is going on?
Boys hoops program suffers through second straight losing season
West Allis — Just a little more than two years ago, the West Allis Hale boys basketball team enjoyed a 15-win season.
Star post player Rick Wagner averaged nearly 20 points per game and a support cast led by Sam Kenseth helped the Huskies to a campaign that included a third-place finish in the Greater Metro Conference.
A 52-49 loss in a sectional semifinal to Racine Horlick ended a season that seems like it took place eons ago.
To say the wheels have fallen off since would be an understatement. Adding that the doors were ripped off, the windows shattered and the engine exploded might better describe what has happened to Hale since their 2007-08 season finale.
The loss to Horlick was the first of a whopping 45 straight that included a winless (0-21) 2008-09 campaign and this season's 0-23 effort, which concluded with the Huskies' 74-44 blowout loss at Racine Park in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal March 2.
Fired or not?
On Friday, head coach Scott Pritzl was "fired and relieved of my coaching duties," according to an e-mail Pritzl sent to NOW Newspapers on Monday. That day, Hale athletic director Steve Seston said a decision on Pritzl's future had not been made official. Seston also declined to comment on the state of the program until he had "officially done a final evaluation."
Pritzl had been with Hale since the 1999-2000 season and the head coach for five seasons. He finished 32-78 after starting 32-34 through his first three seasons.
The winless campaigns are two of only six turned in by boys or girls teams in the NOW coverage area in the last eight seasons. The others came from the Whitnall boys (05-06), Hale girls (06-07) and Shorewood girls (08-09 and 09-10).
Prior to his dismissal, Pritzl said there were many reasons why the program has struggled, not the least of which has been lack of talent. According to the JSOnline database, no Hale player has averaged double-digit points since Wagner and only two players have averaged 7.5 or better (Taylor Chladek's 9.5 this year and Dan Wall's 9.2 last year).
"We just do not have the same level of talent as we have had in the past and our level of talent is not nearly on the same level of the teams we play," Pritzl said. "We do not recruit kids here and we work with who we have in our school. I can honestly say that our kids our good students, respectable citizens and hard workers. We just are in a lull of true basketball talent at this point. It is high school sports and you will always have highs and lows. Just look at Janesville Craig, a perennial basketball power over the years (that) has not won a game this year."
The Huskies' strength of schedule has also played a role in the losing streak. The GMC is sending three of its eight teams to this weekend's sectional for the second straight season, including state contender Menomonee Falls. Three seasons ago, two GMC teams - Wauwatosa East and Brookfield Central - advanced to the state tournament.
In addition, Hale had New Berlin Eisenhower (20-2), Pewaukee (20-4), Nicolet (17-7) and Waterford (20-3) on its eight-game nonconference schedule this season. Eisenhower, Pewaukee and Waterford all won their respective conferences and Nicolet and Waterford advanced to the sectional.
"If we played in the Woodland or Southeast - no disrespect to these two conferences - we would have won some games over the past two years," Pritzl said. "I have also done a poor job of scheduling nonconference teams to play. The teams we have played are all very talented and good teams."
The Huskies did show mild improvements this year.
During their first winless season, they lost 12 games by 20 points or more - three more than this year. Also, last season, Hale had only one loss by fewer than six points. This season, there were five.
Pritzl added that the team's shooting and free-throw percentages were up and turnovers were down this winter.
According to Pritzl, no feeder program was in place prior to when he took over the program, but now Hale has youth teams in fifth through eighth grades. He said this year's junior class was the first to go through that program and he expected the varsity program is about two years away from being very competitive, though he expects the unit to improve in 2010-11.
"I hope to be around to see our program turn the corner and I will continue to do everything in my power to help us get there," Pritzl said prior to being released. "I love these kids and take the blame for our woes right along with them. We are a program and we all need to take a look at ourselves and see what we can do as individuals to turn things around. Nathan Hale will be get back to our winning tradition, but we all have to realize one thing: There are no short cuts or magic potions. It's like I always tell my kids, 'There is no elevator to success; you must take the stairs.' "
NOW winning percentages
It hasn't always been this bad for West Allis Hale. The following are the winning percentages (as of Monday) of the 21 teams in the NOW coverage area over the last eight seasons:
1. New Berlin Eisenhower, .791 (148-39)
2. Wauwatosa East, .783 (144-40)
3. Germantown, .694 (127-56)
4. Whitefish Bay, .682 (122-57)
5. Brookfield Central, .679 (127-60)
6. New Berlin West, .623 (109-66)
7. Nicolet, .612 (109-69)
8. Brown Deer, .599 (106-71)
9. Whitnall, .517 (93-87)
10. Greendale, .514 (93-88)
11. Wauwatosa West, .512 (88-84)
12. Franklin, .459 (79-93)
12. Greenfield, .459 (79-93)
14. Muskego, .455 (80-96)
15. Brookfield East, .444 (79-99)
16. Homestead, .423 (74-101)
17. Menomonee Falls, .422 (74-101)
18. West Allis Hale, .413 (74-105)
19. Oak Creek, .358 (62-111)
20. West Allis Central, .246 (42-129)
21. Shorewood, .235 (40-130)
Editor's note: Percentages compiled from the JSOnline database, which dates back eight seasons to 2002-03.
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