There was no Gatorade shower for Husson University head coach Warren Caruso after Tuesday night’s historic victory, but veteran player Brock Bradford didn’t let his coach totally off the hook.
Caruso had just notched the 300th win of his college head coaching career courtesy of the Eagles’ 82-71 victory at Thomas College in Waterville.
“It was touching,” said Caruso, whose 16-year career record is 300-143. “They were aware of the situation and were very gracious in recognizing it and Brock topped it off by giving me a cup of water over the head.”
When Caruso took over the program’s reins from Bruce MacGregor in 1994, Husson was Husson College, the Eagles were the Braves, and Caruso was — well — a bit more exuberant.
“I’ve never lacked passion or intensity, but it may have been a lot more obvious early on,” Caruso admitted with a laugh. “As my student-athletes back then said, I was out of my mind.”
A more mellow Caruso deflects some of the credit for his uncommon accomplishment and downplays his own role.
“I’ve always viewed it as the program’s success. I’m kind of driving the bus,” said Caruso. “It’s been a great ride and I feel fortunate to be part of something incredibly special to me and my family with lots of memories over 26 years.”
Caruso, who has led Husson to six conference titles, five NAIA National Tournament appearances and one NCAA Division III tourney bid (2009), wasn’t exactly basking in the afterglow on a bus ride back from watching his JV team lose to Colby College Wednesday.
“The pleasing thing was hearing from lots of alumni and players that we haven’t heard from in awhile,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a relief only because it’s been done and now we can go back to work as usual.”
The 44-year-old Bangor native has never had to stray too far from home for his education, career and success.
“I grew up on Broadway and then Summer Street,” Caruso said. “I think I was influenced early by some young, energetic coaches like Neil Waterman and Carl Parker when I was in youth leagues and then again in high school.
“I guess I kind of always thought I might end up in coaching and got hooked at the college level.”
Caruso said he never really considered being anywhere other than Husson.
“I had an option to go to Bentley and run track or Husson for basketball,” he said. “It was an easy decision.
“The only time it was considered was when I was coaching was when I was an assistant. Coach MacGregor had a lot of contacts and we talked about it, but I really enjoyed what I was doing. We had two restaurants that were doing well and my wife worked locally.”
Caruso and wife Nicole have been married 19 years. They have two sons: Nathan and Luke.
He earned a degree in public accounting in 1989 and then went back to Husson to get his Master’s in business. He was an assistant for MacGregor for six years before taking over the job and following in the footsteps of an institution in his own right that compiled a 545-176 record over 26 seasons.
“It’s been Del Merrill, Bruce MacGregor and me,” he said. “That’s what makes that special is the link between us. Del was the president and Bruce the coach when I first got here.”
Caruso said despite having nearly 16 full seasons under his belt, retirement isn’t even a distant thought.
“It’s the student-athletes without a question that are the best part about the job for me. I really enjoy the relationship from the recruiting process to graduation to becoming alumni,” he said. “The grind of the season is the best part of the job as far as the daily challenges of getting the team ready for the next game.
“It never gets boring or tiring.”
Laflin now No. 2 on UMF charts
Caitlyn Laflin of Farmingdale has become the No. 3 all-time scorer in University of Maine-Farmington women’s basketball history this week after scoring 44 points in her last two games.
Laflin, a senior forward, is now poised to overtake Dawn Ann Higgins (1,333 points, 1991-95) for the No. 2 spot on the Beavers’ career scoring list with 1,329 points. UMF’s all-time leading scorer is Kari Simpson, who scored 1,772 points from 2003-07.
Freeman, mom share grand feat
Carolyn Freeman of Saint Joseph’s College in Standish recently joined her mother in some select basketball company.
Freeman, a 5-foot-10 senior guard from Scarborough, on Jan. 3 became the program’s 19th 1,000-point scorer in a game against Skidmore College.
In the process, she put her name on the same list with her mother. Linda (Johnson) Freeman scored 1,560 points for the Monks from 1977-81.
According to The NCAA News, that makes the Freemans only the second mother-daughter duo to reach 1,000 points as collegians. They share the distinction with Melissa Porzio and daughter Courtney Porzio, both of whom played at Division III Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa.
Linda Freeman ranks as Saint Joseph’s career leader in points per game (19.7) and was inducted into the Monks’ inaugural hall of fame class in 2000. She was selected last fall for the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
Carolyn Freeman, a two-time Great Northeast Athletic Conference all-star, played her high school ball at Catherine McAuley High in Portland. She is averaging 11.7 ppg for her career and is third in SJC history in 3-pointers (161) and 3-point attempts (474).