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Wednesday, March 21 News

Fabian has changed the culture of Staples basketball

WESTPORT — Coming into the season, Staples girls basketball had just finished one of its best years in recent memory. The Wreckers won 11 games and made it back to the Class LL state playoffs. There was plenty to be excited about heading into the 2017-18 campaign.

But for coach Paco Fabian, there was still much more work to be done before he would be satisfied.

“We talk about it all the time,” Fabian said. “This idea of ‘Oh, we’re going to be close,’ and what I’m trying to preach is ‘No, I don’t want to be close anymore, I want to win.’ ”

The Wreckers have taken their coach’s bold statement and done well to bring it with them onto the floor. Staples has been one of the surprises of this young season in the FCIAC, with a 6-1 record and an impressive 4-0 conference record.

Since losing their first game of the season against Bethel, Fabian & Co. have been on a six-game winning streak coming into their matchup with Fairfield Warde on Friday night — a Mustangs team that the Wreckers knocked off last Thursday.

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2017-18 Division Standings

Updated for games of Wednesday, Jan. 3


1. Staples 6-1 (4-0 FCIAC)

2. Trumbull 6-0 (3-0 FCIAC)

3. Stamford 5-2 (3-1 FCIAC)

4. Danbury 3-4 (1-2 FCIAC)

5. Greenwich 2-2 (1-2)

6. McMahon 2-2 (1-2)

7. Westhill 1-5 (1-3)

8. Central 0-7 (0-4)


1. Warde 5-1 (3-0 FCIAC)

2. Wilton 4-0 (3-0 FCIAC)

3. Norwalk 4-1 (2-1 FCIAC)

4. Darien 2-4 (2-2 FCIAC)

5. Trinity 3-4 (2-2 FCIAC)

6. Ridgefield 2-3 (1-2 FCIAC)

7. Ludlowe 2-5 (1-3 FCIAC)

8. New Canaan 2-4 (1-3 FCIAC)

9. St. Joseph’s 2-5 (1-3 FCIAC)

The emphasis on winning now has been a mentality that Fabian has been able to instill in his team, and they have been responsive to that.

“Paco’s been amazing,” junior guard Elle Fair said. “He comes in with such an energy every game. He makes us a better team. I think his energy trickles down to us as players; he makes us enjoy being here and during the games he gives us the confidence we need.”

A former Norwalk High School guard and All-FCIAC Western Division selection who helped lead the Bears to the 1996 state Class LL boys basketball championship, Fabian, who is also the girls tennis coach at Staples, took over for longtime Wreckers coach Ed Huydic in summer 2014 and has been on a mission to change the culture back to a winning one in Westport.

“I’m too competive as a person,” Fabian said. “The girls are buying into the defensive theory of why we’re good.”

It has been that pool of great athletes that has allowed Fabian the luxury of having a deep bench in order to have a rotation of 10 to 11 players. That consistent grind of talent is the key to bring Staples back to the forefront of girls basketball in Connecticut, he said.

“We’re good because Staples High School has so many athletes,” Fabian said. “In the second half, we wear teams down. In the second half, the other teams are exhausted and our girls are ready to go because they play other sports and they’re such good athletes.”

Staples has caused problems for opponents this season with its full-court press and its ability to create turnovers from it. In the win against Danbury on Wednesday night, the Wreckers were able to force 15 turnovers. But it was in a comeback win over St. Joseph’s earlier in the season when the defense was in peak form.

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The Wreckers forced 28 turnovers in the win over the Cadets, and it has been that pressure that continues to be the catalyst for the strong start to the season.

“We played more as a team in that second half,” Fabian said after the win over St. Joseph’s. “Our team defense was fantastic and I think our scoring came off .”

On the season, the Wreckers are averaging 52.2 points per game while holding their opponents to 47.2 points per contest. That difference has made the focus on defense that much more important.

After Fabian won the FCIAC Coach of the Year award last season, the growth of the program has been acknowledged throughout the conference, but in order to take that next step and get the Wreckers to become a consistent powerhouse in the FCIAC, the athletes that come to play for Staples will have to continue to buy in and perform at the high level expected.

But that won’t be an issue, Fabian said.

“They’ve all played multiple sports growing up,” he said.

“It’s a tribute to the town of Westport and Staples High School just how good athletes these girls are.”

ajohnson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @aronJohnson_