Maine Central Institute boys basketball players knew that if they made a egregious mistake, they would get the look from coach Josh Tardy. ‘Big Eyes,’ the Huskies called it. Nobody wanted to be caught in the glare of the Big Eyes.

“He will look over and you’ve got those eyes just looking at you,” senior forward Mitchell Hallee said.

This season, the Big Eyes saw some pretty good basketball out of the Huskies. In his second year at MCI, Tardy’s team saw its win total increase by nine games from the 2013-14 season.

“We had veteran players and strong players,” Tardy said. “They worked hard in the offseason. Sooner or later, that investment pays dividends.”

The Huskies won 13 games this season and advanced to the Eastern Class B quarterfinals in Bangor for the first time since 2007. For leading MCI to its best season in nearly a decade, Josh Tardy is the 2014-15 Morning Sentinel Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Winslow’s Jared Browne, who coached the Black Raiders to the Eastern B final, and Anthony Amero, whose Forest Hills Tigers won the Class D state title for the second time in three years.

The foundation of MCI’s success this season was poured when Tardy became head coach prior to the 2013-14 season. His first season was about installing his systems. In year two, the Huskies knew what they were doing and what was expected of them.

“My junior year, we were establishing new offenses and new roles for everybody. (Tardy) said ‘This is your job. This is what you’re going to do.’ He was up front with us,” Hallee said.

Added Tardy: “We were always aggressive defenders. This year, we learned to defend without fouling. We became more confident on offense. We were able to finish the must makes.”

Tardy knew which players he could lean on harder to get the most from the team. For example, after Hallee struggled in the first half of a game against Waterville, Tardy used Hallee as an example of the team needing to play better in the second half. As the team left the locker room, Tardy pulled Hallee aside.

“He wanted to make sure I knew he was just trying to fire up the team. He told me ‘Just play your game.’ He had confidence in me,” Hallee said.

Hallee made an and-one try early in the third quarter, sparking the Huskies.

A longtime assistant coach at Nokomis — first under Jim DiFrederico and more recently under Carl Parker — Tardy cited those two as coaching influences, along with former MCI prep team coach Max Good. While Tardy never coached alongside Good, he did pick the veteran coach’s brain.

“Max Good and I played a lot of golf together,” Tardy said.

Tardy sees the success of the 2014-15 season as a building block. The Huskies are already working towards next season, he said. Successful fall seasons in football and golf helped fuel the MCI basketball team’s desire to get to the regional tournament.

“It’s infectious. That competitive, positive atmosphere helps all sports,” Tardy said. “These guys have a ‘why not us?’ attitude. These guys got a taste of the (Cross Insurance Center in Bangor). We have players who are going to work a lot of hours. They’re staying at the grindstone.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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