MAHOPAC, N.Y. -- Former Mahopac High School boys basketball coach Kevin Downes has found a new team after taking over as varsity coach at neighboring Yorktown High School.
Downes. an alumnus of Mahopac where he was a star athlete himself, left his alma mater in March after a successful seven-year run amid controversy when Mahopac students were involved is a racially charge episode during a Section 1 semifinal loss to Mount Vernon High School in February.
Following the loss, social media was filled with racist tweets from Mahopac students and others toward the Mount Vernon team. Downes, who is black, decided to resign and move on.
The new Yorktown coach said he experienced great support at Mahopac before and after the controversial events and had great relationships with his players over the years. but felt he wanted to move on.
"I wanted to continue coaching and Yorktown was a great fit for me because I know the area, the school and the league," Downes said. "The most important thing for me was being in a good situation and feeling comfortable. "I loved coaching at my high school, so I wanted the right place and Yorktown was it for me."
Downes' interim as coach at Mahopac was highlighted by his teams' four visits to the Section 1 Final Four as area semifinalists, including an appearance and loss in the 2012 Section 1 Class AA championship game against Mount Vernon. He replaces former Yorktown coach Chris Caputi, who resigned in February.
"We have a good group of young players who are ready to get to the next level and have been competitive before," Downs said. "We've had some open gyms and we're getting to know the kids and what they can do."
Yorktown was 6-13 last season but has a group of returning players led by guard Luis Cartegena.
"A lot of basketball players go year-round with camps, skills training, AAU and summer leagues now, so the level of play up here (in Northern Westchester) has been stronger," Downes said. "Yorktown has good athletes who play multiple sports and I think we can build on that."
Downes said he believes his system and approach to the game will translate to Yorktown and hopes he can get the Huskers into winning form.
"A lot of the success we had at Mahopac was about hard work, discipline on both offense and defense and teamwork," Downes said. "Basketball is a team game and you can be successful when kids work hard."