Bisson takes over at Rivier looking to earn full-time position

NASHUA – When they were playing basketball at Nashua High School North a decade ago, Lance Bisson and Troy Bowen had always talked about coaching together at a college.

Except that school was Duke, not Rivier University.

"I think we decided that at about ninth grade," Bisson said with a grin. "I’m going to be the coach at Duke after Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) leaves, and you’re (Bowen) going to be my assistant."

Now the two will guide the Raiders men’s basketball program, with Bisson as the head man and Bowen as one of his assistants after the sudden departure of former longtime coach Dave Morissette for family reasons.

Bisson was the natural choice to take over Rivier’s program. He had been Morissette’s right hand man the last four years after playing on some of the best teams in school history after his time as North’s point guard and then Titans freshman coach/varsity assistant.

Bowen, one of North’s top players as well, has been the junior varsity coach at powerful Manchester Central the last few years.

"As soon as he found out (about Bisson being promoted), he knew (he was coming to Riv)," Bisson said.

And Bowen is glad to be here, with all the faith in the world in his former teammate.

"I think he’s going to be great." he said of Bisson. "He’s very passionate, he’s got a lot of heart. He hates to lose. He’s going to come in here every day and give it his all to try to get these kids a victory.

"I think it’ll be fun. I’ve known Lance since junior high, we’ve been good friends through the years, all through our basketball careers. I’ve heard great things about Riv through him and through Morissette.

"It’s going to be another chapter. It’s going to be exciting. I’m thrilled."

This is the career Bisson, who picked up his first Raider head coaching win recently, has wanted all along.

"I always saw myself as a coach," Bisson said. "As soon as I was done playing, I knew I wanted to be a coach. And as an assistant, you’re always telling yourself, ‘If I had my program, I’d be doing it this way,’ putting little things together like that. So I was definitely ready to take over as soon as the time came."

Bisson’s first career head coaching win came in his second game at the helm at home vs. Anna Maria, a three-point nailbiter. He lost a similar game on the road in his debut a few days earlier, and he’ll have his work cut out for him with a young Raider team 1-9 at the semester break. He has run games before in his days as North’s freshman coach.

"You think of ideas that you’re going to execute," he said, "but all the planning goes out the window as soon as the bullets start flying. I had a good staff to help me out. Coach Perry was on the bench telling me things I would normally be telling Dave.

"Most of my thoughts that I would normally have if Dave were there, I just vocalized them."

Of course, it’s been a shock to everyone’s system over at Riv. While Bisson may have been somewhat prepared, the Raider players weren’t.

"Caoch has been my mentor for three years here, and out of nowhere it it us," Raider senior guard Cullen Donovan said. "I feel like we’ve come together. … (Bisson) has a great basketball mind, he motivates us and puts us in a different way than Morissette has.

"It may bring a new energy, a new vibe with all the different additions."

Bisson was still a little caught off guard himself.

"At first, I was a little surprised with the timing, it was a little quicker than I anticipated," he said. "But I could see it coming, with his kids, his older son getting recruited for baseball, so he had been talking about wanting to be around him more and more, that his days were running out. So I understood."

Bisson doesn’t plan on making any major changes with the season already underway.

"I’ll probably keep a lot of things the same, because it’s easier for (the players)," he said. "Especially because it’s not a fresh season, we’ll keep a lot of the same terminology as well. We’ll use more of an attacking style, just inbreded in my basketball DNA. As a coach I don’t know any other way, and I have to be my own coach in that sense and not try to be Dave, as great as he was and as much as he taught me."

What’s the main thing Bisson learned from Morissette?

"Just to sort of know that your words hold a certain amount of weight," Bisson said. "Whether it’s coaching Xs and Os, or off the court with some of the guys. That when you’re the head coach your words hold a certain amount of weight and once you say it, you’ve got to own it – even if you have to apologize for something."

Bisson also has to deal with a lot of the little things that go with the job. But that’s something he embraces.

"There’s a lot more than just showing up and coaching basketball," Bisson said. "So recruiting and academics and those things. I sort of had been preparing myself the last year or two to be prepared and be more involved in the program in that sense."

Bisson has done some recruiting – he had a role in bringing about a half dozen of the current roster onto the campus. But during this school year he increased that aspect of the job as an assistant.

"I had a heavy role in recruiting the last few months," he said. "That’s going to make my transition a lot easier."

What will happen to the position at Riv is anyone’s guess, but the likelihood is the school will keep him full time. For now Bisson will juggle his day job as a sales rep for a beverage firm – his boss,he says, is a big Rivier basketball fan and will help him allocate his time.

"My work will be flexible with me," Bisson said. "That’s huge in that sense."

How about the "interim" tag? Bisson said he wants to use this season to get that removed from his head coaching title. He is indeed auditioning for the permanent position.

"I’m using this as a way to prove myself as a head coach as opposed to putting a resume on paper," he said. "I have about as much pride in this basketball program as anybody you’ll find and basketball in Nashua in general.

"This is definitely a place that I love. And the athletic department here, I couldn’t say enough good words about the people who work here, the people who are always around, the atmosphere."

What has to happen to get Riv to be more competitive?

"I think consistency in everything we do," Bisson said. "Our practice habits, the way that we go to class. And I always preach to the guys, consistency, and conviction. Don’t just do it because I tell you to do it, do it because you want to succeed at it.

"I think if we build that into our DNA, sort of, I think it will go a long way in our wins and losses … As the boys see what I’m trying to do works, they’ll build faith, and they’ll build consistency as well."

What the heck, it worked at Duke, right?