Lyndhurst girls’ hoops squad moves forward with new coach Cousins

Photo by Jim Hague The Lyndhurst girls’ basketball team welcomes a new coach in John Cousins this season. From l. are Christie Zembriski, Joelle Voza, John Cousins, Bianca Fata, Caroline Beatrice and Cameron Georgs.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst girls’ basketball team welcomes a new coach in John Cousins this season. From l. are Christie Zembriski, Joelle Voza, John Cousins, Bianca Fata, Caroline Beatrice and Cameron Georgs.



By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

After several years toiling in the retail business, John Cousins desperately wanted a change in his life.

He wanted to be a teacher and a girls’ basketball coach.

So in reinventing himself after the age of 40, Cousins headed back to Montclair State in order to secure his teaching certification.

As a basketball mentor, Cousins spent four years at Mount St. Dominic in Caldwell as a junior varsity coach and assistant coach with the varsity, and he also spent several years coaching AAU basketball with the New Jersey Crusaders in Bergen County, but he always longed for something more.

“I wanted a head coaching job,” said Cousins, now 46. “I’ve been looking for the right varsity job for three years. Coaching keeps me young. It gives me a young spirit.”

When Perrin Mosca resigned at the end of last season in Lyndhurst, the door was left wide open for Cousins’ big break.

“Lyndhurst gave me the opportunity to be a head coach and I was extremely grateful and excited,” said Cousins, who began official workouts with his new team last week. “I’m very happy to be at Lyndhurst.”

Apparently, the Lyndhurst players are excited to have Cousins.

“The response has been great,” Cousins said. “I’m very pleased with the way they’ve responded to me. They’re working very hard so far and giving great effort. As a coach, that’s all I can ask for.”

It didn’t take long for Cousins to realize that he didn’t inherit the most talented team around. Gone is 2012-13 Observer Female Athlete of the Year Camila Alonso, who took her track and field talents to East Carolina. Alonso averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds last year, including a record-breaking single game high of 46 points. Those numbers are going to be impossible to replace. The Golden Bears did win 18 games last year.

But Cousins is impressed with the athleticism of his team.

“That’s the one thing that stands out more than anything else,” Cousins said. “They might not be highly skilled and they might not have the best talent, but they are very athletic. I was really surprised with how athletic they are. They’re also quick learners. They absorb everything we teach them, so that’s a tremendous asset.”

Cousins likes the athleticism that he has in the backcourt.

“For me, as a coach, whether they’re talented or skilled, I’ll take the athletic player any day of the week,” Cousins said. “You can teach them to shoot, but if they don’t have the heart, the determination and the hustle, it’s not going to work. So I’ll take the team we have, because they are athletic and willing to go the extra mile.”

Cousins also needed his senior players to step up and be leaders on a young team.

“I look at the seniors and they work together as a group,” Cousins said. “They play other sports together and that equates well for me. If they play other sports, then they’re not shell shocked when they come to basketball. They know what to expect. I’m impressed the way these girls have thrown themselves out there for a first-time head coach.”

One of those senior leaders is Bianca Fata, the standout goalkeeper for the Lyndhurst girls’ soccer team in the fall.

“Bianca is very aggressive and extremely fast,” Cousins said. “She’s a hard-nosed kid who goes after it every time she’s out there.”

Forward Christie Zembriski is another returning player who has impressed Cousins.

“I really like her,” Cousins said. “She throws her body around out there. She has a decent shot and she’s pretty quick. She reacts well to the ball. I’m hoping that she has a really good year for us.”

Cameron Georgs is another holdover from last year’s team.

“She’s one of our tallest kids,” Cousins said. “She can shoot it pretty well and she’s going to shoot it.”

Caroline Beatrice is another senior who has impressed the new coach.

“She has great enthusiasm,” Cousins said. “To me, that’s her strength. She comes every day and she’s ready to play. I want that to rub off on the others and have the others play like that.”

Sophomore Cameron Halpern is going to make an impact on the varsity.

“I like her size and she can run the floor well,” Cousins said. “She’s young and tough.”

Freshman Kira Adams has definitely impressed enough to stick around with the varsity.

“She definitely has a varsity body,” Cousins said. “She has a nice shooting stroke. I hope to get something out of her with the varsity.”

The Golden Bears open the 2013-14 season with Dwight- Englewood.

“Sometimes, I have to pinch myself and ask is this really happening?” Cousins said. “I can’t wait for Dec. 20t and for us to have our season unfold. I’m going to try to maximize their potential. If that means they’re going to be coached, taught, pulled and dragged, I’m going to do it. This is the next stage of my life.”

Learn more about the writer ...