There was a major shakeup late last week in MIAA A conference basketball when Josh Pratt resigned his position as Towson Catholic's coach.
The current economic climate resulted in Pratt being laid off from his teaching job at the school earlier this year. He has since been hired at St. Vincent Pallotti to teach and coach the girls basketball team.
The Owls tabbed Reggie Williams to succeed Pratt. The Dunbar legend, former Georgetown star and NBA veteran got his coaching feet wet at the now-defunct Jericho Christian Academy in Landover. By all accounts, Williams is extremely well liked and respected as a person and coach. He should flourish at Towson Catholic.
But Pratt's legacy at Towson Catholic should be remembered. On the court, Pratt compiled a 98-40 record in four years, which included two A conference titles and one Baltimore Catholic League crown. His tenure with the Owls didn't start under the most ideal circumstances, but he quickly allieviated any concerns parents may have had.
"I just think Pratt came into a tough situation when they let [current City coach] Mike Daniel go. A lot of us were ready to [pull our kids from Towson Catholic] but he held the fort down," said Larry Bastfield, the father of former Owls standout and current Toledo point guard Larry Bastfield Jr.. "He convinced us to give him a chance, so we gave him a chance and we had a hell of a run. The bond that he still has with the kids [is strong]. Those kids love Coach Pratt."
Off the court, Pratt preached academics, doing everything he could to make sure his players were in good position to reach college. With one Owls player who faced his fair share of academic struggles, Pratt set up weekly progress reports and held a required study hall three or four days a week. The same player, who transferred to Towson Catholic from St. Frances early in his freshman year, lived with Vinny Breckinridge, whose son Vinny Jr. left SFA for TC at the same time.
Breckinridge Jr., who spent a post-grad year at The Patterson (N.C.) School and will join the Goucher men's basketball team in the fall, had a seamless transition to Towson Catholic, developing into one of the Owls' top players by his senior year. Breckinridge Jr.'s friend and housemate for eight years, however, struggled academically. Before long, Pratt offered to have this player move in with him so that he could ensure he made it to school on time and was on top of his schoolwork.
"[Pratt] offered that," Breckinridge Sr. said. "He said he could try to help as much as he could, at least to get him through the rest of that year. [Pratt said] 'if he could come and be willing to work, he can stay with me for the rest of the school year.'"
The talented guard ended up staying with the Breckinridge family for the time being. Unfortunately, his academics didn't improve and his attendance rate dropped, forcing Towson Catholic to essentially expel him from school. He has since resurfaced at a school outside of the Baltimore area, and is reportedly doing well. His current coach said he has nothing but praise for Pratt and was sorry it didn't work out. Pratt told me recently that he was "a great kid" who he still hoped would be able to play college basketball.
"It broke [Pratt's] heart when he got put out at Towson Catholic," Bastfield said, "because he did everything possible to keep him at TC. ... The stuff he did with [this player] was above and beyond."
When "Little Larry" wasn't playing much in the early parts of his freshman season at Toledo, Pratt would offer encouragement and advice to Bastfield Sr., telling him things would improve for his son. And sure enough, they did, as Bastfield Jr. ended up starting 16 games for the Rockets and averaging more than 23 minutes per game.
"I definitely don't think my son, personally, would be where he's at today without Coach Pratt," Bastfield said. "Sophomore year, Coach Pratt gave him the ball. He said 'it's your ball,' and the rest was history."
Whenever Breckinridge Jr., Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, the Sacramento Kings' Donte' Greene or any other former Owls player was back in the area and wanted to play ball, Pratt was more than happy to open the gym. In the offseason, he took his kids to elite camps at various colleges to increase their exposure. Hosting open gyms for college coaches was another constant under Pratt.
"To me it says that he is willing to help his kids. He's more than a basketball coach," Breckinridge said. "He's willing to help his kids that come through his program and extend himself beyond just coaching the team. Since Vinny Jr. went to The Patterson School, I've had dozens of coaches call me from all different levels. That's all through Coach Pratt. He will just continue to help every kid [that's come through his program] as long as the kid's doing what he's supposed to. He'll help you if you're helping yourself. He'll bend over backwards."
Towson Catholic should field a strong team next season, and its future is bright with Williams at the helm.
Soon enough, the Pallotti community will discover just how fortunate it is to have the Owls' outgoing coach.
Baltimore Sun photo of Josh Pratt and Vinny Breckinridge Jr. by Barbara Haddock Taylor / Feb. 24, 2008