After a torn Achilles tendon that left him unable to play football and basketball at the age of 28, Adam Blake found a new passion in coaching. Blake has coached at the AAU, high school and college levels.
One level was missing: Pro.
That changed last winter when Blake signed a deal to become the founder, owner, general manager and head coach of the Massachusetts Wolves of the American Basketball Association (ABA).
“I was sitting on the couch in my apartment last year, saw some clips of ABA on Instagram, and started looking it up (thinking), ‘I should start my own team. ‘ said Blake. “I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it. I’m not going to put it off for a year.
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Blake wasted no time, doing a lot of research in the spring and summer and hosting the Wolves’ first tryouts in September. After completing his roster in October, Blake coached his first professional game against the ABA’s current top-ranking team, Binghamton, on October 29. Lost at -85.
“It was a tough game, but I learned a lot from it,” Blake said. “It was good, but there was a lot of work. It was more than I expected, but it was fun. I put together a good national team in the region.”
Return of ABA
The original incarnation of the ABA was founded in 1967 and merged with the National Basketball Association in 1976. In 1999, Joe Newman and the late Richard P. Tinkham restarted the league.
Fast forward to today and there are 132 teams in seven regional divisions across the country. The Wolves play a schedule of 20 games in the Northeast where he plays with 14 other teams, once a week and on weekends.
Blake will return to where he started his coaching career at Barnstable High when the Wolves take on the Providence Pirates at 1pm on Sunday.
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Blake has 20-25 players on his team, but he only wears 15 at each game. He also has a handful of coaches.
“I never thought it would be such a tough job,” Blake said. “I thought it would be simpler to go out and play games, but there are a lot of logistical things. It’s a really good league with great players.”
Blake grew up in Virginia and Washington, DC, but has lived in Massachusetts (Quincy and Plymouth) for the past 12 years. Most of Blake’s family are from the Cape or southeastern Massachusetts.
Since losing their first game, the Wolves have won two of their last five games and are now 2-4 on the season.
“We obviously struggled in the first few games because we were playing against better teams in the league,” Blake said. “Since building the full roster, we’ve done well with it. We’ve been tough out for any team. We’ve been getting better and better, and I understand that now.”
This is Blake’s first team from scratch, but it’s a process he’s familiar with. For the past eight years, Blake has been an assistant coach and recruiter for the UMass Boston men’s basketball team.
“UMass Boston is like my home. I did a lot of recruiting[for men’s basketball]and made a name for myself in coaching and recruiting,” Blake said.
He has also coached Franklin Pierce University, Lexington Christian Academy, Barnstable High School and the Cape Cod Warriors (AAU team).
One of the team’s players, Charles Mitchell, attended New Mission High School in Hyde Park, where he helped lead the Titans to two state championships. He then brought talent to UMass Boston, where Blake was coaching. Blake told him about wolves and he went to tryouts.
“Since the first practice, I’ve seen them get it and I believe in us, so I joined them,” Mitchell said. The hard part is the connection, I know we can get there because we can see it, but we haven’t had a practice or a game where we’re all connected.”
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Anthony “Ant” Parker played for Taunton High and Bristol Community College. He previously played for the Providen Pirates in the ABA, but he decided to join the Wolves after Blake contacted him.
“The Mass Wolves are closer to home for me and I’m from Mass, so maybe I should play for my hometown team,” Parker said.
For Parker, the ABA is unlike any other league in terms of talent and physical ability.
“Usually in college or high school you have one or two good players, but in this league it can be a whole team of seven or eight players who can play at a high level. is important,” Parker said.
Parker will have some chemistry on this squad with his brother Dante Law becoming his teammate for the first time.
“My brother Anthony asked me if I wanted to play in the ABA. Told.
Law played basketball at Taunton and the University of Rhode Island. In his first season in the ABA, Law is still adjusting for the good and the bad.
“The hardest part is probably the minutes, because I’m tired from playing a lot of minutes,” Lowe said. “I like the extra points rule. If you hit a steal in the frontcourt, it’s an extra point.”
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Onset’s Aaron Strothers grew up playing basketball in his neighborhood. He went on to play at Wareham High School, followed by Marianapolis Preparatory School where he played for a year and Merrimack won a scholarship to play at his college. He then played abroad for the Cape Verde national team in 2013 and then in Costa Rica.
Strothers then began volunteer coaching at the AAU and was an assistant coach for UMass Dartmouth for five years. While there, UMass Dartmouth played for his UMass Boston and that’s how Blake and Strothers got to know each other.
“First, he reached out to me to see if there were any players he was interested in. I said, ‘Hey, I’m still playing too,'” Strothers said.
Strothers started his first year as an assistant coach at Bridgewater State University this season, but he hasn’t stopped playing since college.
“The hardest thing for me right now is staying in shape for coaching and staying committed to the Wolves team with two basketball seasons going on at the same time. We run Hoops and provide resources for the basketball community, and the hardest thing is trying to do it all at once,” Strothers said.
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Strothers said Blake and his teammates made the process easier because they knew coaching at Bridgewater State was his priority.
As for the Wolves’ recent success, the Strothers know they’re a new team.
“It takes time to learn each other’s games and team chemistry and gel together. I think we’re finally starting to click and get to know each other better,” Strothers said.