At times, you may also forget about the coach, but Niles seems to like it that way. He’s less intense, although no less successful, than his CCS counterpart, boys basketball coach Dave Bertram. Niles doesn’t have a defined style of play like Bertram either.
“I feel like your personnel dictates your style,” Niles said. “For me, the pattern that has emerged is I like to play good half-court, man-to-man defense. That’s my comfort zone. After that, you are always going to have to make a big stop in a close game and you are always going to have to make a big basket in a close game.”
Cooperstown last made the state tournament in 2008, Niles’ first year as varsity coach. The team has made the section finals twice since then, but it has been a long wait to get back to the state tournament, he said.
“We had such a good team that year. I don’t know if I took it for granted, but I did think ‘this is great; we’ll be here every year,’” Niles said.
“This year, we wanted to get back to the (Carrier) Dome,” he continued, “but there is a big difference between setting a goal and going out and achieving it. Now that we have, we want to keep going.”
To do that, Cooperstown will have to stop Harpursville (18-3) and its inside-outside combination of center Miranda Drummond and guard Savannah Murray. The Hornets, who were a No. 6 seed in Section Four, and finished third in the Midstate Athletic Conference, had lost to Unatego twice before beating the Spartans, 60-36, in the section final on March 2 in Oneonta. Drummond scored 27 points in the game.
Most of the Cooperstown girls watched the Section Four final, and then they all met up at Red Bursey Gym for a team sleepover. Whatever happens next, they will face it as a team.
“I always feel a little fatherly to the girls, but I try to let them write their own story,” Niles said. “With Sumer and Nicole, I know I can let them lead. Once the kids step up as leaders, it kind of feeds off itself.”