BUTLER — Mike Lortie is a familiar face when it comes to Eastside basketball.
For the past seven years, he served as varsity assistant to head coach Ryan Abbott and the boys basketball team.
Now, Lortie gets his chance as head coach for Eastside’s girls basketball team.
As the third coach in three seasons, he’s hopeful to bring some stability for what he views as a talented group of basketball players.
He follows Shane Conwell, who now works in the DeKalb Eastern administrative office. Conwell coached the Blazers to 56 wins in six seasons, including a sectional championship, and Nate Young, who coached the Eastside girls last season.
The new coach believes the Blazers have a good mix.
“We have some older girls that have a lot of experience at the varsity level,” Lortie said. “We have some in-betweens that have some experience at the varsity level and we’ve got some younger girls coming who are pretty good too.
“I think we’re going to have an interesting mix,” he added. “How that will all lay out is unknown since I haven’t gotten to directly work with them on a day-to-day basis, but I’m really excited for every level from seniors down to freshmen.”
Before coming to Eastside, Lortie spent 12 years coaching in the junior high and reserve ranks at Woodlan High School, including a stint as Abbott’s coach.
“I took a couple of years off. When coach Abbott got this position, he kind of drug me out of retirement,” said Lortie. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll give you one year. It turned into seven, and now we’re here. It’s been great. I love it here.
“I’ve always had that inside. I’ve always thought about being the head coach of a program,” he said.
Lortie, 51, and wife Kim have five children and eight grandchildren.
Lortie thanked Eastside, administrators and athletic director Aaron Willard for the opportunity. “I would also like to thank Ryan Abbott and past and present players,” he said. “It was hard leaving the boys. When I coach, they don’t quite understand it, but I kind of acquire them as my kids, and I’ve always done that in 20 years of coaching basketball. When I had to tell them I was leaving, it was tough.”
After assembling his coaching staff and meeting with the players, Lortie is looking forward to a busy month of July to start putting things in place.
“My personal philosophy is I like to play a little faster,” he said. Pressuring the ball on defense and pushing the ball on offense are things he likes. “We may have to adjust a little bit once I get to know the girls a little bit better.
“I like to think I’m a little bit high energy,” Lortie said in describing his coaching style. “I don’t run around; I’m not as young as I used to be, but I want to coach aggressively. I want to dictate things that happen on the floor. We want to make things happen on the floor; we don’t want things to happen to us.
“That backfires sometimes, but going forward, I think that’s going to be a good path to go,” he added. “If that happens, we’ll change it on the way. Sometimes, that’s what you have to do.”