PITTSFIELD - Seven is considered a lucky number. If that is the case, then St. Joseph's High School boys basketball coach Paul Brindle is looking for that number to be an omen for good things.
That's because at the conclusion of this, Brindle's seventh year at the helm of the Crusaders, he will be stepping aside.
"When I took the job seven years ago, I told them that I was going to do it for seven years," said Brindle.
In seven seasons, Brindle and the players at St. Joseph's have made three consecutive appearances in the Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals, two championship game appearances, and last year's Division III title. The Crusaders battled Danvers before falling in the state Division III championship game.
Brindle came on board at St. Joe's after spending time as an assistant coach with Bill Heaphy at Taconic. Brindle is a former standout player at Taconic and then at Western New England.
Taking over at St. Joe's coincided with the current crop of seniors heading into middle school.
"[After seven years] I knew that group would all be seniors," Brindle said. "My focus is going to be seven years with this group. I'm going to take this group until they're done."
Junior varsity coach Randy Kinnas, himself a former standout player at Pittsfield High School, will be taking over. Kinnas' JV team at St. Joseph's is young and inexperienced, so his tenure will start in a similar fashion to Brindle's - with young players learning as they play.
"I started that way with a group of kids that were learning basketball," the current coach said. "We changed [the atmosphere], and did everything we wanted to."
Kinnas' JV team is predominantly freshman, so the cupboard isn't exactly bare on Maplewood Avenue.
"We still have 20-plus kids in the program. The JV team is made up of all freshmen," said Brindle.
Thinking back on his tenure, Brindle said that in his opinion, no Berkshire County coach in recent memory has coached the same varsity group for four consecutive seasons has he has with the last couple of graduating classes. There are currently nine seniors on the St. Joe's roster.
"I don't think any program in the county has had this," he said. "We were building something."
Brindle, who is a vice president of commercial lending at MountainOne Financial Services, is not getting out of the game. His son Nicholas is six, and while Nick can't do a crossover dribble yet, he'll get there.
"My focus was going to be seven years with this group. My son will start playing sports by then," Brindle said, "so I'll stop."
St. Joseph's started its current tournament run in 2008. A 9-11 group of Crusaders made the Division III field but lost to Sabis in the quarterfinals. The next year, Sabis proved to be too much of a hurdle as the Crusaders lost again in the quarterfinals. In 2010, Sabis moved up to Division II and the Crusaders got to the final before losing to New Leadership. After falling to eventual champion Lenox in the 2011 semifinal, Brindle guided the Crusaders to the Division III title last year.
"This group has been together for so long," he said. "We've had some big games and championships. They want to go out the right way and get one more championship."