St. Joe basketball team practices on Thursday, Dec. 5.
St. Joe basketball team practices on Thursday, Dec. 5. (Holly Pelczynski/Berkshire Eagle Staff)

PITTSFIELD - First-year St. Joseph basketball coach Randy Kinnas knows his young team will feature a lot of new faces.

The Crusaders lost eight seniors from a team that went 14-9 before losing in the Western Mass. Division III final to Smith Academy and reached the state championship game the year before that.

The team must replace key contributors Lavante Wiggins and Michael Carpenter along with star player Taverick "Tank" Roberson.

When asked how he'll replace two-time All-Eagle MVP and school all-time leading scorer Roberson, now in prep school, Kinnas said jokingly that the Chicago Bulls never replaced Michael Jordan.

"It will take a collection of players to replace [Roberson]. I think we have players on the team that will produce," he said.

If Roberson was Jordan, then former coach Paul Brindle was Phil Jackson. Replacing such key figures in St. Joe's recent success will be a difficult task, but Kinnas, a basketball lifer, said he's up for the task.

"It's an honor just to be mentioned with some of the great coaches that have coached at St. Joe," he said. "There's pressure [on me], but it's a great feeling to have a chance to lead this team." Kinnas said the familiarity he has with his current players should help during his transition to head coach.

In addition to being the executive director at the Pittsfield Family YMCA, Kinnas spent the last six years as St. Joe's JV coach. His time there allowed him to run practices and get the feel of how to guide a program.

Kinnas will still need time to grow into his position. He stressed patience when trying to gauge the expectation level of his team. "We're rebuilding, and like anything, it's a process that could take some time," he said. "There could be some bumps along the way, but I've got a great group of kids."

A successful rebuild will be quite a feat, especially considering the state of the sports programs at St. Joe. Low numbers plagued the football team throughout the season, and the lower enrollment numbers at St. Joe would make maintaining success even more impressive.

A rebuilding process might be more difficult than it would be at a larger school, but the Crusaders are ready to start a new chapter.

"We're working hard and doing what we have to, to get better every day," junior Brendan Faas said. "We lost a lot of people last year, so we're coming in here with something to prove."

Kinnas said he has not had a reduction in the number of players on his team. He said the 23 players that attended tryouts are in line with the normal turnout for previous teams. Some players are relishing the opportunity for a fresh start.

"He's all about what you do at practice and what you do at tryouts," said senior Jovan Rodriguez. "It doesn't matter who you are. It depends on what he sees."

As St. Joe enters its first year in Division IV, Kinnas said he's glad his team will still be able to face its Berkshire County rivals. To the north, McCann Tech coach Michael Nykorchuck, a long time colleague of Kinnas, said he's sure that Kinnas is the right man to guide St. Joe.

"St. Joe has one of the best basketball traditions in Berkshire County," Nykorchuck said. "Every team has its run. ... I think St. Joe will be back. Randy has a great basketball mind and will do a great job."

To reach Akeem Glaspie (413) 496-6252.

On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.