Nipmuc grad Anthony Leonelli courts new challenge

Anthony Leonelli has his first head coaching job, for the men’s basketball team at Green Mountain College.
Anthony Leonelli has his first head coaching job, for the men’s basketball team at Green Mountain College.Handout

Leonelli starts fast at Green Mountain

Anthony Leonelli immediately hit the recruiting trail after agreeing to become head men’s basketball coach at Green Mountain College in Pownal, Vt.

“That was July 1 and I’ve already been to the Hoop Mountain camp in Rhode Island and a couple of summer leagues in the Boston area,’’ said Leonelli, a former two-sport athlete at Nipmuc Regional High in Upton.

His first official day on the job was Monday.

“I’m also on the lookout for an assistant coach, so I’m putting a lot of miles on the car and lots of minutes on my cellphone to try and reach the coaches I know, and find the right players for our program,’’ he said.


As a senior at Nipmuc, Leonelli compiled a 10-1 won-loss record as a pitcher and was on the mound when the Warriors defeated Triton Regional, 1-0, for the Division 3 state baseball championship in 2001. He wore a Superman T-shirt under his uniform when he pitched that season.

“I wore it once and we won and so I got superstitious,’’ said Leonelli, the subject of a memorable championship celebration newspaper photo after he pulled off his uniform shirt to reveal his lucky T-shirt at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.

His parents still have the shirt hanging in their house. It was a gift from Leonelli’s significant other, Rachel Keeler, who graduated from Nipmuc in 2002.

“I really loved baseball and my coach, Bill McInnis, who won three state titles in five years, is one of the reasons I went into the profession. He had a great connection with his players and gave us confidence and stood by us if someone was in a slump,’’ said the 30-year-old Leonelli, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Rhode Island College.

Leonelli tried to make the varsity baseball team at Southern New Hampshire University, but, he said, “the Division 2 level was probably too high for me, and it was always a struggle to get into the mix.’’


Describing himself as a “marginal’’ basketball player in high school, Leonelli said that to be competitive he spent a lot of time studying the game.

“Baseball came relatively easy for me,’’ said Leonelli, the head baseball coach at Blackstone Valley Regional Tech in Upton the past four seasons. “But the idea of coaching basketball was a challenge and really appealed to me.’’

Leonelli, a volunteer assistant basketball coach at Millbury High while attending Southern New Hampshire, quipped that he always reminds his old basketball coach at Nipmuc, Jim Grant, that he should have played more.

“But I have a different perspective now and he was more right than I was,’’ said Leonelli, whose other basketball coaching stops include being a student assistant at the University of Akron, assistant coach at Wentworth Institute for six years, and assistant coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the 2011-12 season.

During his tenure at Rhode Island College, the Anchormen went 46-13 and reached the NCAA Division 3 tournament both seasons.

He has also coached at Hoop Mountain, the Hoop Group, and the Boston College basketball camps, and was codirector of WPI’s camp.

Leonelli, who has the reputation as a dogged recruiter, inherits another Division 3 program; however, Green Mountain has produced just four wins in each of the last two seasons.


“It’s a challenge, but I wanted to give myself 10 or 11 years to get a head coaching job and that’s come true, so the timing is right,’’ said Leonelli. “Every assistant wants to move over 24 inches on the bench and see if they’re as smart as they think they are. But seriously, the most important aspect of my job now is changing the culture and identity of what we want to be.’’

To that end, Leonelli said he will explore every avenue and at first will focus on his recruiting connections in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

“Green Mountain is a unique college with a unique vision,’’ he said. “I’m glad to be a part of it, and I believe we can build a program that can compete immediately.’’

Here and there

Adam Ravenelle , a former Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High baseball star, signed with the Detroit Tigers on Monday after being taken by the team in the fourth-round of last month’s draft. As a Vanderbilt University junior this spring, Ravenelle recorded the final out of the Commodores’ Division 1 national championship-clinching victory over Virginia, and had three saves in the College World Series. Overall, the Sudbury native had a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings as a reliever. Ravenelle will receive a signing bonus of $412,400, according to MLB.com. . . Newton native Eric Kaplan, junior varsity boys’ hockey coach at Natick High the past six years, is the program’s new head coach. He replaces Karl Infanger. Kaplan has also coached the Natick Comets youth hockey team and the Natick Middle School squad. . . Former Lincoln-Sudbury Regional and Boston College women’s basketball star Carolyn Swords has signed with the Acqua & Sapone Umbertide professional team in Italy. The 6-foot-6 center has not played since last summer, when she tore ligaments in her knee while with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and was waived by the team earlier this year. The 2006-07 Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, Swords also played in Turkey, averaging 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for Ceyhan two years ago.


Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.