Tom Turco loves to quote coaches, whether the name is Red Auerbach, Bill Belichick, or . . . Pat Riley.
And in a decorated 31-year run as the varsity girls’ volleyball coach at Barnstable High, Turco has utilized their words, or messages, in conveying pertinent points to his teams.
On Wednesday afternoon, after wrapping up a lively conversation in which he talked at length, with pride, about the program, Turco took issue when he received a “good luck” in advance of the Red Raiders’ first-round game in the Division 1 South tournament.
“Luck is the residue of design,” said Turco, who has guided Barnstable, the Globe’s top-ranked team, to an 19-0 regular season.
“You know who said that? Branch Rickey.”
Luck has not been part of the equation. Turco planned it this way, meticulously crafting a program capable of continued dominance since 1988.
Barnstable went 20-2 in 1989 and won the first of its 18 Division 1 titles in 1993. There have also been 23 South crowns, all with Turco prowling the sideline in his signature khaki shorts and Barnstable polo.
His .918 winning percentage (676-61 record) is better than the dominance of Nick Saban (.782) with the Alabama football program, or Geno Auriemma (.883) with UConn women’s basketball.
Turco expects a lot from his players, putting the Red Raiders through tough training sessions and intricately planned practices.
“The consistency every day, it’s the little things that he does that have us as prepared as possible,” said senior hitter Riley James .
His talent pool is drawn from a student body of approximately 750 girls. So the key to sustainability is development at the youth level.
Early on, Turco reached out to Dana Defilipo (currently the head coach of the Greater Lowell boys), who had directed the Chelmsford girls to back-to-back titles. She offered an invite to her summer clinic.
“It was a home run,” said Turco. “I sat there and said to myself, ‘I am doing exactly what she does’ . . . Those kids were so tuned in. They learned, they had fun, they went outside totally away from volleyball to play a phys-ed game, they came back and were focused as can be on the next skill. And we’re still doing the same model.”
Turco had 13 campers his first year, including two of his own kids, then 50, and eventually, 200. That success prompted Turco to launch the Cape Cod Juniors club teams for middle school players.
“I think since we all start at the rec camps so young, it’s kind of like a filter,” said Barnstable senior Olivia Berler.
Physical ability is an important aspect of Barnstable’s dominance. But so, too, is what happens off the court.
Instead of naming one or two captains per season, he assigns captaincy to each of the seniors, regardless of the size of the class or their contributions statistically.
The seniors, said Turco, have always been the leaders.
Each season, Turco schedules six 90-minute sessions in the classroom, teaching his players from Riley’s book, “The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players.” The first chapter culminates with a players-only meeting to develop season goals.
In his tenure, Turco has coached multiple All Americans, eight Massachusetts Gatorade Players of the Year, and 66 Boston Globe All-Scholastics. There were a state-record 110 consecutive wins from 2003-07.
He still demands excellence. At Wednesday’s practice, Turco asked James, Ingrid Murphy, and Josie Deluga to return 75 spikes with pinpoint passes right to a teammate planted inside of a hula hoop within 11 minutes. He expects excellence, and the players do, too.
Leaving practice with her fellow seniors, James was offered a “good luck” in the tourney. She paused at the door, turned, and unprompted said, “Coach Turco would be disappointed in us if we didn’t say this: But luck is the residue of design.”