Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
Rudy Fraraccio doesn't mince words.
"I'm just an old guy trying to win some games," he said.
The new coach of the Riverview High basketball team keeps it as blunt as the style of basketball he hopes the Rams play. Fraraccio, 58, was named interim coach May 22 after the departure of B.J. Ivey to Florida Gulf Coast University. The interim tag was officially lifted June 4.
By then, Fraraccio had gotten a running start on the position. The Rams played in the Lakewood Ranch Summer Shootout at Lakewood Ranch High on June 1 and went 3-0, including a 74-44 win against Class 4A state runner-up Seffner Christian. The Rams played in two more weekend events in June, at Florida Gulf Coast and IMG Academy. The team went 12-2 for the month, with its losses by two and six points, respectively. Fraraccio said he was pleased with how the Rams responded to his philosophy and personality.
Of course, winning is nothing new to Fraraccio. This is his first basketball varsity head coaching position, but he coached the Rams' junior varsity program from 2014-2019, posting an 88-26 record. His philosophy, one that he shares with Ivey, is a classic one.
"I try to emphasize defense and rebounding," Fraraccio said. "We will try to score in transition. If we can't, then we will execute in the half-court. If the other team doesn't have the ball, it's hard for them to score. It sounds simple, but it's hard to do play after play."
It can be difficult to get teams to buy into that philosophy in today's world, he said. I believe it. Social media has changed the way teams play. When all you see are highlight-reel dunks and half-court three-pointers, that's all you want to nail. Accounts like Overtime — which tells players to tag its account in their highlight videos for a chance to be featured — and House of Highlights not only reinforce but encourage this. The content is entertaining, sure, but kids are taking the wrong lessons from it. Fraraccio is spending the summer knocking bad habits out of his team.
"I would like to see players consistently make the routine play," Fraraccio said. "The routine good pass. The routine layup. Do that rather than something with a greater degree of difficulty that you might not hit. There has been a little bit of a learning curve with our players and myself this past month.
"I have seen some high school games that were lost because of two or three missed dunks. I would prefer A. those dunks going in, or B. just laying the ball up. Players today are aware of the highlight of a game."
Based on the Rams' summer record, it seems like they figured things out. Going forward, I would anticipate those successes continuing. Fraraccio — "Coach Fro" to the players — has been waiting a long time for this chance. He seems intent on capitalizing on it. The rest of the varsity staff is returning, and the Rams graduated just two seniors in May. The rest of the team, including Jayven Millien, the rising sophomore who received a scholarship offer from the University of Miami in June, will be back.
They will be competing in a new district, which includes last year's Class 8A runner-up Lakewood Ranch, a tough, well-run program that should make for a great Rams rival. It won't be an easy road back to the top of the state, but Fraraccio seems intent on getting the program there — and doing it the right way.