MSC welcomes Batastini, Brissette to coaching staff

MSC welcomes Batastini, Brissette to coaching staff

North Smithfield native Drew Brissette, who coached the Burrillville Middle School softball team last season, will be the Mount Saint Charles Academy head softball coach next spring.
Girls’ basketball, softball coaches share admiration for school

WOONSOCKET – The two newest additions to the Mount Saint Charles Academy coaching staff don’t have much in common, but one thing’s for certain:

They have a strong admiration for the school that they will serve as head coaches.

For Christina Batastini, who will take over this winter as the girls’ basketball coach, her admiration began last winter, when during her daughter Ryanne’s Catholic Athletic League game in the Mounties’ gymnasium, she took a good look at the facility and the rest of the campus and was impressed with what she encountered.

For Drew Brissette, who will take the field next spring as the softball coach, he admired the school from afar, when as a teenager in North Smithfield, he privately “envied” the school and his friends who attended it. He wore the Northmen’s Green & Gold as a baseball player during his freshman and sophomore years, but now he’s anxious to don the Mounties’ Red, White, & Blue.

When it comes to high school girls’ basketball in Rhode Island, Batastini is one of the all-time legends. One of the greatest players to take the court in this state, the 1996 graduate of Classical High, who was a Parade Magazine and a Nike All-American) continued her hoop career at Stanford University, where she starred on three Pac-10 championship teams, and played professionally for four seasons in Europe (in Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland).

After finishing her career as a practice player for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, she turned her attention to coaching. She started out as an assistant coach at Brown University, before spending seven seasons as the head coach of the Lincoln School. Under her guidance, the Lynx went from a winless team to a four-time Southeastern New England champion.

She stepped down after the 2012 season and focused on coaching her daughter’s hoop teams, which ranged from ages 5-9, as well as operating her Batastini School of Basketball, which offers state-wide camps, team clinic, and individual instruction.

She didn’t think she’d be coaching on the high school level again, but when she visited the campus again, as well as met with the school’s president, Alan Tenreiro, and athletic director Ray Leveille, who was last season’s head coach before stepping down to take over as Mount’s full-time A.D., she knew she really wanted the job.

“It really sounded like they had a sustainable plan for the future of their students,” she recalled. “It was exciting and it was something I wanted to be a part of. And my daughter is in fourth grade, so the timing was really important to me that I coach at a school that she could possibly attend someday.

“She visited the school and loved it, and it really felt like a good fit, not only for our family, but in terms of their vision for what they want their athletic programs to look like.”

“Christina has succeeded as a player and coach at every level: professional, college, high school, and scholastic,” Tenreiro said in a press release. “Between her athletic and academic accomplishments, she embodies the student-athlete ideal we encourage at Mount Saint Charles. Our girls team has a strong winning tradition, and we’re confident they’ll have even more success under Christina’s leadership.”

Bastastini, who also works for the state’s Department of Health, inherits a team that went 7-11 and returned to the Division II playoffs last season, and with some of the top players from that squad expected to return to the team this season, the new head coach hopes to be competitive.

“I took a brief look at our schedule and most of those teams that we’ll be playing, at least when I played and was involved coaching high school basketball, were once Division I programs,” Bastastini added, “so it seems like there’s a really strong group of teams in this division.”

As for her long-term goals?

“Each year, I’d like to grow on the past year’s success,” she noted, “potentially move up to the top level if it’s feasible, and then ultimately grow the program to where it becomes an absolute ‘have-to’ – in terms of if you are a middle school kid or a student-athlete and you want to play college basketball, that you feel compelled to look at Mount Saint Charles because of the program that we built in the course of time that I’ll be there.”

While Bastastini was officially named the head coach last Thursday, it wasn’t long before Brissette got the nod to lead the Mounties’ softball program, which will be returning to the Division I ranks after spending the past two seasons in D-II and reaching the finals in 2017.

Brissette, who graduated from North Smithfield High in 2009, will be one of the state’s youngest softball coaches, but you wouldn’t know that by perusing his resume. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University who is employed as a corporate dining chef in Framingham, Mass., Brissette began coaching softball six years ago with his father, Mark, who had been Burrillville Middle School’s head coach before relinquishing the reigns to Drew.

In addition to also coaching girls’ basketball at BMS with his father, Brissette also spent five seasons as a softball coach for the Rhode Island Rampage travel program, and he’s currently the head coach of the New England Phoenix U18 travel team.

“I always loved the game,” added Brissette. “I was coaching baseball for a little while with a friend, and when my dad was fortunate enough to get the position at Burrillville, I asked him if I could help out and I fell in love with the game. It’s great being able to be out there on the field and help my players get better at the game. And as much as I love the game of softball, I realized that its not just about the game, but it’s more about helping them become better people and a mentor in their life.”

Brissette has a good grasp of the history of the MSC softball program, especially as a Division I squad, which not only played in the state finals in 1989, 2005, 2010, and 2011, but earned a share of the D-I regular-season title in 2009 and 2010.

“I really want to bring back the legacy of Mount’s softball program,” he said. “It was something special a long time ago. They were in Division I for a long time and they fell to Division II a couple of years back. They deserve to be back up in D-I, and there’s a lot of hope because the team that they have now has an immense amount of talent.”

While Brissette is excited for next season, he’s also thrilled at the prospects of the school constructing a softball-only field near the campus. The Mounties currently share the same field as the school’s baseball team, and its home diamond is situated in deep center field, nearly 400 feet away from the baseball field’s home plate.

“That’s very exciting, and it’s a big part of the reason why I took the job,” said Brissette. “It shows that school is excited about this program, as well as the rest of their (athletic) programs.”