HELENA — The Helena High girls basketball team will be under new leadership next season and their new head coach is Ben Dudek according to a press release put out by the Helena Public Schools Tuesday.
Dudek will be replacing former head coach Eric Peterson, who stepped down following the 2019-20 season. The Bengals made the Class AA state tournament four times under Peterson and won three consecutive Class AA state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Here's a portion of the release from Helena public schools on the new head coach:
"Helena High Principal Steve Thennis and Helena Schools Activities Director Tim McMahon are pleased to announce the hiring of Ben Dudek as the new Helena High Girls Basketball Head Coach. Coach Dudek has previously coached for six years in Pennsylvania as a varsity girls assistant coach at the high school level and at the high school age AAU club level, including coaching several showcase AAU teams made up of college bound women basketball players. Coach Dudek moved to Helena and began teaching at CR Anderson Middle School."
While replacing an accomplished coach like Peterson will be a challenge, Dudek said being a head coach was something he always dreamed about.
"I have spent most of my adult life prior to Helena coaching basketball," Dudek said. "And having my own program is something I have always wanted to do and I am not only grateful for the opportunity to finally have that, but I am really grateful taking over a program that was successful on and off the court."
Dudek played college basketball at Clarkson University in Rochester, New York, and is 32 years old. He will also continue teaching sixth-grade science at CR Anderson Middle School in Helena.
"I have been coaching basketball since I was 21," Dudek said. "I just always loved the game. When my wife and I moved out here five years ago, it was tough for me to take a step back from it, because it's what I did for a living in Pennsylvania. Coaching basketball has always been a passion in my life and when the opportunity came up, it just felt like it was the right time to give it a shot again."
The chance to resume coaching with the Bengals made it even more appealing.
"I know that they (Helena High) have had a lot of success over the years," Dudek said. "Eric has built such a great culture there. I have been fortunate to see that, going to a couple of games and having seen the family-type atmosphere they have, which has always been impressive to me and I am just excited to help continue that culture."
Dudek will have big shoes to fill as Peterson posted a record of 97-55 in seven seasons as head coach of the Bengals. But trying to get started is a little tricky, especially with school being done remotely due to COVID-19.
"(COVID-19) has made things a little different and changed a lot in what we do," Dudek said. "My plan is to reach out to the players who were part of the program and set up FaceTime meetings and just to get to know them as individuals and try to start to build relationships the best I can. Hopefully, sometime in the summer we can get in the gym and get to know each other that way."
Dudek said he hadn't finalized his staff yet but was hoping to talk with the current Bengal assistants soon. But in terms of what Helena High fans can expect in the coming years, Dudek said he's a fan of fast-paced basketball.
"I really believe in a secondary break, fast-paced offense," Dudek said. "We want to get the ball up the floor as quickly as we can and look for easy opportunities. But also offenses that have a lot of movement in them and players moving without the ball. I want to build the basketball IQ of players, that's really where my passion is."
The hiring will become official when it's approved by the Helena School Board.
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