State of Sports: For almost 50 years, Dufour 'was like a brother' to Spirou

Mar. 1—JAY DUFOUR and Stan Spirou went together like pizza and beer. Dufour was the yin to Spirou's yang.

That's how it has to be when you speak almost every day for the better part of 50 years.

Dufour served as Spirou's top assistant for each of the 33 years Spirou was Southern New Hampshire University's men's basketball coach, a stretch that began in 1985 and continued until both retired in 2018. Dufour's calm nature provided a balance to Spirou's fiery personality throughout their coaching careers.

"I think that's why we were a good team," Spirou said. "He would reason with me. Then I would step back and usually I would say, 'Well. He's right.'"

Spirou was on a golf course in Florida when he learned that Dufour passed away Sunday at age 75 following an 18-month fight with pancreatic cancer. Calling hours are Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Lambert Funeral Home & Crematory in Manchester.

"A lot of people will talk about what a great guy Jay was, but more importantly he was just such a loyal individual," Spirou recalled. "My impressions of him, especially the first few years we were together, not only was he a great coach but he was a better husband and a better father. That left a lasting impression on me of what type of individual he was. Always had time for his family. They were No. 1.

"We never had an argument. Let me take that back. We did have a few. When I got thrown out of a few games, we'd get into an argument about why he didn't tackle me sooner, you know what I mean? I had a tendency at times to lose it on the court and he was just such an even-keeled individual. One time, it was so funny, after I got tossed from a game he comes in the locker room after he finished the game coaching and says, 'Stan, something's gotta give. I'm sick and tired. I'm getting old. I don't want to lead the league in tackles. That's up to Ray Lewis.' I'll never forget that."

Dufour, a 1966 Nashua High School graduate, was inducted into the SNHU Hall of Fame in 2023. Spirou was inducted the same year.

The two met in 1974, shortly after Spirou became the junior varsity boys basketball coach at Manchester Central and recommended Dufour as a candidate to coach the Central freshman team. When Spirou became the varsity head coach, he elevated Dufour to the JV level.

Dufour became Central's varsity coach when Spirou resigned to become an assistant coach at New Hampshire College (now SNHU), but the two were reunited when Spirou took over as SNHU's head coach. Dufour worked part-time at SNHU until the school elevated his job to a full-time position.

While Dufour and Spirou were together at SNHU, the Penmen were 640-341 and advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament 18 times. They appeared in the Elite Eight five times and reached the Final Four twice.

Dufour also spent seven years as a teacher at Hooksett Memorial School and another 30 at Manchester Central before he retired in 2008.

"He was my right-hand man for many years," Spirou said. "Whatever success our programs enjoyed, whether it was at Central or New Hampshire College/Southern New Hampshire, Jay was a big part of it. He had a tremendous impact on me and my family over the years.

"I was blessed. I didn't lose a friend. I didn't lose a former coach. I lost a brother. He was like a brother to me."

—A berth in the NCAA Division III tournament will be on the line when the Plymouth State men's ice hockey team (22-2-2) skates against second-seeded Fitchburg State (15-9-2) in the MASCAC tournament's championship game Saturday (6 p.m.) in Plymouth. The Panthers, who went 2-0-1 against the Falcons this season, are seeking their sixth consecutive title.

The field for the 16-team NCAA tournament will be revealed Monday (10 a.m.) on The tournament's first two rounds will be played on campus sites.

—Tom Babaian on his decision to step down as Pelham High School's football coach after guiding the Pythons to their fourth consecutive championship last fall:

"Nothing in particular happened. I just felt like at this point in my life it was time to move on to different challenges. I've been thinking about it since the end of the year, but you don't want to make a hasty decision. You also don't want to prolong anything and affect the kids.

"It's been a heck of a ride. I knew we had really good teams, but the ball has to bounce a certain way to go undefeated four years in a row. You have to have a lot of things happen in your favor. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by really good players and have a great staff."

Babaian, 53, served as Pelham's head coach from 1996 to 2011, and from 2016 to 2023. In addition to winning two Division IV championships (2020 and 2021) and two Division III titles (2022 and 2023), Babaian guided the Pythons to the Division V championship in 2007 and 2008. He has a career record of 141-97. Pelham will enter the 2024 season with a 41-game winning streak.

"I still want to coach," Babaian said. "I still have a passion for the game. It'll be based on the right opportunity and timing, so we'll see."

—Manchester's Alexis Dobson earned a third-place finish when New England College competed at a National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships regional event in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, last weekend. Dobson, who attended Manchester Central, earned an invitation to the NCWWC national championships, which will be held March 8-9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

—Profile's Josh Robie surpassed the 2,000-point mark for his career when he scored 21 points during a 58-33 victory over Portsmouth Christian Academy in the NHIAA Division IV boys basketball quarterfinals. Robie became the 17th NHIAA player (boys and girls) to reach the 2,000-point plateau. Top-seeded Profile will face second-seeded Littleton in the Division IV championship game Saturday (3 p.m.) at Colby-Sawyer College.

—ICYMI: Actor Kenneth Mitchell died last Saturday due to complications of ALS. Mitchell's acting career included a role as former UNH hockey player Ralph Cox in the movie "Miracle." Cox, who played at UNH from 1976-79, is UNH's all-time scoring leader (243). He also holds the UNH record for career goals (127) and goals in a season (42).