Monday, March 5, 2012

Marist Secret? Giorgis The Program's One Constant

Those with long memories will recall that the Marist women's program wasn't always as strong as it has been in recent years.

During its first few years in the MAAC, after joining the conference in 1997, it had overall records of, believe it or not, 5-22, 4-23, 11-17, 6-22 and 11-17. It was basically, an annual battle to approach mediocrity.

And, then, head coach Brian Giorgis came to town.

Or, more accurately, he just moved over and upwards, from the high school level to Division I college basketball,  having already being well-established in Poughkeepsie over 19 years as head coach of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Success was nothing new on Giorgis' resume, having accumulated a 451-44 record on the high school level.

It didn't take long for Giorgis to put a similar stamp on the Marist program. After an 8-10 conference finish in the 2002-03 season, his first, Marist has shared (once) or won outright (eight) every regular-season conference title over the past nine seasons.

Its victory over Fairfield in Monday's MAAC women's championship game sends Marist and Giorgis to the NCAA tournament for the eighth time in that nine-year run.

So, how does he do it?

"We've got kids who believe in themselves and believe in the system and I've got great, great assistant coaches and they put together great scouting reports."

"One of the reasons (for the success) is that his (Giorgis') scouting reports are unbelievable in their detail," said senior guard Corielle Yard. "We know what we're doing at every point of the game. The other thing is that he always keeps us focused. There are so many distractions around the program and with school, but when we're with him we know we have to be focused."

Giorgis even has two of his former players around, members of his coaching staff, to help deliver those messages.

Fifi Camara, the program's director of operations, was a 2006 graduate of Marist and was the MAAC's Player of the year in her senior season. Alisa Kresge, now in her third season as an assistant coach in the program, was a three-time conference Defensive Player of the Year..

Both were parts of MAAC championship teams, Camara in 2005-06 and Kresge on three of them.

"Coach Giorgis' secret is great coaching," said Camara. "He develops players, now matter who comes in. We are just so well-prepared. But he also has the ability to take a good player and turn her into a great one."

"He keeps recruiting kids who have a don't-want-to-lose attitude," said Kresge. "He kids those kind of kids every year. Plus, he's fabulous with X's and O's, the best I've ever seen."

Giorgis prefers to deflect much of the credit, but he has been the constant. He not only turned around a struggling program but has maintained success to the point where Marist has had the longest active run of successive championships of any team, men's or women's, in the MAAC's 31-year history.

"It's very hard to have that kind of success," said Fairfield coach Joe Frager. "This is my fifth year at Fairfield, and we've had some success but to maintain that is tough. What he's done has become a hurdle for us and the other eight schools."

"Our secret is that our players believe in the system and believe in each other," said Giorgis. "That and taking care of the ball on the court. Those have always been our credos."

Sounds simple. But surely more easily said than done.

Yet, somehow Giorgis, as the one constant in the unprecendented nine-year stretch of excellence by Marist, has done it. And everyone else remains trying to figure out how to emulate that.

No comments: