Monday, March 11, 2013

Women's Tourney Notes: Secrets to Marist's Success

So, how does it all happen for the Marist women's team? How does it go on winning year after year?

Probably no one, other than the head coach Brian Giorgis himself, has a better idea about that than Alisa Kresge, who played at Marist for four seasons and has been a coaching assistant in the program for the last four years.

Kresge was around when it all began, joining Marist as a player in 2003. She gave the program a commitment during Giorgis' first season as the Marist coach when his team that year (2002-03) finished 13-16 overall, with a seventh-place 8-10 finish in the MAAC.

It was the only season Marist not only finished under .500 in Giorgis' 11 seasons, but also the only one that the Red Foxes did not win the regular-season league title.

Kresge was a key on-court component in that reversal, and, now, has been around on the sidelines for the last four seasons as part of the continuation of the decade-long excellence.

"A lot of it is that he stresses fundamentals so much, and it always starts with defense ... that's his bread and butter," said Kresge, about Giorgis.

Kresge found that out right away at Marist, but she had seen that philsophy first hand from her own high school days playing against the Lourdes High School of Poughkeepsie team that Giorgis coached before he moved on to Marist.

"He was the same way in high school, and he hasn't changed a big since he started coaching at Marist," added Kresge. "With him, it's more about defense than anything. And, it's about fundamentals. The players know if they don't do what he's asking them to do, they'll hear about it ... and they get better because of it."


Marist will learn its NCAA tournament opponent and seeding position on next Monday (March 18) when it watches ESPN's nationally televised selection show that begins at 7 p.m. to reveal the 64-team field.

Marist coach Brian Giorgis joked after his team's MAAC tournament championship-game victory in Springfield on Monday that his players are annually more concerned about their playing site than opponent.

"They all want a warm-weather site," said Giorgis.

There aren't many of those among this year's first-round sites, although Stanford, Calif., certainly qualifies.

ESPN'S bracket prediction, done by Charlie Creme, currently projects Marist to be a No. 12 seed and headed to College Park, Md. (the University of Maryland's court) for a first-round meeting with No. 5 South Carolina.

That position would be relatively favorable for the Red Foxes, certainly more so than even a slightly higher seed.

Traditionally, a fifth-seeded opponent (a team rated somewhere between 17 and 20 nationally) is a potential upset victim. And, a second-round foe would be a No. 4 seed.

If Marist goes up in seeding position for a first-round game, it diminishes its chances in the second round provided it does get past a first-round contest.

A No. 9 position, for instance, would mean Marist would have to play a No. 1 seed, should it advance in the second found.


There might not be two coaches in the MAAC who are closer friends than Marist's Giorgis and Iona's Tony Bozzella. The two talk regularly by phone, even during the offseason, and can often be spotted sitting together at this tournament to scout opponents when their own teams aren't playing.

Not that that makes it any easier for Bozzella to lose to Marist once again, which makes the Iona coach's record against Marist 0-29 in the 11 years the two men have directed their respective programs.

And, Iona, for seven of the past nine years, has been among the better MAAC programs and finished second this season.

Bozzella's 2006-07 team came the closest to handing Marist a championship-game defeat in the Red Foxes' current eight-year run of tournament titles, losing 64-57 in overtime.

Still, it might be just a smidgen less painful for Bozzella to lose a championship game knowing his good friend is on the winning end.

"He is just a great friend, not only to me but to my wife and children," said Bozzella, about Giorgis. "If I'm going to lose to anyone, I want to lose to him. Whether our results against him are good or bad, we'll always be close.

"He has the best mid-major program in the country. He's not only the best mid-major coach, but he's one of the best coaches in the country at any level. You can talk about Gino (Auriemma of UConn), Kim (Mulkey at Baylor) , or Muffet (McGraw at Notre Dame), and he's not far behind if not right there with them.

"Everyone knows we're close friends, but even if I didn't like him, I'd say that about him. Any school that wants their team to win a national title should hire him."

Not that Giorgis appears to be going any place. He has had several offers over the years to move on, including a phone call from a major program he didn't even return this past off season, but remains steadfast in his desire to remain at Marist and finish out his coaching career there.


The Siena men's basketball position is not vacant (and, the hope here is that Mitch Buonaguro, who has one year left on his contract, is retained). But, that hasn't stopped the speculation about potential replacements.

Several sources, including one particularly well connected, insist that FIU coach Richard Pitino (yes, the son of Louisville's Rick Pitino) would be interested in hearing from Siena if the position opens up.

Rick Pitino is a regular summer visitor to Saratoga thoroughbred racing meet and owns a home in Saratoga Springs.

Less confirmed speculation also mentions current Loyola men's coach Jimmy Patsos who,  according to sources, isn't overwhelmed by his program's upcoming move to the Patriot League.

No comments: