Saturday, April 20, 2013

Former Siena Coach Castelli Moves To Le Moyne

Good things happen to good people, and there aren't many better anywhere than former Siena women's basketball coach Gina Castelli.

Siena administrators decided on a change at the top of their program after the 2011-12 season, despite the fact that Castelli's teams, in her last two seasons, had each finished fourth in the MAAC's regular-season standings and had advanced to the league's post-season tournament's semifinal round in both seasons.

Castelli wasn't out of coaching for long, serving last year as the director of player development for Rhode Island.

And, it didn't take long for her to find another opportunity to be a head coach.

Castelli was introduced on Friday as the head coach at Le Moyne, a Division II program, in Syracuse.

Castelli had been at Siena for 23 years, one year as an assistant and the last 22 as head coach and accumulated a 336-296 won-loss record (225-146 in MAAC play). Those hardly seemed like numbers to precipitate a parting of the ways.

But Castelli lost her job at Siena, in no small part, because her last eight seasons there resulted in sub-.500 overall records. Those records, though, included an annual 10 or 11 non-league games against the most-difficult schedule Castelli could find.

She viewed non-league games as a chance to test her players against superior opponents, to tough them up for the league season, and not to pad her own resume with any number of meaningless victories against lesser opponents.

Division II isn't Division I, but Le Moyne's league, the Northeast 10 Conference, is one of the strongest nationally. It produced a national champion (Southern Connecticut in 2007), and another championship-game team (Bentley in 1990) ... that's two more teams that have played for a national title than the MAAC has ever had.

MAAC teams aspire merely to get a berth in the NCAA tournament. Northeast 10 teams actually aspire to win a national championship.

The ultra-competitive Castelli admitted, in a recent conversation, to being more than a little excited about an opportunity to potentially chase a national championship.

At Siena, Castelli was named the MAAC's Coach of the Year five times and her teams won seven MAAC regular-season championships, including one in 2004 which was the last year any team other than Marist has captured the conference's championship.

Local and MAAC connections abound at Le Moyne.

The athletic director who led the search that resulted in the hiring of Castelli is Matt Bassett, who is the son of legendary area coach Don Bassett, who is now a volunteer assistant coach for the UAlbany men's program.

The men's coach of Le Moyne is Steve Evans, who served two years on the Siena staff under Paul Hewitt.

And, don't be surprised if Castelli's staff at Le Moyne eventually includes a couple of her former Siena players.

"I can't imagine a better pair of hands to place the future of Le Moyne women's basketball in than in the hands of Gina Castelli," said Matt Bassett, in a press release issued by his school. "From day one of this process, Gina has demonstrated a passionate, limitless vision for what Le Moyne women's basketball can and should be. We have hired a truly successful coach, a driven coach, a coach who has a proven record for going about things, and achieving things, the right way."

"I am absolutely thrilled and excited to be a part of Le Moyne," said Castilli. "I understand the responsibility of a head coach and I am committed to giving my full all to building a winning team and a program that encompasses the Le Moyne mission."

Castelli, for sure, has plenty to give. And, no one who ever followed Siena's program during her years there, would ever doubt that.

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