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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Big East's three new coaches ready for challenge

The record will show that there are a record three new head coaches in the Big East this season but Georgetown’s Keith Brown, Providence Susan Robinson Fruchtl and Joe Tartamella are no strangers to their Big East coaching peers.

Brown spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Georgetown before being promoted to the top spot after Terri Williams-Flournoy left to take over the program at Auburn.

“The transition has been smooth and I think that is what Georgetown kind of envisioned it being and we have been able to do that,” Brown said. “We are very familiar with the university, the athletic director and staff there and the girls who I basically recruited.”

Tartamella can top that with nine years on the staff of Kim Barnes Arico at St. John’s. Likewise, when Barnes Arico left to become the head coach at Michigan, the Red Storm hierarchy stayed in house and hired Tartamella as the new head coach.

“When you go through the process, I don't know if you ever have a feel either way,” Tartamella said. “Kim was extremely supportive in me being able to stay. I knew that was a big positive and I knew that being at the institution the past couple of years has also been a big positive. I always felt like I would be a viable candidate. As the process goes on, sometimes you know and sometimes you really don't know. You do the best you can and you put your best foot forward and you kind of see what the outcome was going to be. In the end, I think Kim was extremely happy for me, our players were happy and obviously I couldn't be happier to have my first head coaching job at a place that allowed me to grow from a GA to a head coach.”

Robinson Fruchtl doesn’t have previous Big East coaching experience but her two stints as an assistant coach at Penn State followed by a successful five-year run as the head coach at St. Francis (Pa.) means she is no stranger to her fellow Big East coaches.
She also has the most work to do. While the Hoyas and Red Storm have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, the Friars have posted losing seasons in 18 of the last 19 seasons and the last time Providence had a winning season in the Big East came during the 1993-94 campaign.

Robinson Fruchtl said her Providence teams will be all about pressure and a fast-paced tempo.

“We have a lot of speed and quickness,” Robinson Fruchtl said. “We don't have a lot of depth right now so we need to stay healthy but we are going to try to use our speed and quickness to get after people defensively. I like to push the tempo offensively.”
It’s likely that the Georgetown and St. John’s teams will look similar even with new coaches at the helm.

“Our style of defense will always be the same, we will pressure the basketball and we will get up and down the floor,” Brown said. “I think offensively we will probably be a little more free flowing. I believe in letting them go a little bit more.”

Leading the offensive charge will be senior Sugar Rodgers who needs 32 3-pointers to become the Big East’s all-time leader in that category and has a chance to finish among the top 10 scorers in the history of the Big East.

“Sometimes it feels like I have one senior and eight freshmen because a lot of the kids who return really just didn't play,” Brown said. “Sugar has been able to be the aunt, the big sister, the mom and kind of get them going in the right direction because she understands the importance and pressure that comes with playing in the Big East. She has had a tremendous impact on and definitely off the court.”

Tartamella can build his team around a trio of returning double-figure scorers in Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Eugeneia McPherson. The Red Storm have won more than 20 games in each of the last three seasons, something no other St. John’s women team can lay claim to.

“Our expectations haven't changed,” Tartamella said. “I think we still want to vie for the Big East championship, we have a chance to host a first round (NCAA tournament) game and I think that is something that is exciting for our players. We have experienced players and they have an opportunity to give that leadership and that experience to our freshmen.

“They understand what is at stake, they want to create their own legacy and be able to say that they made the NCAA tournament four straight years. These are the players who have built that program and gotten them to (NCAA tournament). It is an exciting time for us.”

As an assistant coach on some of the best St. John’s teams in program history, Tartamella knows a good thing when he sees it.

“We'll play the same style,” Tartamella said. “The style is not going to change. We are going to be up tempo on both sides of the floor. There may be some differences and some tweaks as we go. I think sometimes too much change is not a good thing. For our players we know it is working. It would be different if I was coming from somewhere else but I have watched us grow. I understand why we were successful and how we were successful and I want to keep it like that. Being able to play that way, I think fans like that style of play, the players like playing that kind of style and we are excited.”


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