So now it has begun once again. I’ve reported on this women’s basketball team for three seasons to date. Obviously, not one game I witnessed in the first two years was exactly the same as any other, but boy, were they quite similar.
I am not referring to wins and losses.
These games were fast-paced. Often, they were really fast-paced. They were also full of shots from the perimeter. And more shooting. And even more shooting. The Lady Knights attempted 795 3-pointers last season to the lead the conference. Dowling College attempted the second most 3-point attempts, 478.
The problem last season was that the Lady Knights would shoot a ton, but they did not always score all that much. They finished sixth in a league of eight in field goal percentage with a 35 percent clip. Far worse than their field goal percentage, was their lack of rebounding. The team finished last in rebounds per game and first in rebounds allowed per game.
What made the situation even more mind-boggling was who was being asked to take these outside shots. Instead of playing in the post, former Lady Knights head coach Tom Flahive asked his 6’1” center to shoot 3-pointers, on occasion. I was never able to wrap my head around why he would want a center to play out of the paint and shoot from the outside, leaving nobody to rebound a potential miss.
A couple of years back, when I first met Flahive, he shared his coaching philosophy in the most simplest fashion: “If you score more than the other team, you win.” No kidding.
Well, I have a few “Basketball 101” theories of my own: 1. If you don’t score, you better rebound. 2. If you don’t do either, you lose. 3. If you lose games, you lose your job.
The game I saw on Nov. 30 inside the Maurice Fitzgerald Gymnasium against Nyack College was vastly different than any other women’s basketball game featuring QC that I witnessed before.
Not many, if any at all, pulled up to shoot a three off of a fast-break on Nov. 30.
The Lady Knights seemed quite content with moving the ball around, trying to find an open opportunity in the paint to score two points. There’s a reason for that. In the spirit of an attempted resurgence of social activism on CUNY campuses, and now that does include QC by the way, I will paraphrase from the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara. Guevara believed that what set apart true leaders from other individuals, was their ability to not only share a vision, but have others believe in that vision.
Naumovski has brought an old adage to QC along with her 15 years of experience including nine seasons of coaching at the college level both in the U.S. and her native Canada. To be fair, legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant Jr., is often credited for originally coining the phrase I’m referring to. He famously told his football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide that, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” Bryant retired in 1982 with the most wins by a head coach in collegiate football history – a record broken in 1996. Bryant was right about football and his saying is true for basketball as well. The NBA’s sixth-leading scorer of all-time, Allen Iverson, has zero championship rings.
The Lady Knights won a conference championship under Flahive in 2008-09, not only because Amanda Bartlett scored nearly 20 points per game, but also because he had two of the greatest rebounders in QC history in Jennifer Robbins and Jennifer DiChiara. After the duo’s departure, the team suffered back-to-back losing seasons (Bartlett was injured for the entirety of one of those seasons). Last season, without the rebounding duo and with a healthy Bartlett, who led the conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game, the Lady Knights finished 10-19 overall.
A change was needed in order for this team to be competitive again. What is unfortunate for Naumovski, is that she has inherited an offensive-oriented team. They were recruited to score and coached to score. Now, she will implement her style and instruct defense. Recent history of the Lady Knights tells us her philosophy was needed and conventional wisdom in sports tells us if given time, Naumovski will probably pan out.
Not many have predicted a good finish for the Lady Knights this season. In the annual conference coaches’ poll, the team was selected to finish eighth out of nine.
“It’s not going to change overnight for this team,” Naumovski said.
No, it is definitely not. But, I’d rather watch Naumovski’s old-school style of hard-nosed defensive basketball any night. I’m not talking about wins and losses.