Monday, December 18, 2017

Coach’s Chair: Courtney Banghart, Princeton University

Courtney Banghart, now in her eleventh season as Princeton head coach, amassed a 208-87 record going into the year. Photo by Beverly Schaefer.
Courtney Banghart, now in her eleventh season as Princeton head coach, amassed a 208-87 record going into the year. Photo by Beverly Schaefer.
Courtney Banghart, now in her eleventh season as Princeton head coach, amassed a 208-87 record going into the year. Photo by Beverly Schaefer.

Courtney Banghart enters her eleventh season at Princeton as the most winning coach in program history. The Tigers have been to the postseason for the last eight consecutive years, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2015-2016 – a first. In 2014-2015, Princeton went 30-0 in the regular season, which was an Ivy League record for both women and men. Banghart has guided the Tigers to five Ivy League championships and has been named coach of the year by numerous organizations, including notching the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2015.

A Massachusetts native, Banghart was a standout guard at Dartmouth College. After graduation she served as athletic director and girls basketball coach at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia before being named assistant coach at Dartmouth in 2003. She attained her Master’s Degree there before accepting the Princeton job. This past summer, Banghart was an assistant coach for USA Basketball’s U23 team, and helped guide them to a championship win in the Four Nations Tournament.

Your coaching path has been linear, logical and progressive. When did you know you wanted to coach?

I have two degrees, and coaching wasn’t the path in front of me in my own thinking. But if you ask anyone close to me, they’d say of course I would coach. I’ve never taken a paycheck for anything else but athletics.

I turned down the Harvard School of Education to go to Dartmouth and earn my graduate degree while I coached. I did my graduate work, defended my thesis and got a call from (former Princeton athletic director) Gary Walters the same week. He remembered me as a player, and he hired me for my potential, because at that point I had no experience. He thought I was an intriguing candidate.

You’ve also been a bit unorthodox in that you’ve coached at the DI level only in Ivy League schools. Take us into the Ivy League athletics world. How is it different from the non-Ivy League experience? How is it the same?

The Ivy League is the same competitive, DI high-level ball that we all know. I feel like I’m coaching in a high-major program in a mid-major environment. We’re at the highest academic level in the world, in a mid-major environment. We’re non-scholarship with an academic curriculum where you have to show your academic merit in order to be admitted. I get to recruit the whole country instead of a region. You get the best of the best.

Can you elaborate on that?

If your household income is high enough, regardless of your talent level, you will pay Princeton. If you’re making under $150,000, it’s all paid for (via grants and scholarships). The Ivy League feels like they’re not going to value athletes more than other students.

What steps did you take to set up your program when you got to Princeton?

I’ve always seen the light in others, and that’s served me well as a leader. I was so inexperienced when I took the job, but what I did believe was that Gary had chosen me, and wanted me to be my best self. So I came at things honestly, I didn’t want to be outworked, and I wanted to be really good to people. That’s how I live my life. I’ve always seen the opportunities of the Ivy League – not the limitations. I can recruit against the best schools in the country because I believe so wholeheartedly in the mission of Ivy League schools. In my first year out, I got a recruit over Tara (VanDerveer of Stanford) At Princeton I can get the hometown hero from any part of the country.

Young people have changed a lot since you first began coaching. How have you changed to be able to coach them effectively?

I coach them with more empathy because I recognize that they have to manage way more relationships than they used to have to. They are inundated with so much stimuli that they have no chance to take a timeout and debrief. I recognize that they have an incredible number of things they could be doing, and they keep choosing me. With all the information they have, they appreciate clarity. Social media offers so much conflicting data, so I try to really provide a space of clarity. My players say, ‘if you wanna know how coach feels, ask her.’ I am open and honest with my communication, and I approach them with empathy, as if I were walking in their shoes.

How do you motivate players?

I try to get at where do they want to go. If their goal is to win a title and be elite, it’s my job to get them there. I have a different and unique relationship with each one of them because I’m just trying to get them to surpass their limits. Though basketball is the ultimate team sport, I actually focus way more on the individual. It’s 14 different players that happen to play together.

With that in mind, what is your communication style like?

It’s college basketball, which means they’ve chosen me and I’ve chosen them, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. I approach it both ways, wide open. They deserve my respect and they deserve my honesty. Every kid has different needs, so I meet them where they need to be met.

The 2015 30-win season was momentous. Did you see that coming?

I think I probably didn’t. I’m so focused on the day, which sounds so cliche, but I never want my kids to think they’re better than they are or not as good as they are. I don’t know who we’re playing two games from now. I knew we were pretty good, and then we went to Cancun for a Thanksgiving tournament and played Charlotte, Montana and Wake Forest and won all three. Then we went out and played Michigan on a Tuesday on the road, which is a big deal for us, missing class. We hammered them by 30 and when we finished that game I thought, we’re hard to beat. We have exceptional pieces and we’re hard to guard. As we went, I didn’t think of it like, we’re 22-0. It was like, who’s up next? I would notice that we were climbing in the rankings. I give that team a lot of credit.

The question I got was, what was it like meeting Barack Obama, being the first time a sitting President had been to a game there? He came in right before the game and walked in walked by the opposing coach. I thought I should say hi, but I decided it was a minute before tipoff and didn’t want my players to see me hobnobbing with the President. I didn’t want them to see me not paying attention to the game.

What are your goals for the program? How do you approach goal-setting with student-athletes?

We have on-court and on-campus goals, and everything is geared towards reaching their goals. I hope I lead by example by doing something special with the group every year. My goals for the program are to continue to be relevant nationally, and to go to the Sweet 16 and further.

How did having kids affect your coaching life? What’s the trick to remaining balanced?

Who you are as a coach shouldn’t be much different than how you are in life. Your children show you how finite your time is, and I want to make every moment matter. I don’t want to waste a practice day; it’s time that I’ll never get back. I value every moment because your career is finite, and I owe it to the student-athletes to make sure each year is memorable.

Balance is the synergy of recognizing that I’ve got to be in a place with people that I believe in, and have a connection with on core values. I’m thrilled to get to help players get better, and I’m thrilled to get home.

Talk about your experience coaching the U23 team over the summer, and what you learned.

What an honor to be asked and to work with the very best players in country, and to coach with Michelle (Clark-Heard) and Jeff (Walz). We had to quickly create a culture that let the stars be stars while also having them share the limelight. I learned a lot about the game and how, in a small amount of time, to create a culture.

What has basketball taught you about life?

It shows me on a day-to-day basis that life is a team sport. If I think about any of the players who have gotten in some sort of slump, it’s always the kids, when things don’t go their way, who become internal islands. Basketball has showed me that people who are other-centered always have the most success in life. That daily reminder helps me in the community, and as a human.

The life lessons and the character you develop are invaluable. You learn so much about success and about failure, and you learn to not be afraid of either.

If you had some down time, how would you spend it?

Traveling, I love to travel. I hitchhiked through Alaska for three weeks before I took the Dartmouth job. I would love to be in a different place every year. I like to read, which sounds so nerdy. I’m waiting for Bora Bora to have a basketball team and need a coach.

It’s going to be a milestone week

Today’s results:

UCF handed UC Davis their first loss of the season, 62-55.

#8 Texas gave #12 Florida State their first loss of the year, 87-72.

#2 Notre Dame got past DePaul, 91-82.

#11 UCLA held back Seton Hall, 77-68.

#9 Oregon dominated Mississippi, 90-46.

#3 Louisville routed Kentucky, 87-63.

Chattanooga pushed past FGCU, 68-61.

Tulane smothered MTSU, 62-44.

#16 Missouri routed Indiana, 75-55.

Syracuse is 11-0 after their win over Coastal Carolina.

Only eight undefeated teams left: Louisville, Syracuse, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Tennessee, Ball State, Villanova, Connecticut.

All scores.

Tomorrow’s schedule.

Milestones:

Oregon sophomore Sabrina Ionescu got her seventh career triple-double and broke the Pac-12 record and tied the NCAA record in doing so. Good grief!

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell notched career win 999 today, and will play for 1,000 Tuesday. So will UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

Today Dawn Staley notched 231 career wins at South Carolina, tying a school record for most wins.

Notre Dame’s Jessica Shepard set a Purcell Pavilion women’s scoring record today with 39 points.

College team news:

South Carolina’s win today was overshadowed by injuries.

George Mason is off to an historic start.

Pondering the future of Notre Dame in ten questions.

College player news:

A day in the life of Texas senior Ariel Atkins.

Spectacular is the new normal for Asia Durr and Louisville.

Durr talks about the game, her coach and more.

South Carolina senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore is out for the season with a torn ACL.

College coach news:

Arizona assistant coach Salvo Coppa followed his heart and wife to Arizona.

Utah coach Lynne Roberts doesn’t shy away from in-state games.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey will fulfill a promise to her two Louisiana players tomorrow.

WNBA news:

The Las Vegas Aces will have a trump card.

How the WNBA could be a winner for MGM.

Carter’s school record 46 points elevates Texas A&M over USC

Chennedy Carter drives for two of her 46 points on the night. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Chennedy Carter drives for two of her 46 points on the night. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Chennedy Carter drives for two of her 46 points on the night. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles – Freshman Chennedy Carter’s school-record 46 points lifted No. 19 Texas A&M over USC, 75-74, Friday night.

The young guard shot 17-28 and had six assists and four rebounds. But it was her final two points – made by a falling shot with nine seconds remaining – that were the most important, as it sealed the win. Aliyah Mazyck attempted a three-point shot for the Trojans at three seconds to go, but missed. The game, which included 17 lead changes and 13 ties, was the first loss of the season for USC.

Danni Williams added 11 points for the Aggies, and Anriel Howard had 17 rebounds, of which 13 were defensive.

“The ball screen was coming and I was just feeling it,” Carter said of her last game possession. “I just trusted myself and elevated, rose up above my defender.”

“All glory to God, it was a big shot.”

Carter broke a 2011 school single-game scoring record set by Danielle Adams, who helped the team go on to win a National Championship later that spring. Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said Carter impressed him.

“For a freshman to come in and do it on the road, it was just mind-boggling,” he said. “The shots that she had to hit – a number of them, (defenders) were just hanging on her. Her drive is as good as anybody I’ve ever had driving the ball.”

Both teams played evenly in the first quarter, but in the second period the Trojans held the visitors to 11 percent shooting while stretching their lead to as many as six points. USC went on a run late in the third quarter to take the lead by seven, but the Aggies clawed back into it in the fourth and tied the game at 52 with 8:10 to go. A Carter three-pointer 45 seconds later gave them the lead.

Back-to-bacl three-point shots by Sadie Edwards in the final minute of play gave the Trojans a one-point lead until Carter made her game-winner.

Edwards led USC with 20 points, while Kristen Simon added 18, Minyon Moore 17 and Mazyck, 14.

The Trojans are playing with renewed energy this season under Mark Trakh, who returned to coach after a four-year tenure at the helm a decade ago. He said after the game that he told Mazyck not to feel badly about missing the last shot, and that he’d draw up the same play if asked to do it again.

“I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of the way they battled,” Trakh said. “We’re not really deep, and foul trouble hurts us at times, but it’s a legit No. (19) team and our kids came in and fought and scratched and clawed. Their heads were up (after the game), and I love that attitude.”

“I don’t know how many games we’re going to win this year, but I know we’re going to give 100 percent. What was really good was when we got down by six late in the fourth quarter, and the kids didn’t pack it in. They came back and fought.”

Trakh gave credit to Carter, whom he called a great player.

“We had a really good week of preparation. We had some defensive plans on Chennedy Carter, but obviously (it didn’t work),” Trakh said. “My assistant (coach) Jason Glover has NBA experience and that last (defense) we did on her, she faked it and spun off the screen and came off. He said, ‘That’s a great move; she just pulled a Chris Paul move.’ There’s not much of a defensive plan except hope that she misses.”

“She’s got that unique ability to elevate, all the way to the three-point line.

Carter said her focus wasn’t on setting records.

“Winning the game was the most important thing to me,” she said. “I didn’t know how many points I had until after the game.”

The Aggies planned to do some sightseeing Saturday before heading to a Las Vegas Tournament. USC next hits the road for a tournament in Texas.

Women’s basketball statistics continue to trend positively with aid of recent rules changes

The rules changes enacted two years ago are paying dividends:

The flow of the game was enhanced by moving to four 10-minute periods — instead of two 20-minute halves — and teams being awarded two free throws for each common foul after the fifth team foul in a period, with the fouls resetting at the beginning of each period, with the one-and one foul shot eliminated. When a timeout is charged to the offense in the final 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter or any overtime period, that team is now allowed the option to advance the throw-in spot to the 28-foot mark on either side of the front court…….

Scoring per team has increased by 1.13 points per game this year compared to Dec. 11 of last year, with the current team scoring average of 67.38 points per game registering at 2.06 points higher than final statistics a year ago. That’s almost five points higher than it was on this date during the 2012-13 season, when teams averaged 62.80 per outing.

Today’s results:

Holy moly, what a game! #19 Texas A&M 75, USC 74.

Story and photos from me later.

All scores.

Tomorrow’s schedule is picking up a bit, with 46 games.

College team news:

Moral victories are not an option as Syracuse tangles with powerhouses.

Ohio State will be put to the test on defense.

College player news:

Marquette forward Tori McCoy needs a kidney transplant.

McCoy’s resilience is “unbelievable.”

Victoria Vivians continues to raise her level of play.

Stephanie Jones is stepping up for Maryland.

Duke freshman guard Mikayla Boykin will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

College coach news:

Dawn Staley has a new dog: Champ.

There should be “term limits” in USA Basketball National Team pool

USA Basketball revealed its 29-member National Team pool today:

PLAYER TEAM

Seimone Augustus Lynx
Sue Bird Storm
Tina Charles Liberty
Layshia Clarendon Dream
Napheesa Collier Connecticut
Elena Delle Donne Mystics
Skylar Diggins-Smith Wings
Stefanie Dolson Sky
Asia Durr Louisville
Sylvia Fowles Lynx
Brittney Griner Mercury
Tiffany Hayes Dream
Jantel Lavender Sparks
Jewell Loyd Storm
Kayla McBride Aces
Angel McCoughtry Dream
Kelsey Mitchell Ohio State
Maya Moore Lynx
Chiney Ogwumike Sun
Nneka Ogwumike Sparks
Kelsey Plum Aces
Katie Lou Samuelson Connecticut
Odyssey Sims Sparks
Breanna Stewart Storm
Diana Taurasi Mercury
Morgan Tuck Sun
Lindsay Whalen Lynx
Courtney Williams Sun
A’ja Wilson South Carolina

News release.

I’m glad to see the Ogwumikes, McBride, Diggins-Smith, Lavender, Williams, Dolson and Hayes finally make the roster. It’s also great to see collegians Mitchell, Wilson and Durr on the list.

Wondering why Tuck made it over Moriah Jefferson and how Sims could be named but not Chelsea Gray.

But what is really outrageous is to see Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi in this pool. Each has already won four gold medals. If both are chosen for the 2020 Tokyo Games roster, Bird will be 39 and Taurasi, 38.

Augustus and Fowles have each won three medals. They will be 36 and 34, respectively, at the next Olympics. Charles, McCoughtry, Moore and Whalen have all helped the U.S. win two gold medals.

When this country began its reign of winning in 1996, there weren’t as many great players as there are now, and there was less competition to make the roster. But the game has grown so much since then, and especially over the last six years or so. Today there is more parity both in college and in the pros, with greater talent spread farther and wider among different teams.

Keeping older players who have already won multiple gold medals on a roster deprives younger players from having a chance. If Nneka Ogwumike, Diggins-Smith and Chiney Ogwumike make the cut for Tokyo, they will be first-time Olympians at ages 30, 29 and 28, respectively. Given the fact that Nneka is a former WNBA MVP, in particular, is especially shameful.

With all due respect to the two, three and four-time gold medalists, I’d like to see some fresh blood in the pool instead. We have so many amazing players in the U.S., including Kalani Brown and Jordin Canada, who helped the U23 Team win a tournament this summer. Katelyn Flaherty, Tyler Scaife, Victoria Vivians, Arike Ogunbowale, Megan Gustafson, Stephanie Mavunga and Sabrina Ionescu are just a few more who have been burning up nets, hammering the boards and dishing dimes in a fashion this year that makes them over-qualified to try out for the Olympic team.

It’s not like the U.S. is in danger of losing to other countries if they let newcomers give it a go. Most every team we send to an international tournament ends up whipping opponent behinds by huge margins. The average cushion of victory in Rio last year was somewhere between outrageous and embarrassing. It has been like watching National Champions play community colleges, these last several Games.

Let the youngsters have their time in the sun; let them earn some hardware. Greed is not ethical.

Term limits for U.S. basketball Olympians. Two trips to the Olympics would be fair.

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