Column: Crowley’s coaching turnaround started with 2006 tirade

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Ryan Lazo

NEW YORK- Jim Crowley walked onto the court inside the Reilly Center for his team’s practice and his blood immediately boiled.

St. Bonaventure had suffered a blowout loss to Bowling Green the night before, yet his players seemed okay with the poor result. Laughter, smiles and joking around emanated throughout the arena. Crowley, feeling the pressure of being in the midst of three-consecutive one-year deals and sleepless nights on a friend’s couch in fear of a possible firing, had enough.

“It was near bottom and I was near bottom,” Crowley told me about the incident in 2006. “To be honest, the program was probably heading for a change … I remember kicking basketballs and it was genuine.

“I also remember going to each kid and asking them to explain each turnover they committed and had them running for each mistake. I drove it home that it was not acceptable.”

Fast forward 10 years later and St. Bonaventure is undergoing a coaching change for its women’s basketball program, but not for the reasons Crowley had worried about all those years prior. Instead, it’s making a change because of what has happened since:

Two NCAA Tournament appearances (the first resulting in a Sweet 16 appearance), four WNIT appearances, six 20-win seasons, three Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year honors, a National Coach of the Year honor and a 205-117 record since the 2006-07 season.

After 20 seasons with St. Bonaventure, 16 as its head coach, Crowley has stepped down and accepted the vacant head coaching job at Providence College.

“It’s a bittersweet time because I’ve always dreamed of coaching in the Big East but so much of my heart is with Bonaventure and the Olean community,” Crowley said in a statement. “I can never thank the University, the fans, the alums, the community enough, but mostly I can’t thank all of our players enough because they are the ones who made all of our success possible. (Providence) was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Nor should anyone blame him for it.

Providence represents an opportunity to coach in the Big East while also receiving a significant bump in his salary. Coaching is a fickle profession and he needed to strike when his stock was highest.

Besides, Crowley has shown more than enough loyalty to St. Bonaventure than he’s had to. He could have left following the 2012 team’s Sweet 16 appearance, but he remained and went back to work at building another team capable of reaching the same heights.

Four years later, St. Bonaventure reached the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

In my time as a reporter around Crowley, no one ever outworked him. His team never had McDonald’s All-Americans, but it never mattered. He instilled a work ethic into his team while filling needs with each player and stuck to a disciplined system.

“We’re never going to win the lay-up line because we’re not flashy and people look past us,” Crowley told me after his team’s Sweet 16 appearance. “It will always be our mentality. We will always have that chip on our shoulder.”

Maybe that’s why Crowley is well-liked by St. Bonaventure fans, students and alumni. Both he, and his team, represent the university in its best light. Crowley never quit when he recorded three-consecutive nine-win seasons. He never made excuses for his team’s poor showings and results.

Instead, he found ways to win.

Whether it was noticing the balance of Jessica Jenkins, who developed into the best 3-point shooter in program history, gaining inspiration from ‘Moneyball’ or adapting his offensive philosophy to use much of the shot-clock, he found a way.

“Find any other company, in area of this size and have a sample size of over 340 and make that one of top 16 of that. That’s what our kids did,” Crowley told me about putting his team’s success in words.

His struggles to success story means he leaves the program in a much better state than when he inherited it. Once an afterthought, St. Bonaventure women’s basketball is nationally known.

A team with no basketball history now has plenty thanks to one tirade in 2006 which changed the course of the program.

One look upward inside the Reilly Center highlights that fact. Retired numbers and postseason banners fill the air. The echo of Crowley screaming, “WIN IT,” at every loose ball still reverberates throughout the arena.

As will his impact on a program which certainly will have no shortage of interest in a vacant position that 10 years ago no one would have wanted.

And St. Bonaventure has Crowley to thank for that.

Ryan Lazo is a 2013 graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is currently a Sports Reporter at the New York Post.

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Women’s basketball: Fordham Preview

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

The Bonnies meet the Rams in the semifinals this afternoon at 1:30.

The winner advances to the championship game Sunday morning.

Here are some quick thoughts and statistics:

Rematch: On Feb. 1 St. Bonaventure beat Fordham 74-67. Chelsea Bowker sunk three second-half threes, while Katie Healy had a career-high 27 points. St. Bonaventure forced the Rams to shoot under 40 percent from the field. Emily Michael’s defense on Fordham’s Erin Rooney had been fantastic. Rooney shot 3 for 16 on the afternoon.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Fordham Preview”

Women’s basketball: Strong defense leads to Bona win

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

La Salle scored 38 points against St. Bonaventure in the Explorers January loss. They shot 20 percent from the field that night.

In Friday’s quarterfinal matchup, the Bonnies allowed 42 points as La Salle shot 22.2 percent from the field.

“It is who we are,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Jim Crowley. “It ain’t pretty, but we play some defense. We play really hard.”

The Bonnies defeated La Salle by 12 to advance to semifinal Saturday in Richmond, Virginia.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Strong defense leads to Bona win”

Women’s basketball: Duquesne preview

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Duquesne takes on St. Bonaventure with second place in the Atlantic 10 on the line Saturday afternoon.

Each team has an 8-3 conference record.

Bonaventure has five games remaining. A top-four seed means Bonaventure would begin tournament play on Friday March 7 in the quarterfinals in Virginia.

It’s a big game for Bonaventure for a number of reasons. Conference seeding implication is a major reason, but Saturday’s game will give Bona a chance to see where they stand among the conference’s elites. The Bonnies have two nice wins against Saint Joseph’s, Fordham and La Salle, but dropped their conference opener at Duquesne.

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Column: After down season, Bona has bounced back

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Last night marked win No. 18 for St. Bonaventure.

With two more victories, the Bonnies will have doubled their win total from last season.

A tremendous feat considering how far this program sunk last season — nine games below .500, and failing to make the Atlantic 10 tournament.

“It’s an incredible compliment to these guys, and the leadership of Chelsea (Bowker), Emily (Michael) and everybody and their commitment to work that we have gotten back so quickly,” said head coach Jim Crowley.

Continue reading “Column: After down season, Bona has bounced back”

Women’s basketball: Michael’s defense leads Bona’s past Fordham

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Fordham’s Erin Rooney entered today’s game against Bonaventure averaging 19 points a game.

She’s one of the best players in the league, and one of the best players Bonaventure has faced this year.

Although she had seven assists and nine rebounds, Rooney shot 3 for 16 from the field for 11 points.

You can thank Emily Michael for that.

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Women’s basketball: #Bonnies defeat Saint Louis

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Katie Healy had six points in the first 38 minutes. Healy had six points in the final two minutes, including the basket with 19 seconds remaining to give the Bonnies a 62-60 win.

Healy, along with fellow sophomores Nyla Rueter and Emily Michael, hit big shots down the stretch to give St. Bonaventure its third conference win.

As the first game of a doubleheader, 938 showed up to cheer on the Bonnies.

The atmosphere definitely helped the Bonnies down the stretch. The Reilly Center erupted on the last five buckets of the game.

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Women’s basketball: #Bonnies with 19 assists in 74-59 win over Fairfield

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Less than 48 hours after ending Wisconsin-Green Bay’s regular season win streak, the Bonnies opened and finished strong against Fairfield in a 74-59 win.

The Bonnies used a steady, balanced offensive attack — with 19 assists and five players with two or more buckets.

Chelsea Bowker hit all five the Bonnies’ triples. The redshirt senior knows her role in the offense. She stretches the floor with her jump shot, uses her court vision to find open teammates and sets picks.

As the lone healthy player from the 2012 Atlantic 10 regular season championship team, Bowker has had to adjust to playing with new players.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: #Bonnies with 19 assists in 74-59 win over Fairfield”