By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii
With a soft chuckle, coach Jim Crowley reflected on what he thought his St. Bonaventure career might have been after his 200th-career win.
“I didn’t think I’d stay here this long,” Crowley said on Dec. 7 after defeating Indiana, 65-45. “I thought people would get tired of me and move me out.”
That’s because Crowley once had a 57-119 coaching record, a winning percentage of 32.4 percent. He said he didn’t look at his record because he didn’t want to see it.
Now, all Crowley gets asked is about this season’s record and how a team picked sixth in the preseason Atlantic 10 Conference poll sits on top of the conference with a 16-2 record.
“I’m not sure people realize how good our players are,” Crowley said Saturday after winning a program-best third-straight A-10 game against St. Louis, 64-52. “They understand the value of the basketball.”
Crowley, despite his team receiving Associate Press Poll votes for a program-best fourth week in a row, answers questions about his team’s success as if he solved a century-long, unsolvable math equation.
I distinctly remember a media member saying, “I thought they were a fluke” before the coaches came in for a press conference after the 74-65 win at Temple on Jan. 11.
The Bonnies are legit, but that’s not the story.
“I’m so glad that coach gave me an opportunity to play here at St. Bonaventure,” said senior Armelia Horton, who has won a men’s and women’s basketball program-best 101 wins.
“The coaches and the assistants,” she said, “they believe so much in the system that I just knew it wasn’t going to fail.”
That system, one Crowley admitted derived from when his back was against the wall, has not only changed the women’s program, but NCAA Division I basketball, too.
“We were in a situation in a few years ago where we it was the last of three-straight one-year deals — and there was new people coming in,” Crowley said of him and his staff. “If we didn’t have success and show progress, I was going to have to find a new career.”
But Crowley, who received a three-year extension prior to this season, didn’t just create a system.
The coaches believe. The players trust. The team wins.
“They’ve always been for real,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza on Jan. 11. “And most of the guys on their team weren’t recruited by a lot of schools, but they know that. And (Crowley) puts it into their heads. (He) has some workhorses that want to show everybody that have something to go out and prove to everybody. And that’s why they are so good.”
At their own school, NBA-prospect Andrew Nicholson and the men’s team out shadowed the women’s team.
Despite making three-straight Women’s National Invitation Tournaments, the women’s basketball team averages around 600 attendees per game.
St. Bonaventure faces Richmond (14-3, 2-1) today at 7 p.m. The teams with the best A-10 records kick off the first basketball game since winter break at the Reilly Center.
Saturday’s game against St. Louis drew 479 people at the RC — but it’s far less than the 3,317 the men’s game had last Wednesday.
“I saw a lot of new faces there, which was really good,” Crowley said. “Obviously we’d like more — we appreciate all that come — but they deserve more, but we’re thankful for the ones that come. We just hope people try to find reasons to come than reasons not to.”
As long as the players continue to believe, Crowley and the Bonnies will see my mug on press row or in the stands consistently.
I’m obviously a believer. Now what about you?