New women's basketball coach out to improve record, attitudes
Shann Hart, AU's new women's basketball coach, begins most of her sentences with the words, "I'll be honest with you." It's almost as if she is telling you that she does not have time to make up stories and make everything seem to be something it is not. She was hired late, she knows that those extra months were precious and now she does not want to kid around. She wants to win.
Of course she wants to win. The way she says it, though, makes you believe it.
After all, she was the coach who racked up the most wins in St. Mary's history, leaving with a 72-32 record.
Hart joined AU in mid-July, the culmination of a two-month search by the athletic department after Jeff Thatcher was not rehired.
"The lateness in my comingdid put us behind," Hart said. To make up for this the staff has put in overtime. After such a successful coaching career at St. Mary's it seems a wonder that she was looking for another job.
"I really didn't want to leave St. Mary's," Hart said. "It afforded me the opportunity of being athletic director and head coach."
Then Athletic Director Lee McElroy called Hart and asked her if she would be interested in the position.
"Reason I accepted was that I thought we were very compatible," Hart said.
She then proceeds to take a breath, preparing herself to say something she knows is controversial.
"Another interest was that we are moving to the Patriot League," she said.
The way she sees it is men have been dominating the Colonial Athletic Association. The Patriot League will allow the women's team to have a better chance at winning the conference title and going on to the NCAA. Hart knows that there are a lot of people who disagree with her, including coaches and many of the old players.
In some ways it will be hard to psyche up the team because "many of the older team members were disgruntled and upset," she said. Half of the team, however, is made up of newcomers, and they do not have the same feelings toward the Patriot League.
More importantly, it will be difficult to get the team excited if the CAA decision will stand and the teams will not be able to go to the tournament.
"If we can't compete in the tournament we don't have a whole lot to strive for," Hart admits. "There is no point in my saying we have to be in the top three or top four when we can't compete in the tournament."
"One of the reasons we were so high on her is because, one, she's a winner and two, she has... a reputation as an outstanding recruiter," Al Checcio, Vice President of Development, said earlier this summer.
Changing leagues has not truly affected recruitment, Hart said. There have been questions as to the reason for the move, but Hart has worked with her staff to change these concerns into a positive attitude.
The positive attitude, however, does not change the fact that the team has lost one of the most talented players in AU's history, Kate Miller, who transferred to Kent State University.
Miller was a GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American Second Team and was selected to the 1999-2000 All-CAA Second Team and the All-Academic Team. She also became only the third junior to ever reach the 1,000 point milestone last year, scoring 471 during the regular season alone to put her first in scoring of any athlete in the CAA. She was within the top five in the CAA for free throw and 3-point field goal percentage, and is the 8th highest scorer in AU history.
Needless to say, that is quite a loss.
"When I first heard of her doing thatI was very disappointed," Hart said. "It was all bad timing,"
Hart understood her frustration because she was a senior athlete and in July there still was no coach for the team.
This loss means that the team will have to begin relying on others to do the scoring, she said. It was a very hard blow for the morale of the team, Hart said, but team members have slowly gotten over it and realized that "we've got to move on," she said.
And move on she has. Hart has brought her whole staff with her because she did not want to have to deal with people who have to get used to working for her. She came late but now she is not willing to waste any more time.
The first thing she wants to change is attitudes.
"When you lose five games in a rowwe have a tendency to become complacent instead of becoming more hungry," Hart said with excitement.
She takes a breath and says calmly, "This might have been part of the problem."
She's just being honest.