EXCLUSIVE PHIL SEYMORE INTERVIEW

Friar Insider recently caught up with Phil Seymore, the new Head Basketball Coach for the Providence College women's basketball team. Phil gave us his thoughts about his team goals, coaching philosophy, switching to women's basketball, and he even weighed in on the men's 2005 recruiting class.

Friar fans know Phil well as a former assistant to men's Head Coach Tim Welsh, but Phil has now taken on a new challenge on the women's side and Friar Insider (FI) thought it would be a good time to get his thoughts as he begins a new chapter of his coaching career.

FI: Phil, thanks for taking the time to give us your thoughts.

FI: What motivated you to decide to switch gears from the men's game to women's college basketball?

PS: The last couple of years I've been thinking about what I really wanted to do with my future and decided that it was important to me that to play a key role empowering young people and developing them as better young adults. Being the head coach of women's basketball team gives me that opportunity. The job gives me everything that is really important to me right now. It's also a head coaching job in the best conference in the nation. The program can go nowhere but up . . . and if successful, I will be responsible for building and reshaping a program. I'm interested in developing leaders, instilling a commitment to hard work, and teaching players to believe in one another to achieve goals. That is what is what I really want to accomplish and I feel I can have a greater impact in this regard as a head coach. I'm really looking forward to all of the responsibilities associated with being the head coach of the Providence women's team. The opportunity was presented and I took it. I know the College supports me and I know this job has everything that I was looking for. Of course, I had to put my ego aside to some degree. The spotlight isn't quite the same on the women's side as it is on the men's but the essence of the job is really the same, much like the sense of accomplishment you get from successfully developing student athletes. I'm not sure I was ready for this type of challenge a few years ago, but I have a better grasp of what I want right now and this job provides me with exactly that.

FI: What is the biggest adjustment do you think you will have to make switching from the men's game to the women's?

PS: Switching over to women's basketball does present a different atmosphere. The players sometimes respond differently and I'm learning as I go . . . but people are people . . . and respecting everyone and putting aside ego is the most important thing. I don't think everyone can switch from coaching just men to coaching the women's game. It requires a certain personality that some have told me I have. We'll find out. I may be more mild mannered in my approach than some other coaches but I am no less demanding in requiring a full commitment from my team to achieve our goals. I'm really looking forward to working with the team once they are all together as a group.

FI: You've taken on an ambitious and difficult job given the recent struggles of the Friars' women's basketball team. What are some of the things it will take to turn things around for this program?

PS: It will require a talent upgrade and skill improvement across the current roster. Based on what I saw last year, the conditioning was not very good. I also thought that the team chemistry was poor overall and the team simply wasn't together off the court either. It's going to take a lot individual skill work and conditioning to get the team on the right track again. I also think that the morale just wasn't there . . . they should have been able to win more games last year, even with their limitations. It's true that there was a talent gap within the conference but I also think they gave up on themselves at some point. My job is to teach our players to learn to love playing the game again.

FI: Despite a number of years struggling in the Big East, the PC women's program was one of the top three Big East women's programs in the 1980's and through the early 1990's. (They are actually still tied for 2nd most regular season Big East championships) Why do you feel the women's program has struggled so much over the last ten plus seasons?

PS: Well, I don't want to say much about what may have gone wrong in past seasons. The past is the past and obviously mistakes were made but the support is in place right now and it's up to me and my staff to get the job done. I wasn't here all of those years but there is so much work to do in front of me, that is really all I am concentrating on right now. I think I have a good idea of what is needed to make us competitive again.

FI: The PC men's program has had its share of difficult seasons over the years but has generally been very resilient. Do you feel it is more difficult to turn a program around in women's basketball after a program has endured a number of poor seasons? If so, why?

PS: I try not to think of my job in terms of how difficult it could be or in that those terms. Starting over as we are now really makes it a marathon, not a sprint, so our problems won't be solved overnight but I know we will improve our recruiting and improve the skills of the talent that we have right now. The players that are here right now will become better and I expect our team will prove themselves over time. Plus, the best programs can't sign everybody. We know that from men's basketball. There are plenty of good players out there that can help us to win. I'm focused on moving forward. Putting in the effort on the recruiting front combined with communicating skill development translates into winning.

FI: Would you like to venture a guess as to how long it may take to turn things around and be competitive in the Big East again?

PS: Generally, based on my experiences in college basketball, I'd say it really takes 3-4 years to turn a program around and rebuild when you're starting over. What I mean by that is that it takes that long before you can really expect to finish in the top half of your conference and challenge for some sort of postseason play and real success in terms of your overall record.

FI: Have you set any goals yet for your 1st season as Head Coach of the Friars?

PS: I plan on working very hard with the players on skill development and making sure they're in top condition. That will be our focus in year one. The players must understand what hard work really is. What it really takes to succeed in the Big East. Playing hard – that is what I want people to see when they watch our team next season. Look at St. John's this past season on the men's side. Sure, they were undermanned in players and talent but did anyone work harder in the Big East? While they didn't win that many games, they returned the respect back to their program and began a foundation for future success. That is the kind of effort I want our team to demonstrate next season.

FI: How is recruiting going so far? Is it any different than you expected?

PS: I haven't had much of an opportunity to really get out much due to my late hiring, some weekend college events that required my attendance, and some no contact time but I've been viewing a lot of players on film and speaking with a lot of people in the women's game to develop a network. We're bringing in player from Canada for a visit soon and possibly another player in the near future so things are picking up now on the recruiting front. At this point, building the foundation for future relationships with high school coaches, etc., is just as important as seeing players.

FI: Tell me a little about the players on your incoming team and what Friar fans should be on the lookout for in this your first season on the bench as Head Coach.

PS: Everyone starts at square one, and will have an opportunity to prove themselves to me and their teammates next season. Nothing will be predetermined ahead of time. As for the new recruits, Chelsea Marandola, a local player you may be familiar with for example, is very excited and focused on turning things around here. She is one piece of puzzle. She's not the only piece but what I believe will be an important part of it. I've also done some individual workouts with our players but haven't worked the team out as a unit yet. Once I do, we will immediately make conditioning a priority and instill the concept of hard work as the foundation for learning to enjoy the game again and seeing the rewards of putting in the work to improve. Once that is accomplished, things should begin to take shape.

FI: Is it still the case that Jill Furstenburg will not be returning to the team next season?

PS: Yes, she is transferring and won't be back. I'm not sure if she has chosen a new college yet. I wished her well.

FI: What type of offense and/or defense will your team exhibit? Do you have a certain style that you wish to install? Will it resemble Tim Welsh's approach at all?

PS: It will be my own style. I will wait and see the personnel playing together. I plan to borrow some from many of the coaches I've worked with and played for in the past including Tim and John Beilein. I prefer the up tempo basketball style but I have no intention of forcing a particular style on the team if I feel it is a bad fit.

FI: Do you have anyone in mind yet for your last open assistant coach position?

PS: Kerry Reeves is coming in for an interview on Tuesday. She was a former assistant for Jim Jabir when he was here at Providence.

FI: Finally, since this is our first discussion with you, do you mind if I ask you a question to close the book on your time with the men's program? What are your general thoughts on the last group of recruits that signed on with the men's team before you took the women's Head Coaching job?

PS: Geoff McDermott – Geoff is a very good player. He's really versatile and very tough. We needed that to bring in that type of presence to the team. Even though he's a physical player, he's got finesse in his game as well and can really pass the ball well and finds different ways to score. He's a proven winner and that means something every time he takes the floor.

Jonathan Kale – Jonathan gives the team a physical presence on the floor and an excellent rebounder. He plays within himself, makes his free throws, and seems to do everything that is asked of him on the court. He's a very coachable player and eager to learn and improve.

Weyinme Efejuku – Weyinme is a very strong guard, a physical specimen for a freshman. I'd say he's more of a point guard than two guard, because he has good vision on the court, controls the ball well when he puts his mind to it, and is a good passer. What I like about him on offense is his ability to take to ball to the basket, take a physical hit and still finish the play. His shooting range is about 15 feet right now and he needs to improve on that, but he should be a good player for the Friars.

Sharaud Curry – I know a little less about Sharaud since he was a late signing. He really is very quick and is more of a push point. He can shoot some but since I haven't seen that much of him, I'm not sure how well yet.

FI: What are your thoughts on Friar target Saiquon Stone?

PS: I really like him. Saiquon is a player that can really guard a variety of players with his athleticism. He's another proven winner. Very tough on the court. He may not be as offensively polished as Geoff, but you won't see a much better defender than Saiquon. I don't know what his status is right now since I've obviously been busy with my own team now.

FI: Phil, we all wish you the best and look forward to watching you walk the sidelines for the Providence women's team. Hopefully, your hire will mark the beginning of a new and successful era for the Providence women's basketball program. We'll check in with you again down the road. Good luck to both you and the team.

PS: Thanks.

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