Interview With Phil Seymore

Friar Insider recently had an opportunity to sit down with Phil Seymore, the women's basketball coach for the Providence Friars. This coming fall, Coach Seymore will be entering his third year as the head coach of the Friars, and we took this opportunity to get a state of the program, look back at this past season, and to get a preview of what might be in store for the program in the coming year.

This candid interview with Coach Seymore is broken into two parts.

Part I

SH: Coach, did you feel that you made progress as a program this year from your first season as the head coach of the women's program?

PS: I felt that the first half of the year we made progress and that we did OK, but I don't think I was ever totally happy even in our victories as far achieving what our goals were and what we were trying to accomplish for ourselves and provide as far as entertainment for our fans who come to the games. I wasn't totally happy, but we were winning basketball games early, although level of competition was not all that high. I did think that after the Harvard game, we turned the corner in terms of playing good basketball, and that certain players began to take the leadership roles that they hadn't been taking on before. At that point, I thought we might be OK.

We went out and won the Louisville game, and we won the Syracuse game, and then we hit a little stumbling block in terms of who we were as a basketball team because the funny thing is; after the Louisville win I was a little concerned how we would play Syracuse, who has a solid team but who was not on the level of Louisville. The players hit the court a little apprehensive, and not with the confidence that they had when they beat a nationally ranked team. In my mind, I had some questions about how they would handle success and how they go about it dealing with it. So overall, I thought for a portion of the season I was satisfied with the team's progress, but the second half of the season I wasn't satisfied at all.

SH: You certainly made some improvements in the non-conference from last year, and you did have the big win over Louisville and other solid performances, but things did start to unravel some in the tough Big East schedule. What do you think happened where the team was showing a lot of promise early but then seemed to hit a wall and appeared to lose some of the confidence and cohesiveness they had earlier?

PS: I thought about that hard and long after the year was over and I just hold myself responsible for it in terms of how we handled things. We were young, we had a young team, and so there were a lot of inconsistencies in how we played the game. We had injuries, Shauna Snyder was out for a while, she missed about five or six games; there was a point where both Kendria Holmes and Chelsea Marandola missed some games too. Danielle Howard, who started out playing well in the beginning, ended up not available to play the second half of the season. Catherine Bove stepped up and played really well for us, and Aga Lorenc did some good things for us toward the end of the year, but I think the overall imbalance of youth, injuries, and the changing dynamics of the team really affected us adversely. You would think that when Shauna came back from injury we would have really improved but it didn't happen. Now I'm not blaming her, but we actually did not perform as well as a team on the court when she returned as opposed to what we were doing earlier. I just think there may have been confusion about where the leadership would come from with all the personnel changes we kept having on the court. That's where I hold myself responsible where I have to make things work as far as establishing good group dynamics on the basketball team. I think that there were a lot of different things that contributed to our problems, but I by the end of the season I was pretty distraught about the way things ended for us after it was all over.

SH: Looking over the statistics from this past season, it looked like offensively, you were at least in the middle of the pack in the Big East in a number of categories, and the problems tended to be on defense and with rebounding. Can you talk a little about that?

PS: Offensively, when we shot the ball well, I felt that we could play with anybody. Defensively, we just weren't that good. Defensively, we might have blocked more shots than my first season here but we weren't as strong defensively in the post as we needed to be. We really didn't have great post defense, and we didn't have good post offense either. Looking ahead to next year's front court, Emily Cournoyer is going to be a better basketball player, she'll be stronger. I think Aga Lorenc will be better and Jessica Clark is coming along. With the injuries to Shantee Darien and Shauna Snyder being out, we really didn't have any true forwards ready to play this year.

We were basically playing with four guards out there. It's tough when you play in the Big East and you're rebounding and banging with the likes of Mercedes Walker and other big time players in the league. Chelsea Marandola, a guard, actually led us in rebounding this year, so that tells you right there where we were with that statistic. I remember Geno Auriemma talking about us and he said the first thing they wanted to do when they played us was to attack us inside. They wanted to attack our post defense because it just wasn't very good. So, that hurt us and when you don't have a post game on offense, it makes it things difficult and you're relying exclusively on making jump shots, and for your play makers to create for others, which can make you easier to be defended by the other team.

SH: So you feel it was largely a matter of size that hurt you this year, or was the defensive problem also on the perimeter because it seemed like opponents also made a good number of three pointers against you? Was it a lack of quickness too?

PS: I really look at it overall as more of a mental breakdown on defense. The Marquette game is a perfect example where we were up five with 50 seconds left where their shooter gets open in the corner for a jump shot where we just had a miscue, basically falling asleep defensively. That type of mistake ends up losing games and it cost us a close one. I think it's about understanding the game, bearing down, and knowing when it counts most. We would put together halves, but not a full 40 minute game. We were up against Notre Dame at the half but couldn't finish, or it was a situation where we come back and tie West Virginia in the second half after they had been beating us earlier by twenty. We had a hard time putting it together for a full game, and making sure everyone was the same page in terms of what we were trying to accomplish for an entire game, as opposed to doing things in parts, like a player deciding to do the right things only in the 1st half.

SH: Would you say that a lack of veteran players had a role in that?

PS: Well, at times we had some leadership from various players, but at other times we clearly didn't. I thought that overall we were lacking in that area. The time when Shauna Snyder was out, you had Chelsea Marandola and Catherine Bove starting to step up as leaders; they really did. That's something that Chelsea has to do, and that's something she will do next season along with Catherine Bove. Shantee Darrian is also going to play this coming year and that will help. We also were missing Georgian Williams who was one of our highly regarded freshmen who didn't play this year. She had a stress fracture and will probably be ready to go by December. Brittany Dorsey was playing well against Louisville and Syracuse and she also suffered a stress fracture. So there was some adversity with a few of our young players, and our young players were the ones that were playing the most. That really cost us at times.

I think our problems were about not having a post presence, not locking down on defense, not playing with confidence. You have to play every day like you can beat a Louisville, or when you're up at the half on Notre Dame you have to come out and play the second half with the same execution and intensity. You have to believe in yourself that you can go out and win every game. One player asked me after a great win: "Are they expecting us to play like that all the time?" I said well why not? That's what you're supposed to do. You cannot have any obstacles in your mind that keep you from playing your best. The players have to understand that they are good enough to compete with and beat anybody on certain days. You still can be at a disadvantage with regard to talent at times but if you play with confidence and as a team, you give yourself a shot because you are talented too. I think we can continue build confidence playing against good teams while at the same time continuing to add talented players to the roster.

SH: You used roughly around a 10 player rotation on average, give or take depending on injuries. Did you think you had enough depth in terms of the available bodies on the bench who were ready to compete in the Big East?

PS: I think we had some depth, but it might have been the quality of our depth that was the issue. If Danielle Howard is healthy, and she's coming off the bench, then that's good depth. Once you lose her, now you're going from Emily who's a freshman, to Aga, to Jessica who's still raw. So now you have depth, but it's developing depth. If Kendria is not playing, then that means you have to go with Kris Baugh. That's fine, but it's not the same as having Kendria on the court. She was a key for us when she was playing well. Chelsea and Catherine Bove play a lot minutes but they can't carry the team. You've got to have quality basketball players on your bench who can compete at the Big East level on a regular basis. So in terms of depth, we had some, but it certainly wasn't on the level of a number of other teams in the Big East. Now we will be adding more quality depth this coming year with the recruits we will be adding in the fall.

SH: Can you talk a little about those incoming freshman players you're bringing in?

PS: First off, I think that Mi-Khida Hankins (Baltimore, MD) - is going to be a pretty good basketball player for us. She's skilled, very athletic, and runs the floor like the wind. She needs to get stronger, but she's tough with a lot of heart and determination. She can shoot the 15 foot shot, she knows to sweep the ball when she shoots, and she has skills like the ability to reverse pivot and face and shoot while other players have been more raw coming into college. Mi-Khida has skills and is a talented athlete. She is going to be a slashing wing for us.

Megan Jackson (Manchester, NH) is a highly regarded player (Scout.com Top 100) who was injured this past year and had surgery on her ankle. Megan is the type of player who will make others better. She's a multi talented player who is not a shoot first type. She knows how to get others involved, she knows how to pass, if she gets the ball in the high post, you know she's going to make the right pass, she's knows how to drive to the basket, she's physically ready to play right away, she's 6 feet, she can handle the ball on the perimeter, she can left or right, she takes charges, rebounds, and just a little bit of everything.

The way we play we're trying to recruit more players who can handle the ball but also pass well. You need to have players who can make others better on the floor. It's important in the women's game to pass the ball well and we haven't had enough of that in my two seasons so these two players are going to help us.

SH: I would imagine that as freshman, these recruits will learn a lot from playing with a player like Chelsea Marandola?

PS: Yes they will, but Chelsea also has to work with these players in order us make the most of their abilities. Right now, Chelsea plays. She's going to rebound, she's going to score, she's going to get steals, she's going to defend but she has to get to the point now where she makes other players better. She can do this through her leadership, communicating, and passing and playmaking. She's got to tell people where to go more, what to do, how to get open, hitting them with passes in the right spots where they can score. She does do some of those things now, but with our team, as our talent continues to improve, she'll be expected to do more, and use her teammates more than she has in the past. When she does that, we will be able to do more as a team, and be able to win more.

You can go out there like a Kobe Bryant and it's like a game within yourself. Kobe might go out and not shoot the ball in the first quarter because he's trying to get his teammates involved in the game while he waits for the 3rd quarter to go off with his shot. You can't play that way if you want to succeed here. It has to be a mindset where you are getting people involved the entire game. Kobe can score on anybody, but a guy like Lebron James actually makes his teammates better and it shows in the results. I think that's the big difference between those two players. Lebron does the kinds things we like to stress in getting others involved. As we add talent more talent, our best players like Chelsea have to recognize that and increasingly involve others though their play and leadership.

End of Part I

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