When Joe McKeown joined on as GW’s women’s basketball coach in September 1989, it was his job to revamp a program that just finished 9-19 the year before. Fourteen months later, McKeown defied the odds and turned a below-.500 program into a 14-4 team. He took teams to the NCAA Tournament in seven of 11 seasons and has won more games that any other women’s
“He finds a way to win,” said sophomore Cathy Joens, who is out indefinitely with an injured medial collateral ligament. “He’s the kind of coach where, whatever you need to do to win, he gets the team to do it.”
After Sunday’s win over Temple at the Smith Center, the Colonials now find themselves 8-0 in conference play. And despite early troubles against the top programs in America, GW is once again flirting with an NCAA bid.
“This team has a lot of heart,” McKeown said. “They’re a fun team to coach because they really care. They work hard and do all the little things, and I think that is what enables us to get through some real hard times. They stick together and they have a lot of pride.”
McKeown’s consistency and flexibility are key reasons for his success and his three Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year awards.
Throughout the years, he’s coached entirely different teams. Last year’s team was small and quick on the perimeter. This year’s team is bigger and more dominant under the glass. Coming off an impressive 26-6 season that saw the Colonials reach the NCAA’s second round, McKeown was faced with a considerable adjustment when he graduated seniors Elisa Aguilar and Marlo Egleston. He responded by bringing in Ugo Oha and Marsheik Witherspoon as part of the nation’s 11th best recruiting class, according to the Women’s Basketball News Service.
McKeown continues to adjust his strategy given his roster while still sticking to his basic coaching tactics. The coach lets his players know what he expects from each of them.
“He’s extremely positive. He asks a lot out of us every day at practice,” sophomore guard Lindsey Davidson said.
As his team struggled shooting the ball in a sluggish 58-44 win over Duquesne Wednesday night, McKeown kept his composure and tried various combinations of players until he found one that played well offensively.
Despite occasional jacket throwing, McKeown has instilled a positive and winning mindset. He said he encourages the team’s elder players to lead and guide the younger team members, especially as the postseason draws near.
“When you have five freshman, you’re really going to need your seniors,” McKeown said. “I’m very pleased with the way the seniors have relished the leadership role.”