Monday, June 30
By his own account, Mike Bozeman has not missed a beat in adapting to his new position as head women’s basketball coach.
He just moved down the hall to the bigger office overlooking 22nd street and picked up where his predecessor and mentor, Joe McKeown, left off. McKeown stepped down in early June to take the same position at Northwestern.
Leaning back in his leather chair less than ten days after taking over a perennial top 25 team, Bozeman is quick to answer questions about his past, present and future.
He only hesitates when considering running not just the GW women’s basketball team, but the entire program – which includes other coaches, administrators and trainers.
“Wow,” he says, looking away for the first time. “That’s weird.”
He pauses again.
“Yeah, that is pretty weird.”
When he signed on as McKeown’s assistant coach three years ago, Bozeman said he never expected to be the top man so soon. His recent appointment was even more unexpected considering McKeown had just signed a seven-year contract extension. Heading up a collegiate program would have to wait, he thought.
“When I heard about (the extension), to me it just meant I had job security,” said Bozeman, who said he was prepared to follow McKeown to Northwestern if he was not offered the head coach’s job in Foggy Bottom.
But Bozeman said he is most comfortable as a head coach, referring to himself as “fully capable,” and “a quick learner.” He is confident in his knowledge of the game and said he will not be intimidated by legends like Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. After all, he said, he could probably beat her one-on-one.
He explains that the transition to head coach would have been much harder had he come from a different school, but knowing the other people in the athletics department has let him focus just on basketball.
Bozeman came to GW to help McKeown, a defensive-oriented coach, by improving the team’s offense. McKeown recently told Bozeman to be himself, something the new coach has taken to heart, as the 42-year-old plans to have his teams play a faster, “less orchestrated” style than McKeown’s did.
Bozeman plans to focus on raising the basketball IQ of his players so they can adapt to unpredicted situations against tough opponents. That ability, he said, is what separates teams that make the Sweet 16 from ones who make the Final Four.
And will “Blizzard,” McKeown’s vaunted matchup-zone defense, change too?
“‘Blizzard’ is not going anywhere,” Bozeman said emphatically, as if he had been asked the question before. “Why would I want to change that?”
The D.C. native said he is excited to start molding his team into a “basketball family,” one which is visible, accessible and valuable to the community. He wants fans not to shy away from high-fiving him on the street and wants his players to make their presence known in a positive way off the court.
“I told my players not to be surprised if they’re helping people move in when school starts,” Bozeman said. “I want the GW community to be part of it, own us and go with us.”
The players greeting students may seem unfamiliar, as faces like Kim Beck and Sarah-Jo Lawrence have graduated, leaving, as Bozeman calls it, “commitment residue” for the next generation. Bozeman plans to frame a picture of Beck and fellow graduate Whitney Allen on the wall facing his desk, to remind him of the hard work those players put in.
Seven new players will replace Beck, Lawrence and Allen. Bozeman said his connections in the high school basketball world “reach far and wide,” allowing him to reload GW’s roster with highly-skilled players.
Bozeman’s accession to collegiate head coach has been rapid – going from rookie head coach at Bishop McNamara, a local high school, to his current position in less than ten years. He believes it has something to do with the respectful way he treats people.
“I couldn’t script this any better,” he said. “I almost feel like I’ve been doing something right to have things work out like this. I’ve been too fortunate for it just to have happened this way.”