Women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman knows pressure.
Pressure is in life-or-death situations, he said, not contracts.
“I was a cop for eight and a half years in Prince George’s County. I was a narcotics agent for three and a half years,” Bozeman said. “When we left the roll call, my sergeant used to say, ‘Make sure you go home tonight.’ That’s pressure.”
But as he enters the final year of his contract as the leader of the women’s team, Bozeman is under another type of pressure, looking to improve from where the team finished a season ago. After assuming his role as head coach and leading the women’s basketball team to the WNIT tournament in 2009, their 10th consecutive postseason appearance, the program’s once-formidable record of success plummeted.
The Colonials have recorded only 14 wins over the past two seasons. Plagued by injuries, GW finished in the bottom half of the A-10 in the last two seasons, posting only three conference wins each year, a record junior guard Danni Jackson described as “frustrating”.
“Coming out of high school, we all came from winning programs,” Jackson said. “The losing wasn’t really known to us. We didn’t know how to react to it. The fact that we’ve been injured these past two years, with so many injuries to many key players, has added to the frustration.”
It is a frustration Bozeman is determined to shake. With four senior leaders returning to the team and his roster no longer depleted by injuries, Bozeman is optimistic about GW’s chances to improve this season. His preparations include sweeping reform, looking to bring a new approach to the court. In addition to bringing on two new assistant coaches – Tamika Louis and Kristin Cole – the Colonials will be running a new system on offense.
Although he didn’t want to give too many details away, Bozeman allowed a glimpse into his new approach, highlighted partially by switching junior point guard Danni Jackson to a shooting guard position. After researching different systems in the offseason, Bozeman believes he has found an offense that will allow the Colonials to capitalize on their advantages on the court.
“I think I have one of the most fundamentally sound post players in our conference in [senior center] Sara Mostafa,” Bozeman said. “I wanted to introduce a new offense, something that was going to maximize everybody’s skill sets. I was a little concerned last year at how much double team Mostafa faced. I went out and researched and found an offense that would make it difficult to double team the low post. It’s been working really good, and the girls are taking to it.”
As he takes the court in the fourth year of his tenure as head coach, Bozeman has a 31-57 record over three seasons. He’s not accustomed to a losing record. Bozeman refers to himself as “a winner,” and certainly didn’t anticipate these struggles when he assumed the role.
With no extension signed, one directive is clear: to extend Bozeman’s contract, improvements must be made. It’s clear in the mission statement of first-year athletic director Patrick Nero, who is determined to push all intercollegiate athletics teams to new heights. It’s time, Nero said, for the women’s team to return to its former power.
“I need to see that that’s the direction we are going back to,” Nero said. “[Bozeman] is in a situation where wins and losses are going to say a lot. We can’t continue where we are today. We have to see progress.”
An uncertain destiny aside, Bozeman said he’s not thinking about his contract. The pressure of the situation hasn’t affected how he’s preparing his team to take the court, he said.
“If I had a 10 year contract I would still approach [the season] the way I’m approaching it,” Bozeman said. “I want to teach these young ladies the game of basketball. In the process of that, teach them things that are going to help them be successful in life, and to get out of basketball exactly what I got out of basketball. When the quote-unquote pressure hits you, you work harder.”
His team was picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic 10, but Bozeman doesn’t find the slot distracting or frustrating. Preseason rankings are subjective, he said, not something the coaching staff subscribes to.
“To me, it’s all guess work,” Bozeman said. “They haven’t seen what [this team] is capable of. I’m very confident in this group, and I’m very confident in what I have done preparing for this season.”
Bozeman has emphasized to his team the importance of focusing on the season and not concerning themselves with his status.
“I fully believe that I am the person for this job,” Bozeman said. “I think I have the support around me, and I think I’m in a position now where I can relax and just coach.”