It’s been six months since Jonathan Tsipis became the ninth head coach of the women’s basketball program.
In that time, he’s worked to bring his championship-winning approach from Notre Dame to Foggy Bottom, meeting the 13 players who will suit up under him this season, immersing himself in the culture and history of the Colonials program, crafting a staff and beginning to recruit for the future.
It’s no wonder that the new head coach calls his time at GW leading up to the 2012-13 season a “whirlwind.”
“A big part of what we’re trying to do here, like everybody, is just that bonding and understanding that we’ve got to get better on a daily basis,” Tsipis said in a telephone conference call Wednesday. “From everything basketball-wise to a leadership standpoint, to how we conduct ourselves in the weight room and
conditioning, to the classroom – everything has been set at a higher expectation because of the great tradition that we’ve had here.”
In a preseason poll of the Atlantic 10 head coaches, the Colonials were picked to finish eighth of 16 in the league. Last year, the team was tabbed to finish ninth of 14 in the conference.
Last season, GW was bounced in the first round of the A-10 tournament by Duquesne, continuing a four-year program slide that hasn’t seen the Colonials win a postseason game since 2008. Tsipis is regarded as a coach who will be able to turn the team around and guide it back to the heights it reached under former head coach Joe McKeown.
The other coaches in the A-10 have been “gracious” in their welcome, Tsipis said Wednesday. As he prepares to enter Atlantic 10 competition, in which GW will begin its league play at the end of a four-game road swing, the new head coach is aware of the unique identity the conference brings to competition.
“It’s a conference that I think has a little bit of a chip on its shoulder right now. It goes in year in and year out and beats BCS programs, and basketball is important, I think, at each of the 16 schools,” Tsipis said. “And I think you see some conferences in the country where that’s not true. I’m excited.”
If GW is good, Tsipis added, it will inherently help to raise the profile of the A-10. And Tsipis has always wanted to be a head coach in a successful program – one that’s victorious on the court and also emphasizes player development off the court.
Among the Colonial players who exemplify the qualities Tsipis strives for are graduate student forward Tara Booker and senior point guard Danni Jackson, who were both named to the A-10 preseason third team Wednesday, and who tied for the team lead in scoring average at 12 points per game.
They’re a core component of the senior contingent that Tsipis said is proving helpful in demonstrating flexibility in working with new coaches and game plans.
Booker paced GW in rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage, three-point field goals made and three-point percentage. Jackson had a team-high 3.0 assists per game last year, and her .857 free throw percentage was the fourth-best single-season mark in program history.
“We really have 13 freshmen,” Tsipis said. “And because everybody is learning things from a different way – whether it’s different terminology I use or my staff uses, and just how we go about our business – it’s just different than [how] they’ve gone through it in the past.”
For Tsipis, this season represents the beginning of a new journey – one in which he is excited to see the program’s potential.
“I challenge them with their legacy,” Tsipis said. “That I expect us to be competitive and for us to be good and for us to do it this year. But it has to start with the understanding of that they kind of have to wipe the board clean of a lot of things and be willing to try new things.”