Men’s basketball games were greeted with rows of empty seats and a losing streak that ended its Atlantic 10 Conference run early last season.
Since Maurice Joseph was fired in March after three seasons with the squad, incoming head coach Jamion Christian and his new lineup have an opportunity to reinvigorate the program into a winning squad that evokes school pride from students.
Men’s basketball has had a rocky past with coaching turnover and scandals. In 2016, former head coach Mike Lonergan, who led the team for five seasons before Joseph was hired, was dismissed amid allegations of verbal and emotional abuse against players. Joseph was hired in 2017 with the goal of rebuilding trust in the program, but a pileup of losses led to his departure.
After Christian’s arrival to men’s basketball, three new coaching staff have arrived and the team picked up six recruits. Following a shaky season, a new roster and coaching staff is a fresh start for the program. Now that the team has a full lineup for the upcoming season, the Colonials have everything they need to convince the GW community that men’s basketball can be a winning team.
Christian last coached Siena, leading the team to more wins than GW has seen since Joseph was named head coach. He stopped coaching Siena at the close of last season with a 17-16 record, compared to GW’s 9-24 record. This year, GW made it to the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference while Siena progressed to the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
Before Siena, Christian coached Mount Saint Mary’s basketball and turned the squad’s 8-21 losing record in the 2011-12 season into an 18-14 record the next year. Christian has proved that he is no stranger to turning a losing team into a winning one. If he leads the team the same way he coached Siena and Mount Saint Mary, there could be wins ahead for GW.
The team’s six new recruits have all connected with Christian throughout their careers, which could help them find chemistry on the court. GW picked up two forwards and four guards, two of whom transferred out of Mount Saint Mary’s and Nebraska. Their experience playing at the collegiate level – and on teams with a winning track record – before GW will also make them quick assets to the program. Christian should take this opportunity to mold and shift the team focus toward winning. New blood on the team could reignite the interest of fans if Christian’s coaching style can produce wins.
In addition to the recruits, Christian brings a “mayhem” coaching style that focuses on high-intensity defense and three-point shooting. This style is different from Joseph, who used a traditional man-to-man and zone defense. Setting GW’s team apart from the field could shake up the Colonials’ previous style of play. If Christian plays his cards right, he could set the team back on track.
The University is not known for its athletics, and school spirit is often difficult to find, even in the Smith Center. GW is more known for activities like internships rather than its basketball teams. But school spirit can build community on campus, and athletics are an effective way of bringing students together in one place for a common goal. Since the team lost 24 games last season and 18 the year before, it is no shocker that turnout at home games has been low. If he can muster the team past A-10 rivals and progress past the second round of the A-10 Conference, the program could see more students showing up and cheering them on.
College sports teams benefit the University in more ways than one. Successful programs can help people feel connected to the University, including students, alumni and families who attend the games. Students would also have a uniform sport to rally around, as opposed to the typical GW student who may find their community in one of hundreds of student organizations.
Restoring student support for the men’s basketball team is dependent on the team increasing its overall season wins. Given the new leadership within the team and its newest members, Christian should seize the opportunity to rebuild a broken team, and in doing so, he will boost student support.
Hannah Thacker, a freshman majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.