Seven months into his tenure after his predecessor was fired and two star players transferred, men’s basketball Head Coach Chris Caputo looks to build the program from top to bottom with a particular focus on player development, recruiting and fundraising.
Caputo came to GW after spending 10 seasons as an associate head coach at Miami following the firing of former Head Coach Jamion Christian in March. Caputo said the program has held pockets of success throughout its history, like Atlantic 10 championship titles and NCAA showings that he looks to build on to create sustainable success within a short period of time.
“I think it’s to develop a culture where we’re very, very hard-working,” Caputo said in an interview. “We’re a team that plays very hard and tough to compete against, a team that shares the ball and plays with a lot of joy on offense. If we’re doing that regardless of the results, we’ve put ourselves in a position to establish an identity as to who we are as a program. It’s not going to be easy to play against us.”
Caputo said he’s sought to restock the player and coaching roster with “really competitive talent” to establish the program’s sustainability for future seasons.
Caputo became the team’s head coach in early April about three weeks after GW fired Christian following a lackluster showing at the A-10 tournament, where the team failed to make it past the first round. That same season, Caputo coached Miami to their first Elite Eight appearance in the 2022 NCAA tournament, drawing national attention.
During his time in Miami, Caputo established strong NBA connections, with at least one Hurricane being drafted every year from 2016 to 2019. Miami was one of two programs in the ACC to achieve such a feat.
Caputo said the team has improved its conditioning thanks to the coaching staff, which he said will keep the team in shape this season without any COVID-19-related interruptions. He said he plans to put a sign in the locker room saying “the obstacle is the way.” Words reminiscent of Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, the phrase serves to emphasize the team’s opportunity to grow throughout the season.
“The idea that we’re going to approach every obstacle as an opportunity to grow and get better, it’s going to be hard times, not always going to be smooth sailing,” Caputo said. “But we will approach all those opportunities, will approach all those difficulties and see adversity as an opportunity to grow and get better as a group.”
Caputo said the team has focused on building its defensive identity and in-game strategy with its conditioning work and a newfound sense of self-accountability during practices. He said the team will look to establish a free-flowing offense where players share the ball and find open players to create high-quality shot opportunities.
“I don’t know that we totally changed the way that we’re defending certain things,” Caputo said. “I would say just a big emphasis on protecting the paint. We’re not a team that did a good job of that last year when we look at the amount of volume people were able to get at the rim.”
He said the team is transitioning to an inside-out play style on defense with closer coverage of the paint to limit fouls. The team racked up 17.06 fouls per game last season, the fifth-highest rate in the A-10.
Caputo said experienced players like senior forward Hunter Dean will shore up the team’s defensive coverage and increase steals to replicate Caputo’s trademark free-flowing style. He said senior players have become “really good role models” for the three incoming players with their enthusiasm during practices.
“I think hopefully they’re excited about coming to work every day, and they’re learning a lot,” Caputo said. “And they feel like that is a super positive environment.”
Junior forward Keegan Harvey, one of three new players on the team, said Caputo’s style has been the most organized and goal-oriented out of his previous four coaches. He said he creates well-communicated goals on both offense and defense, like improving defensive rebounding and communication on the court through bullet points he outlines after practice to help them prepare for the next day.
“He communicates them very well, he gives us these bullet points and all we need to focus on is a bullet point every day for practice,” Harvey said. “I feel like that sort of culture and build up every day, every little thing eventually accumulates into a full system.”
Senior forward Ricky Lindo, who is preparing for his last season with the Colonials, said the coaching staff has done a “great job” at holding the team accountable. He said practices have helped the team build more trust as the coaching staff emphasizes communication on the court to improve their defensive schemes, which will not only impact the team at the A-10 level, but also individually in their professional careers.
“We’re just trying to listen to everything our new Coach Caputo tells us to do,” Lindo said.
This article appeared in the November 7, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.