Friday, March 9, 2012

Siena makes a change on the women's side

It wasn't so long ago that Siena College's women's basketball team was one of the dominant forces in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). However, that seems so far away now, as the Lady Saints were eliminated in the first round of the MAAC tournament last week, and haven't had a winning season in 8 years.

On Thursday, coach Gina Castelli stepped down after 22 seasons. The 5-time women's Coach of the Year in the MAAC hadn't forgotten how to win games. It was just a case of the changing fortunes in the league having an adverse affect on Siena. The Lady Saints' chief nemesis during this lean period has been Marist, which has taken over as the top team in the league, and has beaten Siena 17 consecutive times. Of course, there were the usual cliches about needing to make changes, but consider the fact that during Ms. Castelli's 22 years, they've changed coaches on the men's side at least a half dozen times for one reason or another. According to the Albany Times-Union, the decision was a mutually agreed upon one, and that Ms. Castelli wasn't fired. With Siena a sub-.500 team for 8 straight seasons, a change was inevitable, and needed.

The task now for Siena is to find a coach that can take the Lady Saints back to the top of the MAAC, which won't be that easy. Now, too, might be the time to make another change, and that would be to move the women's games out of the school's Alumni Recreation Center, and into the cavernous Times Union Center, home to the men's team, which routinely averages anywhere from 6,000-9,000 fans for home games. If Siena can raise the profile of its women's team and try to market it as they do with the men, it would help the recruiting process tremendously. Even though the men were also below .500 most of the season, they still had their loyal fan base, which never wavered.

It wouldn't be too much of a surprise if Gina Castelli landed with another school, or was given a shot at coaching a WNBA team. It isn't about what has been done lately, but rather, the body of work as a whole should be given some consideration. I shan't be shocked, however, if she lands a broadcasting job instead, say with ESPN. I don't think it's out of the question, but rather, it's a consideration that may be the path of last resort.

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