New Head Coach John Dunne looks to bring new fortunes to the struggling Marist Men’s Basketball program. A new season is on the horizon and after going 6-25 last year and not having a winning season in 10 years, Dunne begins the tough task of changing the culture and identity of the program.
Former Head Coach Mike Maker played at a pace and space style with four perimeter players that at times showed sparks offensively, but left a lot to be desired on the defensive end.
One thing made clear by both the new coaches and players going into this season is a primary focus on defense. “We are trying to get a defensive mindset, and a toughness mindset,” Dunne emphasized. A defensive-minded coach, Dunne’s Peacocks ranked atop the conference in points allowed per game at 66.0 last season. In addition, they ranked fourth and fifth in the MAAC in steals (6.59) and blocks (3.16) per game, respectively. This came on their way to a 14-18 season, finishing 6-12 in the MAAC, good for ninth place. What may come, though, are offensive challenges; Saint Peters ranked last in the MAAC in terms of points per game scored at 65.2.
When asked about a coaching and culture change, senior guard David Knudsen added, “we are focusing a lot on the defensive part of the game,” also stating the team’s collective drive “to play smarter and play tougher.” Expect this new identity to be at the forefront of each player’s mind during every game from November to March.
Senior guard Brian Parker discussed the expectations for the team this year, saying “[He expects] a winning season.” He expressed confidence in the team’s ability to score. “We’ve never had a problem scoring,” he said. Parker was also buying in on Coach Dunne’s defensive intentions and style of play, mentioning how much he values a great defensive effort. Parker said that the transition between coaching staffs has been “smooth” and that he and the team will be prepared for the season. In addition to Dunne bringing a tough defensive mindset to Marist, Parker also stated how “[Dunne] is more strict, especially with academics,” further presenting the shift from last year’s team to the present. With a squad built and prepared to play smart, defensive basketball, Marist will hope to improve on their six wins from last year. By committing less turnovers, creating more and taking the right shots, the upcoming hardwood battles should be must-sees this season.
Dunne didn’t hold back when talking about the importance of effort and setting the team up in a position to win late in games. Marist will open up this year’s season with a matchup against Army on November 6; they take on Lehigh exactly one week later. Both are teams that Marist lost to last season. An early challenge isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it might be just what this team needs to prove to themselves that this scheme doesn’t just work on paper. As important as it is to start the season hot, Dunne hopes “to be playing our best basketball in February and into March,” a sentiment that merely adds to the mentality that this team will be competing all season long. For seniors Parker, Knudsen, Lamb and Funk, this fresh start is their final shot.
“As seniors this is our last chance,” noted Knudsen. “We have to believe that this is going to be the year that we can turn it around.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Marco Schaden