As a teenager, Erin Doughty never viewed basketball as a viable career path; never could she have imagined she would go on to take over as a successful Division I program’s new head coach.
Doughty, formerly Leger, grew up in Meriden, Connecticut, and began playing basketball as a young child. She continued playing in her catholic grammar school’s recreational league before attending Holy Cross High school in Waterbury, Connecticut, where her mother was the principal; as a result, her family moved from Meriden to nearby Middlebury, Connecticut.
While at Holy Cross, known for having a prominent girl’s basketball program, Doughty joined the Crusaders’ girl’s basketball team and played all four years while also being part of Amateur Athletic Union travel basketball outside of school. While doing so, Doughty began to garner interest from college programs.
“I was recruited a little bit by Division III schools – nothing crazy,” Doughty said. “I had a former teammate who went on to play Division III and didn’t have a great experience, so I kind of set my sights on finding a school that I really liked, and then if basketball was a part of it, great, if not, there’s intramurals and a million other things I could do. Basketball was second on my priority list.”
That’s when Doughty discovered Marist College, which she hadn’t previously considered applying to. While attending a college fair, her mother suggested she apply to the Poughkeepsie school.
“My mom said, ‘remember how beautiful it was when we played in that AAU tournament?’” Doughty said. “So, I kind of just did it.”
Doughty’s AAU coach also mentioned Marist several times, as they knew Marist’s new incoming head coach, Brian Giorgis. At the time of his arrival, Giorgis was fresh off a stellar coaching career as a high school basketball and softball coach at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, New York. Girogis had heard of Doughty’s exceptional three-point skill set; after all, she was Holy Cross’ all-time leader in three-pointers.
After applying and getting accepted to Marist, Doughty attended an accepted student orientation where she met with Giorgis for the first time. It was then that she expressed her interest in joining the Division I women’s basketball program as a walk-on.
“I told him I wanted to be a part of something, and hopefully, I could be on the team,” Doughty said. “If not, I’d be interested in a managing position or something like that.”
When she arrived as a freshman that fall, she tried out for the team as a walk-on and made it. From 2002 to 2005, Doughty played guard and appeared in 12 games for the Red Foxes while also making the MAAC All-Academic team twice.
Following graduation, Doughty planned to head back home and work towards getting a job and possibly returning to Holy Cross to help the girl’s basketball team. However, it was in her senior year that her basketball career took a turn.
“The plan was not to stay here,” Doughty said with a laugh. “My plan was to go back home and coach at my high school with my old high school coach and possibly become a guidance counselor.”
Just before Doughty’s senior season, the team’s graduate-assistant coach faced a challenging issue back home- her mother had become seriously sick, and she was needed home immediately.
“The very first day of practice, coach [Giorgis] asked me to come up to the office afterward and speak with him,” Doughty said. “He asked me if I would want to be a student coach that year instead of play, and I said yes.”
From her very first day at Marist, Doughty expressed how she was willing to do anything and everything for the team, and this opportunity was that everything. Doughty served as a student-coach, and her presence along with Giorgis proved to be essential to the program’s success. The Red Foxes finished the season with 23 wins, the highest win total in school history at the time.
After Doughty graduated, Giorgis asked her to return as a graduate-assistant coach – an opportunity that intrigued Doughty and allowed her to earn her master’s degree while coaching.
“After I was asked, I figured, okay, that’ll allow me to get my master’s,” Doughty said. “I said to myself, “alright, I’ll do a couple of more years.” As we all now know, “a couple of more years” turned into 15 years; in Doughty’s own words, “everything snowballed.”
The rest was history. What Doughty has accomplished alongside Giorgis is one for the books. After serving as a graduate assistant, Doughty became an assistant coach and, finally, was promoted to associate head coach.
During her time at Marist, Doughty has assisted in guiding the Red Foxes to new heights; under her watch, Marist became the first MAAC program to ever reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2007, won five NCAA tournament victories, and appeared in the NCAA tournament 10 times. She has also been present during the 11 MAAC championships Marist has won during Giorgis’ tenure.
This past year, an announcement was made that head coach Brian Giorgis would retire after the 2022-23 season. His replacement? None other than Doughty herself, who most within the program say deserves it more than anybody.
“I am very excited for [Doughty] to become the new head coach as I know she will continue to bring so much new knowledge and more success to this program,” Marist senior guard Julianna Bonilla said. “She’s always strived to make Marist players better as a whole rather than as individuals. She emphasizes the importance of family and is very knowledgeable regarding basketball, being around it for so many years.”
“[Doughty] is very personable and approachable,” senior forward Samantha Bailey added. “She knows the ins and outs of the Marist system better than anyone else.”
Kendall Krick, a graduate guard, agreed. “She is a really experienced coach who obviously understands the program very well. During practice, she has always done a great job breaking down and explaining ways for players to improve.”
Doughty, who is now a married mother-of-two, credits her various experiences for preparing her for the job and, of course, being mentored by Giorgis.
“As a coach, you could coach a team that’s never won, or you can coach a team that’s expected to win, all different things; here, I’ve been able to do most of that,” she said. “We have had young teams, we’ve coached teams very veteran, we’ve coached teams riddled with injuries, and we also have coached through a pandemic.”
The various experiences have shaped her coaching style, as she aims to learn from and reflect upon what her team did well and what they can improve upon. Doughty also harped on how being an assistant forces you to raise one question many times: what would I do if I were the head coach?
“Sometimes, as an assistant, you can’t change those things,” she said. “But you can take a mental note and say, ‘if I were head coach, I probably would have done this,’ or ‘maybe I would have handled that a little differently.’ Those are the things I have tried to do throughout my career and not just the last few years.”
Doughty knows better than anyone how impactful Giorgis’ legacy has been on both the program and herself as a person. However, with Giorgis being at Marist for 20-plus years (with Doughty present in each of those years one way or another), many have wondered whether there will be noticeable changes in coaching style, recruiting methods, and other facets of the operations, or if she plans on sticking with Giorgis’ methodology.
“He’s taught me almost all of my basketball [knowledge], and it’s clearly been proven effective, so the basketball piece, I don’t think we’ll change much,” said Doughty. “Obviously, the game is always changing, and the athletes are bigger, better, and stronger, so we will make adjustments, of course.”
Even though the game itself is changing and there is room for improvement always, Doughty vows to remain true to herself and her own coaching style.
“I also have to be myself in the new position as well,” said Doughty. “[Giorgis] and I are different, and I think that’s why it worked so well.”
With Giorgis soon retiring after 21 years and stepping down as head coach of the Red Foxes, his outstanding career is undoubtedly one to remember; however, Doughty is more than capable and prepared to take on her new, deserved title.
Edited by Luke Sassa and Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics