McCann Arena brimmed with pomp and circumstance Saturday afternoon as the Marist womens basketball program honored head coach Brian Giorgis at his final home game before retirement.
A near-capacity crowd was on hand to watch the conclusion of Girogis’ 21-year career at Marist, a career that included 11 MAAC conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances. Among those in attendance were former players, notable alumni, and members of Giorgis’s family.
The proceedings started with a ceremony ten minutes prior to tipoff. A group of school officials including Marist College President Kevin Weinman and Director of Athletics Tim Murray presented Giorgis with a red fox-themed golf bag, a nod to one of the honoree’s main hobbies.
Members of Giorgis’s extended family then joined him out on the court, posing for a group photo before watching the unfurling of a banner in his honor. After the pregame ceremony concluded, the crowd greeted the coach with a standing ovation as he led the pregame huddle.
The Red Foxes faced off against Niagara in Giorgis’ penultimate home game, ultimately falling 74-56 to a team coached by former Marist assistant coach Jada Pierce, who coached with Giorgis from 2006-2007. The game seemed almost secondary to the celebration of Giorgis’ career, with numerous ceremonies and the “Thank you Coach Giorgis” shirts worn by players and cheerleaders marking the occasion.
After the final buzzer sounded, the entirety of McCann Arena stayed glued to their seats in anticipation of Giorgis’ speech to the crowd. The lights dimmed as Giorgis took to the center of the court, and he stood there taking it all in while illuminated by a dramatic spotlight.
Slowly, players past and present began filing out onto the floor by the dozens to send off the man who had so heavily influenced their athletic careers. Countless hugs were exchanged while a highlight reel played in the background over the arena’s video boards.
Once the highlights commenced, Giorgis began his address, seemingly overcome with emotion at times. He thanked everyone who played a role in his success at the College, including former players, the fans, and even the school marching band.
“It’s been a wonderful ride, it really has,” Giorgis said, reflecting on his journey.
Upon completing his public address, Giorgis made his way to a press conference in the McCann arena cafe. He once again reflected on many of the experiences and skills he learned over the course of his coaching career.
“I learned from [my players] every day,” Giorgis said. “You can’t treat everybody the same. There’s different people, you can push buttons that are different buttons than somebody else… You’ve gotta find people that respond to different things.”
From there, Giorgis along with hundreds of fans, former players, and school officials made their way to the McCann auxiliary gym for an extended postgame ceremony. The proceedings were emceed by Geoff Brault, the voice of Marist womens basketball, who introduced the many people giving congratulatory speeches.
First to the podium was Marist College President Kevin Weinman, who announced Dutchess County had declared Feb. 25 to be a holiday known as Brian Giorgis Day. He then touched upon many of Giorgis’ leadership qualities and what set him apart as a coach.
“Brian has been one of the best educators that I’ve been fortunate enough to know,” Weinman said. “Yes, Brian is well known as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches that college basketball has ever known… but I think his greatest legacy will be how he was such a part of the growth and development of thousands of student-athletes.”
Following Weinman was Director of Athletics Tim Murray, the man responsible for hiring Giorgis 21 years ago. Murray retold the tale of his hiring before later announcing Giorgis will be an official nominee for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame for 2023.
Above all, Murray emphasized that Giorgis will always have a place at Marist.
“You will always be welcome here at Marist and in the McCann center because this is the program that you built,” Murray said.
Once Murray finished his remarks, the focus shifted to Giorgis’s high school coaching career at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic high school in Poughkeepsie. A former player of his, Karen Lounsbury, touted his illustrious 19-year career coaching womens basketball and numerous other sports at the high school level while reflecting on some of her fondest memories of her former coach.
The next speaker to address the crowd was MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor, who was also honored with a ceremony during the game for his upcoming retirement after 35 years of leading the MAAC. Ensor emphasized just how important of a role Giorgis played in uplifting the entire athletic conference.
“I think all the coaches in the MAAC would say you elevated us all,” Ensor said. “The effort you put into raising the game and the success you’ve demonstrated showed all the other schools that if you just put some time and effort into it, you will achieve great success equal to any other sport.”
Ensor was followed by Tony Bozzella, the former head coach of Iona womens basketball and current head coach of Seton Hall. Bozzella joked about still remaining friends with Giorgis despite his Iona team suffering 28 straight losses to Marist during his tenure, while also stressing that many programs would give anything to have the type of success Marist had under Giorgis’ leadership.
Other speakers included 2021 team captains Allie Best and Willow Duffell, as well as 2012-13 and 2013-14 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Leanne Ockenden, who noted how Giorgis taught her the importance of loyalty and building relationships with her teammates.
“He has always instilled the importance of family within our program over the past 20+ years,” Ockenden said. “And I truly believe that is one of the main reasons why our teams were so powerful and so successful.”
The final speaker to take to the podium before Giorgis was Erin Doughty, the next head coach of Marist womens basketball. Doughty told stories ranging from her playing days at Marist under Giorgis to working as an assistant for him, to now preparing to step into his shoes.
“Like myself, many of us attribute much of who we are today and where our lives have gone to our time here at Marist and [to Giorgis],” she said. “He has equipped us with skills and tools that have helped us through life in ways we probably don’t even realize.”
Wrapping up the ceremony was the man of the hour, who once again was greeted by thunderous applause. He stood triumphant yet humble, making sure to thank everyone who had played a role in his achievements.
He attributed much of his successes to his family, his players, and the many Dutchess County families he came to know and love over the years.
“It takes a lot of people to have the success that we’ve had,” Giorgis said.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Luke Sassa