Sitting at the podium in the press center of Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Marist women’s basketball head coach Brian Giorgis was angry with himself.
The man who made himself a legend in Poughkeepsie was upset that he decided to keep full-court pressing after it helped turn a 43-30 deficit in the third quarter into a 46-all tie in the early stages of the fourth against Rider.
His Red Foxes ended up running out of gas in a 63-50 loss to a Broncs team that played above the 10-seed-caliber basketball they were labeled with entering the MAAC tournament.
“I wasn’t smart enough to take the press off when I needed to,” Giorgis said. “We came all the way back and I needed to take it off. The one side of my head, the devil side, was saying ‘keep it up, keep it up, you’re back in the game.’ It wasn’t listening to the little angel on the other side that was saying ‘they’re exhausted out there.’”
In the uncertain atmosphere of March, when you’re battling to live another day, losses can be especially tough to process considering that so much of the focus is on surviving and advancing. Only about 20 minutes after the buzzer that ended his coaching career at Marist was Giorgis clear-minded and in a reflective mood.
“Fortunately in my career, I haven’t been down a lot,” Giorgis said. “I haven’t had to make comebacks like that.”
It’s been said countless times in different publications over the last few weeks, but Giorgis molded the program from a small-conference struggler into a flagship mid-major team.
Under his leadership, winning became an expectation, something many fans took for granted. After two tough seasons, maybe they can sit back, put things into perspective, and realize just how good they had it for so many seasons.
In the press conference, the emotion was there, but mostly from the players.
“The biggest testament (to what Giorgis means) is that we all just came from being in the locker room and bawling our eyes out,” said Zaria Shazer, who finished 2022-23 as the team’s leading scorer. “We just know how impactful he’s been.”
The emotion got to her again, but she was still able to finish her answer with “he’s just a really great coach and a really great guy and we’re gonna miss him.”
“He gave me a chance,” said Catie Cunningham, who came on strong at the end of the season. “I was just a kid from Syracuse without many offers and he took a chance on me. I’m definitely very grateful for that.”
While his final home game and subsequent ceremony at the McCann Center offered a chance to look back on the good times of the last few decades, there was an air of finality as he looked back one more time after Tuesday’s loss.
“These guys have been my family,” he said. “The Marist group and the Lourdes group have all been my family. I’ve never had the fortune to be married or have kids. These guys have been my kids. When people ask me if I have kids, I say, ‘Yeah I have 13 of them and I need to give them back at the end of May.’”
Giorgis likened himself to his father, who he used to call “Attila the Hun” at home. Eventually, his dad mellowed out. Eventually, son did the same.
Yes, he admits that the NCAA’s new transfer rules played a part in showing his softer side. But that’s what happens. Things change and people have to adapt.
Even though the last two seasons were challenging, Marist is still a proud program that expects to win much more than it loses.
“If I set a standard for somebody, I guess that’s nice,” he said. “But I have my own set of standards for the program and I know Erin (Doughty) will carry that out.”
Giorgis is likely still upset with himself over not taking the press off when Marist got back into it against the Broncs. And while he probably won’t take a student reporter’s opinion for much, he shouldn’t dwell on it. Most coaches would’ve done the same thing. He’s only human.
Unfortunately, the nature of college basketball means that pretty much every season and every career ends with a loss. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s not the point.
What matters is the two decades’ worth of memories and magical runs that Giorgis brought to Marist. What matters is the good he’s done for women’s basketball, not just in the MAAC, but across the entire landscape.
With a retirement soon to be full of golf, memorabilia collecting, and whichever other hobbies he picks up along the way, Giorgis summed it up in a few words.
“It’s been a wonderful ride, but now it’s time to ride off into the sunset.”
Edited by Dan Aulbach
Photo from Jonathan Kinane