As human beings, we are often averse to change.
Change comes at all different levels, something as little as mixing up your daily routine or something as monumental as moving across the country for a new job and a fresh start in life.
On Saturday, a massive change in the Marist women’s basketball program became official. Out went Brian Giorgis, as he and his 463 wins and 11 MAAC titles departed for a retirement that is sure to be full of golf and memorabilia collecting, and in came Erin Doughty, the team’s associate head coach since 2018, who has been with the now-former head coach every step of the way.
In some ways, this change is small. As a Giorgis disciple, there are sure to be pillars of the program that remain the same.
But on another level, it’s a massive departure from the norm that has been established over the last two decades. Doughty is a young head coach and avid recruiter who should be more equipped to handle the chaos of the transfer portal.
Love it or hate it, the portal is a game that all coaches, willingly or unwillingly, have to play.
This offseason hasn’t been nearly as crazy as last year, which saw both Marist basketball programs lose several players to the portal. So far, Julianna Bonilla is the only women’s player to enter the portal and did so after completing her senior season in Poughkeepsie.
But the program offset that departure with the very recent addition of 6-foot-5 center Morgan Lee who entered the transfer portal after her freshman season at Georgetown University. Lee, like fellow post player Maeve Donnelly, is an example of a prospect that Marist initially recruited, didn’t get, but ended up signing from the portal.
Lee took to social media to announce her decision late on Friday night. While the Kent, CT product only played sparingly for the Hoyas, her size and power conference experience should serve well for the program.
While the addition is exciting, the Red Foxes are going to need to do more to take the step they need to contend next season. Doughty takes charge of a program that is in the middle of its worst two-year stretch since the two seasons before Giorgis took charge in 2002.
It would be fair to say that followers of the program were spoiled by the success the Red Foxes experienced on a year-in, year-out basis. But now, after seeing several of the same issues that plagued the team in 2021-22 in this past season, there are questions that Doughty and her staff will have to address.
It starts with the lack of depth on the current roster. Zaria Shazer and Kiara Fisher each had solid seasons, with Shazer posting a team-high 16 points per game and Fisher averaging a shade under 14.
With the departing Kendall Krick as the only other player to put up more than 10 per game, and no one else on the roster posting more than five points per contest.
While younger players like Morgan Tompkins, Catie Cunningham, and Jackie Piddock all showed flashes of potential during the season but couldn’t string together much consistency when called on to contribute.
With the team in real need of more scoring options next season, it’s worth asking if any of these players can make enough progress to be a real compliment to the Shazer-Fisher duo in 2023-24.
In addition to Lee, the Red Foxes will welcome two new recruits in the form of 5-foot-9 guard Julia Corsetino and 6-foot-2 forward Kate Robbins.
It would be a pleasant surprise if those freshmen could contribute right away but the program is in need of another instant-impact player.
While Marist didn’t shoot quite as bad as it did two seasons ago, the Red Foxes still only made 28 percent of their looks from outside with Fisher and Krick being the only volume three-point shooters to hit above 30 percent.
The transfer portal could provide a plug-and-play shooter that could slot seamlessly into a starting or bench role.
With her promotion, Doughty also has to fill a vacancy on the coaching staff. While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone with Marist connections get the job, it will also be important that the new hire is also a solid recruiter.
As it stands, the roster has the top-end talent to rival other schools in the league but the depth simply wasn’t there this season. In years past, any different number of Marist players on a given Red Foxes team could make you pay. Recently, that hasn’t been the case.
So Doughty takes charge at a crucial time for the program. One where the Marist women’s basketball brand is in flux. The Red Foxes have lost their place at the perennial top of the league and it’s not going to be easy to get back to the peak.
But when it came to the question of who Giorgis’s successor would be, Doughty was the clear answer. Giorgis campaigned for her in public and in private, and now, the journey that began when she walked on to the team ahead of the 2002-03 season has culminated in this.
Doughty doesn’t take over a rebuild project, but she does take over a Marist program that is looking to recapture its old identity.
Or perhaps forge one that is reflective of its new leader.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Jonathan Kinane