When the Ithaca College women’s basketball team picked up a foul late in the third quarter during a game against William Smith College on Jan. 25, head coach Dan Raymond stood up from his seat in frustration, but he quickly sat back down. In his 19 years as head coach, Raymond has learned that the best tactic is keeping composure under pressure.
Even when his players made mistakes, Raymond portrayed a calm demeanor for the majority of the game, and the Bombers came out on top 64–58. Raymond said if he has an outburst toward his players, it hurts their performances. He said that he makes it known that the game is about what the team is doing on the court, not what the coaches are yelling from the sidelines.
“Earlier in my career, I rarely sat down in the course of a game,” Raymond said. “Now I rarely stand up. A lot of that is due to the fact that I want to make sure that our players understand that when they’re on the floor, it’s their game. They don’t always have to be looking at me.”
Raymond credits his ability to communicate positively with his players as a key factor to his team’s success throughout the years. With an overall record of 15–3 and 10–1 in the Liberty League so far this season, the Bombers have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with. Raymond has ended 13 out of his 18 previous seasons with 20 wins or more.
Raymond also said that the fact that he is a father of two daughters helps him to understand what his players need and how to help them.
“I understand what my role is in relation to our current students in regard to a coach-player, father-daughter relationship,” Raymond said. “I understand how that dynamic works.”
Raymond said his strategy is never consistent from year to year. He holds his players on each year’s team accountable to create an environment that they can thrive in.
“I feel like I’ve always tried to enable our players to take ownership of the team,” Raymond said. “I’ve given them a lot of responsibility, and along with that, the authority to make changes.”
Raymond said his goal as a coach is to educate his players and to prepare them for the real world off of the basketball court. He said the student athletes will have to make tough decisions later in life, and he hopes he is helping them to be able to handle those situations.
“I chose this profession because I want to be able to help college–age students to understand how to make good decisions,” Raymond said. “In the course of a game, they happen at lightning speed — life speed.”
Successful coaching strategies extend past the head coach and onto assistant coach Mary Kate Tierney. Tierney graduated from the college in 2014 and is now in her first season in her role. Raymond said that he appreciates Tierney’s attitude and energy and that he believes her recent experience as a collegiate athlete improves her credibility with the current players.
Senior guard Annie Giannone said Raymond and Tierney have a strong and trusting coaching relationship, which makes the team as a whole more cohesive. Giannone said Raymond is adaptable and can make quick changes. During this season, rather than having set plays, he has implemented changes within the offense to focus on adjusting to how the other teams’ defense sets up.
“He is very intelligent in the game of basketball, so I think just trusting that he’s gonna do what’s best for our team as a whole is huge,” Giannone said.
Giannone has started in all of the Bombers’ 18 games this season and has been averaging 9.8 points per game. She said that while wins are important for making it to the postseason and beyond, they don’t define the meaning of success. Giannone said that the success the team has had this season can also be measured by consistent improvement and personal victories.
The one–game–at–a–time mentality is something that is important to every member of the team, including coaches, Giannone said. She said that the way each team member thinks and executes together is more important to the team than what is on the scoreboard, which is what makes it so special.
“Looking at everyone on this team, looking at the freshmen, I know that the unselfishness is there,” Giannone said. “It’s something that you can’t teach, so I think that’s huge.”
Giannone said the chemistry within the team is what makes them successful. She said that without chemistry, there is no success because having friendship and bonds help the team to flow and function as a unit.
First-year players have been key to the team’s success this season, regardless of how many minutes they play, Giannone said. She said that the attitude and determination they bring to the team has been crucial.
Freshman guard Cara Volpe is one of the first–year players who has made an impact this season. Volpe has appeared in 14 of the team’s 18 games and is averaging 1.7 points per game. She also credits the team’s chemistry as being a big reason for its success on the basketball court.
“We’re all such good friends, not just on the court,” Volpe said. “When you’re playing with people you actually enjoy off the court, it makes everything on the court a lot easier.”
Volpe said she has enjoyed making memories with her teammates, in addition to the number of wins the team has earned. She said the team’s game against Bard College was one of her favorite moments.
“All of the freshmen got to play, and it was fun playing with other freshmen,” Volpe said. “Everyone on the roster scored that game. How excited everyone was for us just gave us a feeling that you can’t explain. Everyone wants you to succeed, and the fact that everyone on the roster scored was amazing.”
Volpe said she wants to work hard for the upperclassmen, specifically for seniors who are in their last season at the college. She said that the seniors deserve to win during their final season, and that makes everyone else want to work for the wins.
“How hard they want it and how hard they work makes you want it more,” Volpe said. “Not for yourself, but for them too.”
Sophomore guard Grace Cannon, who has started all 18 games this season, and is averaging 9.9 points per game, said every person on the team is able to contribute and is always ready to play. The number of talented players that they have is something that is unique.
“I think that we’re really deep,” Cannon said. “A lot of teams that we play have five or six girls who can play and for us, we have one through 19.”
Cannon said she and her teammates can feel that they are well–received across campus by everyone. She said it is important to know that other people care about what the team is doing and respect them.
“Just knowing that around campus we’re very well–respected as a team and as individuals is a great feeling,” Cannon said. “To know that you have the support from your faculty, peers and fellow athletes is a really good feeling.”