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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

FIORENTINO: Kieger should garner national attention

Second-year head coach should be in Coach of the Year conversation
Photo by Doug Peters/[email protected]

Should the winningest team always warrant a coach of the year award? For perennial winning programs like Connecticut, Tennessee and Notre Dame, what percentage of winning should be credited to a coach, rather than the talent of the players?

Marquette women’s basketball head coach Carolyn Kieger won’t be the winningest head coach in basketball this year and doesn’t have the best talent. She has a borderline NIT team and a prayer of earning a ticket to the big dance, but she deserves to be in the National Coach of the Year conversation.

Last season, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma recruited Katie Lou Samuelson, the top recruit in the country, and a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin. It begs the question, does that make Geno the best coach, or best recruiter? Kieger, with only one season under her belt, watched three of her freshmen transfer and four seniors graduate, leaving her with two players.

How can a coach be expected to improve a 4-14 conference record with two players? You can recruit like Auriemma. Kieger brought in six freshmen who play regularly, four in ESPN’s Top 100. She also recruited three international players, giving her a total of nine newcomers on the roster. Despite the great recruiting class, the BIG EAST coaches predicted a ninth place finish in the preseason poll, five of seven Wire reporters picked them eigth or worse and Anonymous Eagle said, “I think it’s something of an accomplishment that they weren’t a unanimous choice to finish last.”

The difference between the two coaches? Kieger develops her players like no coach I’ve ever seen. Auriemma begins and ends the year with the best players. Kieger started with “average” talent and has worked to make Marquette relevant in the BIG EAST. Her team is riding a five-game win streak and sits at .500 for the first time in nearly two years. Freshman Allazia Blockton is third in the BIG EAST in scoring and fourth in rebounding, freshman Erika Davenport leads the league in field goal percentage and junior McKayla Yentz is first with 55 three-pointers made.

The only area where Kieger’s team has struggled this year is on the road, with eight losses. The only bad loss, a 31-point defeat at Seton Hall, is especially notable considering the Golden Eagles beat them 28 days later by seven points. Additionally, seven of Marquette’s 11 losses are by only seven points or less.

Recruiting? Check. Development? Check. Winning record? On her way. You may disagree that Carolyn Kieger has earned a spot in the conversation as coach of the year, but one thing is certain: There’s a new Coach K pacing the sidelines.

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  • S

    SavFeb 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Kieger aside, anyone who doesn’t understand what Auriemma does for his team doesn’t watch the team or get the game. His own peers would laugh at any insinuation he isn’t the best coach in the game.