Adair Departs After 2nd Straight Postseason Appearance
After several seasons of inconsistent play that ultimately resulted in four coaches over the past six years, the 2016-17 women’s basketball season improved its win total for the second straight season.
The team followed up its 16-14 overall record the previous season with a 17-13 record and an identical 9-9 record in the Big East.
Furthermore, the team managed to make its second consecutive appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, a significant improvement from securing only four wins in former Head Coach Natasha Adair’s first season in 2014-15. Adair eventually left the head coaching position at the end of last season.
The Hoyas returned some of their most talented players from 2015 in then-junior guard Dorothy Adomako and then-sophomore guard Dionna White and saw increased production from then junior forward Faith Woodard.
Head Coach James Howard, who served as the associate head coach last season, cited an added emphasis on defense as a main reason for last season’s improvement, evidenced by the Hoyas surrendering only 63 points per game. Additionally, only four seniors departed from the campaign prior, which allowed the teammates to have a better understanding of how to play with each other.
“Chemistry, defensive toughness — a lot of teams in our conference love to score the ball,” Howard said. “Defense and chemistry all comes together because if you’re not talking, if you’re missing a rotation or if you’re late on this rebound, then all of that is just going to add up to more points.”
Yet early on, the Hoyas struggled out of the gate, as they dropped two of their first three games. However, the team kicked it into gear quickly, winning seven straight games in the remainder of their nonconference schedule. One of the highlights of this stretch included a 23-point, eight-rebound performance by Woodard against Wright State (24-8, 15-3 Horizon).
Woodard’s consistently high level of output during the season earned her high praise from the coaching staff. Howard noted that replacing Woodard would be a tall task.
“That’s one of the questions that I wrestle with every day. Faith and her length at 6-foot-2, athletic, the way she ran the floor, the way she rebounded the basketball, is going to be hard to replace; she’s a kid that averaged 14-something points a game, and she knew the Big East,” Howard said.
However, the Hoyas fell back to Earth at the start of conference play, as they stumbled to a 0-4 record in the Big East, including blowout losses to DePaul (26-7, 16-2 Big East) and Villanova (16-14, 11-7 Big East).
Senior guard DiDi Burton attributed the early conference struggles to playing on the road, an area where the team needs to improve going forward.
“I definitely think that that’s going to help us in the long run,” Burton said. “Because every time we went to play in the Big East conference and things like that, we were on the road. So we have to be acclimated to being in different atmospheres and being able to stick together.”
The women managed to regain their composure in the next seven games, as they tallied six wins. The team displayed a balanced attack on both ends of the floor, allowing only one team to score 70 points on them during this stretch, even holding rival Villanova to 49 points.
Moreover, the team put up point totals largely in the high 60’s and 70’s. These games starkly contrasted the efforts of the four-game losing streak, as the Hoyas gave up well over 70 points per game and threw in two 50-point offensive clunkers.
This efficiency on both ends of the floor would subside yet again when the Hoyas fell into a slump that caused them to end the regular season 3-4 in their last seven games.
To make matters worse, their dreams of playing in the NCAA Tournament were officially squashed after falling to Marquette (25-7, 13-5 Big East) in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. However, the Hoyas were rewarded for their efforts with a trip to their second straight WNIT appearance.
Unfortunately, the excitement of postseason play was short-lived, as the sixth-seeded Hoyas were upstaged by Fordham (21-11, 11-5 Atlantic 10) 60-49 in McDonough Arena, ending the team’s season.
Just months after the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign, Adair left for the head coaching position at Delaware, and Associate Head Coach James Howard assumed the Georgetown head coaching position soon after. Hiring in-house demonstrated the university’s desire to keep a degree of continuity in the program after several years of turnover.
Howard sees himself as a player’s coach, which he feels was instrumental in his promotion.
“I think that’s what players like about me, and that’s why they went and recommended me because I’m there,” Howard said.
Howard feels confident about the communication between the players and coaches.
“They’re on the same page with our vision of what we’re trying to accomplish this year,” Howard said. “By me still being around, they know that that dream is still alive. And that dream was to continue that success.”
Howard also wants to build on what was laid down before him and take that next step, but he also realizes the challenges that may come along the way.
“We’re hoping that this will be the breakout year — that maybe it’s not the NIT, maybe it is the NCAA — but it’s going to take a lot of time, commitment and health and chemistry to get us there,” Howard said.