Stability and culture change are front and centre for rebuilding program
After three coaches in five years, the Huskies women’s basketball team finally has stability.
To be sure, there were growing pains during head coach Warren Williams’s first season at the helm. Neither team nor coach were happy with their 1-8 record heading into the holiday break.
The squad responded to their listless first half of the season with a furious charge down the stretch, which saw George Brown go 4-4 in the new year and narrowly miss the playoffs. It was here that Williams’s vision began to come to fruition.
“I thought it was a good season, a good introduction to implementing a new culture here at George Brown,” said Williams. “We did a lot of things that we really wanted to accomplish.”
Among those early checkboxes? Introducing an up-tempo style and trying to hold the team to a certain standard of play, game in and game out. But in a program featuring so much turnover as of late, affirming that coach and institution were the right fit for one another may have been paramount.
The results have been good so far. According to manager of athletics and recreation, Melanie Gerin-Lajoie, Williams’s emphasis on culture and team dynamic align with the values she wants guiding not just the varsity program, but the department as a whole.
The women’s head coach also has a warm relationship with his counterpart, men’s team coach, Jonathan Smith. This is in no small part due to their both possessing the “urge to win” Gerin-Lajoie wants to bring back to George Brown—an urge balanced with developing people first.
“They’re great as heads of our basketball program, because they’re both so passionate about the sport,” said Gerin-Lajoie. “They’re passionate about coaching, they’re passionate about their athletes succeeding on and off the court, and so I think they balance each other very well.”
Next season’s team will deal with a number of departures, among them George Brown women’s basketball all-time leading scorer Angel Mbikay. With that said, Williams is looking to augment the “great core” he has coming back, one including Ontario Colleges Athletic Association’s (OCAA) first-team all-star Tianna Sullivan and OCAA all-rookie Kiyann Grimaldo.
“As far as recruiting, we want to get athletic,” said Williams. “Our style is pressure, pressure, pressure. We talk about no-huddle basketball, we talk about creating chaos, so we really want to get some more athletes in to compliment what we already have.”
Given their strong finish to the season, expectations will be raised in 2017-18. With that in mind, Mbikay’s advice to next year’s Huskies was simple.
“Just come in with the fight, just keep it going.”
Photos from Feb. 18, when George Brown’s women’s basketball team took on the St. Lawrence Vikings in Kingston. Playing for their playoff lives, the Huskies pushed their undefeated hosts to the brink, ultimately falling 71-67 after one of George Brown’s best games of the season. In her final game as a Husky, Angel Mbikay (11, top) became the all-time leading scorer in George Brown women’s basketball history. After five seasons, the fearless 5’7″ guard ended her collegiate career with 584 total points, averaging 10.1 per game in her final year.