Earlier this week, Noontime Sports caught up with Bentley University’s women’s basketball head coach Barbara Stevens, who recently earned her 700th win with the Falcons.
Stevens, who has amassed over 800 wins in her career, has guided her squad to a 6-0 mark, as well as a 5-0 record in the Northeast-10 Conference.
On Saturday, the Falcons will welcome Stonehill College to their home court for an important matchup against the 8-0 Skyhawks, which is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.
Below is our conversation with Stevens on her historic win, as well as the season thus far.
Last weekend, you earned your 700th win as the head coach at Bentley. Can you describe the emotions you experienced after the final buzzer sounded?
“I hate to make it sound like it wasn’t anything, but honestly it really wasn’t. I never go into any games thinking this game is more meaningful than any other. It truly is all about the team and our progress and that’s really all we were focusing on [Saturday], and that honestly is all that we continue to focus on. I’m not one that likes to see what numbers are being accumulated, I don’t even know to be perfectly honest where we are in terms of those types of things, but honestly there’s so much involved in this game that requires teamwork and many people executing what you want to execute in order for things to go well. It is really not about me, it has never been and nor will it ever be.”
Two years ago, you earned your 800th win as a head coach, so did last weekend’s victory have any similarities to the win against C.W. Post?
“I hate to diminish it, but I never even really thought about it. After the game [on Saturday] the Southern New Hampshire folks were gracious enough to make an announcement and their coach gave me the game ball, but up until that point it really was not even a thought in my mind. Our players when we went back into the locker room after the game put up a sign that they had made, and it was great. I appreciate everyone’s attention and everyone’s recognition of that achievement, but honestly that’s not where I am when it comes to stuff like that.”
Looking back on your 27 years as a head coach with the Falcons, what has been the key to all your success? Your team has averaged roughly 26-27 wins per season, so what’s the secret formula?
“I wish I could bottle up the magic formula because then I’d sell it, but honestly I don’t know other than that we try to recruit obviously good players, but good character kids too. We don’t have to babysit, we don’t have to worry about them, so instead we can worry about the things we need to worry about. [We target] young women that you know are going to be self-motivated and want the same goals that we want, and I think that makes it easy for us as coaches. Obviously being here as long as I have been here there are certain things that we do and certain standards that we want to adhere to and that really hasn’t changed as much as the times and styles and what’s in vogue. Ultimately there gets to be kind of a baseline of what I expect out of our players, and I think the one thing I always try to put ahead of everything else is that the ultimate goal is to get these young women to graduate from Bentley and go onto a successful career.”
Your junior class has experienced a lot of success over the past two seasons. This year, they’ve been key to your team’s perfect mark, too. Can you talk about recruiting some of these players, as well as how they’ve made an impact on your team?
“The recruiting of our current junior class, which includes Lauren Battista, Jacqui Brugliera and Christiana Bakolas was probably one of the biggest reasons why we have experienced this upsurge of success over the last few years. I think that Lauren, Jacqui and Christiana are all quality people. They pay attention to everything they are supposed to do on and off the court. They’re great students and they want to be good at everything they do, so having those three as not only leaders in your program, but also the best achievers in the sense of what they bring every night is really good. It has helped us establish a mentality that we are going to be successful at what we do because they work at it, but also because they are committed to it. They want to be good and they are not afraid of hard work.
“When you don’t have to search for someone to have to step up every day when you walk into practice, there there is consistency of effort, which helps. It [also] sets a great tone for each class that comes in afterward, but we had that prior to them coming, too. We had kids who knew what hard work was going to result in, and so even those three as freshmen learned that they had that stuff, they had those qualities within them, but even they understand how we do things when they came in as players.”
Talk about the season thus far. Do you feel you’re squad is off to a good start?
“Record wise, yes. Quality of play, no. I think we can be much better. We’ve had glimpses of what I would consider to be acceptable play in what we’re looking for in every game, but we haven’t put a 40-minute performance together yet. And that is me [because] I am one that will walk in after a win and start picking on them for the things that went wrong because its just kind of how I am. I think we set a particular standard of excellence here that is very difficult for our teams to really reach, but at the same time I do feel we made some progress [against Franklin Pierce on Tuesday]. It really is kind of more about us and the progress we’re making that I really focus on as opposed to [looking ahead to Saturday]. I know we have a big game with Stonehill College coming up, it is still December, so we’ve got a long way to go, so I am not disappointed in where we are by any means, but my thing is lets improve every day, lets get better every day, lets not take steps backwards. I think there was maybe a mistake in feeling on everyone’s part including my own because of which we had coming back after last year’s successes that it would be like riding a bike, but we’ve had some initial struggles, we haven’t clicked like we liked, we’ve had some days where I think we haven’t practiced the way we need to practice to achieve our goals, so I would call us a work in progress and hopefully [we can get] going pretty quickly, but I do think [Tuesday] was a step in the right direction.”
Finally, looking ahead to Saturday’s game against Stonehill College, what’re the keys to victory?
“Well, I have tremendous respect for what Stonehill is doing this year. They were a team that was very, very young last year, and they’re still young. There are a lot of sophomores on that team, but last year I think they had some growing pains in terms of just youth and inexperience, which reflected on their record, but this year they’re obviously [exhibiting] one more year of being able to play together and understanding Coach Trisha Brown’s system. They’re good, they execute well, they have the ability to score in every position, and they play defense, so they’ll have us scouted down to what we have for breakfast. So, it will be a game [where] both teams will kind of know what the other team is trying to do, but at the same time it is going to comedown to obviously execution, adjustments that will be made during the game, and I think defense is going to be something we’re going to be harping on our kids for our preparation, as well as just letting our players have the ability to do what they do. We’ve been having issues sometimes with spacing on the floor and I think we’ve just got to improve on that and make sure that we’re doing the things we need to win the game.”