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Crowley makes smart changes

It's been a while since there's been this kind of buzz around the St. Bonaventure women's basketball team.

At 10-7, the Bonnies already have their first season of double-digit wins in five years. And although they began the Atlantic 10 season 0-2, they face the most difficult teams in the conference up front with their most winnable games coming in February.

But even more than a solid record, the Bonnies seem to be a different team.

They are more talented and athletic than any Bona team in recent memory. Void of stars, it's a team with great chemistry that has embraced the contributions of freshmen.

They're also just plain smart. With a fall semester grade-point average of 3.64, the team is full of good students whose basketball IQ has helped them absorb game strategies.

Their change in fortune in part stems from a change in philosophy from head coach Jim Crowley.

"A couple years ago I reassessed everything. My staff all had left and I reassessed how I wanted us to play and what we were looking for," he said. "We're a couple years into that and I feel good with where we're at. I like where our program has gone. We're looking at [recruiting] hardworking, good, solid kids who are Bonaventure kids."

Crowley, in his 11th season at St. Bonaventure, eschews the popular recruiting ratings system and instead recruits hoop-savvy players who will fit into the school's atmosphere.

Those staff changes refer to a tenuous time for Crowley. After the 2004-05 season there were allegations of sexual harassment within Crowley's staff. While Crowley himself was not involved in the allegations, he was suspended by the university during the investigation.

After being reinstated, he hired former Bona star Courtney Mattingly as an assistant coach along with Jesse Fleming, a former manager.

Last year was still a struggle: The Bonnies finished 9-19 overall and were last in the A-10 at 3-13.

There was speculation that Crowley's time in Olean was done, but then-Athletics Director Ron Zwierlein gave him a one-year contract extension.

Crowley also looked at his coaching style.

"At times I caught myself coaching angry and not teaching and I don't think anyone gets into this to not teach," Crowley said. "That's what I wanted to get back to. Sometimes I'm still not where I want to be as far as controlling my emotion and frustration and competitiveness. It's like anything, you work to get better."

With his contract due to expire at the end of the school year, this season becomes a referendum on Crowley.

The early results have been impressive. The Bonnies outplayed archrival Canisius -- at Canisius -- then beat Michigan at Ann Arbor during a six-game winning streak on the road.

Going 10-5 in nonconference games, combined with the team's GPA and clean image, should be enough to earn Crowley another contract.

"I got a chance to see the game in Ann Arbor . . . and I was very impressed with the way they played against a Big Ten team," incoming Athletics Director Steve Watson said. "They've been very exciting and entertaining to watch and their nonconference performance is very impressive. . . . Right now, it's too early to talk about contracts."

"I would love the opportunity to keep coaching these kids as they get older and better but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Crowley said. "I think we're in the best place we've been in a long time and I'd like to see it through."


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