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Seymore puts Friars on right path

From the outside looking in, Phil Seymore has constructed quite a turnaround for the Providence women's basketball team.

The Canisius College Hall of Famer and former Turner-Carroll boys basketball coach has taken the Friars from pitiful to competitive in just two seasons.

Two years ago, Providence was 1-27 and had not won a Big East conference game in two years.

Last season, the Friars went 9-19 overall with three Big East wins.

Then came this season, when the team handed then-undefeated and 13th-ranked Louisville a 106-94 loss in double overtime.

"That was a signature win for our program," Seymore said. "When you looked at where we were and where we are now, the program has changed drastically. . . . That win was a good win for us, but we all have to understand that you don't arrive that fast. There's a lot more work to do."

The Friars are 12-9 overall this season but their 2-6 mark in the Big East is well below where they would like to be.

"We've been up and down with our consistency and with injuries this year, just like a lot of other teams," Seymore said. "One of the big things when I took over was to get more talent. We've got some really great freshmen, but when they're not healthy, sometimes it's back to the old regime and we take a step back."

While Seymore is breathing new life into the Providence program, the women's program has breathed some new life into Seymore.

A former standout basketball player for Canisius in the early 1980s, Seymour was the head coach at Turner-Carroll for two years, directing the team to the 1989-90 Class C New York State Catholic School title. He spent seven years as an assistant coach at Canisius, including five under John Beilein before following Beilein to Richmond.

From there he landed at Providence in 2000 as an assistant to men's basketball coach Tim Welsh.

Seymore took over the women's team in 2005.

"When I took a step back to look at it, the job had everything I wanted," Seymore said. "I was starting to think of getting out of coaching, but when this opportunity came up, I found that it was everything I wanted.

"Sometimes when you look at it, you can ask where the prestige is, and your ego can get in the way. But when I looked at it, it really was everything I wanted.

"When other guys ask me about coaching women, I compare it to acting. You can act on a lot of different stages -- Broadway, movies, soap operas. There are a lot of ways to hone your craft. It's the same with coaching -- different stages where you can hone your craft."

Seymore has undergone a learning curve -- not just in becoming a Division I head coach for the first time but also in coaching women for the first time.

It started with addressing the needs of the program by emphasizing recruiting and bringing in more talented players. It continued with addressing the psychological components that go along with a 1-27 team, including working on trust, teamwork and confidence.

And through it all, he's had to become more aware of the nuances of coaching women, including things like paying more attention to emotions. In the end, he feels his time with the women's program has made him a more well-rounded person.

Which is why he felt Providence was the right place for him last year when his name was floated as a replacement for Mike MacDonald with the Canisius men's team.

Seymore did not interview for the Canisius position. Would he have been interested in the job?

"Maybe," he said. "But I've got a pretty good thing here. I'm very happy with the level of women's basketball that we're at, the money is good and I have a very supportive athletic director. It's really just a good fit."

Elsewhere, Siena and Gina Gastelli, another Canisius College Hall of Famer, continue to be a good fit, particularly after she received a vote of confidence from the athletics director.

In a story published in the Albany Times Union, Siena Director of Athletics John D'Argenio said the 17-year coach will remain in her position next season.

There were questions as to whether Castelli would return after her team started the season 1-8 -- the worst start in program history. The Saints are in danger of finishing with a losing record for the third straight year.

Siena (4-15, 3-6 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) makes its annual trip to Western New York this weekend, playing at Niagara at 7 p.m. Thursday and at Canisius at 2 p.m. Saturday.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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