Marist's Brian Giorgis has the winning formula
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Brian Giorgis has only coached at two schools, and both were in a fairly quiet town on the banks of the Hudson River. Poughkeepsie suits the habitual coach, who gave up his daily Diet Coke from McDonald's for Lent this year.
He doesn't wear the handmade suits of upwardly mobile NCAA coaches who see their mid-level major job as the first in a series. Giorgis, a New York native, considers himself home at Marist, where the doors to a hive of coaches' offices open off the second story of the pool at the McCann Center.
"It would take a lot [to leave] and I'm not talking in terms of money," Giorgis said.
Marist will head to Durham, N.C., this weekend to play Iowa State as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament. The Red Foxes have a 26-game winning streak in place, the best currently in their sport, and are ranked No. 17 in the nation in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Over the past three decades, Giorgis has managed to find a winning formula that might start attracting the offers he said just haven't ever come.
Giorgis started out with great deal of success at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie -- the girls' basketball team was propelled into the national rankings in his final season (2001-02) as coach. Now in his ninth year coaching the Marist women, Giorgis is preparing to make his seventh trip to the NCAA tournament.
At both schools, Giorgis put together squads that became so good they regularly routed league opponents. Certainly when he coached in New York's Section 1 against smaller schools in Westchester and Putnam counties. Giorgis posted an 451-44 record in his 19 seasons at Lourdes and won nine state championships.
Giorgis' career path wasn't exactly intentional. He graduated from SUNY Cortland and came to Poughkeepsie in search of a job. He started teaching health and later biology at Lourdes, and when the junior varsity baseball team needed a coach, he stepped up. When the girls' basketball team had a vacancy, he took that position too, despite never having coached a girls' team.
Giorgis also guided the softball and volleyball teams at Lourdes and was the only coach in New York state history to take four teams to the state Final Four. His softball squad captured the state title in 1990. Additionally, Giorgis coached golf and tennis and served as the athletic director for 10 years.
Basketball was his first sport. He played as a youth. But after getting a glimpse of his 7-foot counselors at Willis Reed's basketball camp, Giorgis realized the limits inherent in his 5-foot-9 frame. He decided to coach, but after a difficult season with the baseball team, Giorgis decided he didn't want to coach boys again. He realized his style just fit better with his girls' teams.
"It wasn't about style points and who looked better," Giorgis said. "It was about what they could do to win games."
And at the collegiate level, it is rare to see a non-BCS school sustain a winning streak longer than the four-year tenure of an extraordinary group of recruits. But Giorgis has always managed to find the kind of players he needed -- from the Viani sisters and Kristin Keller at Lourdes to Erica Allenspach and Rachele Fitz at Marist.
Giorgis says he doesn't try to be his players' best friend. That's a job he lets his assistants take on. He is disciplinarian, the demanding one. He is dedicated to his teams. Never married, Giorgis has poured his energy into coaching, which can be intimidating to women he has dated.
His memories of seeing Marist reach the Sweet 16 in 2007 are vivid. For a mid-major program, it's pretty special. Giorgis thinks it would be nearly impossible for a small school like his to win the NCAA tournament.
That doesn't mean, however, that Marist isn't going to try.