Terri Williams-Flournoy liked her 2008-09 Georgetown women's basketball team. But she disliked, sometimes intensely, the Hoyas' style of play.
Too slow, too half-court, too darn dull.
As head coach, Williams-Flournoy knew she was the primary culprit. She had strayed from her up-tempo roots, planted on the Peninsula, and most important, had not adjusted to her personnel.
So prior to their first-round Women's NIT game against Winthrop, Williams-Flournoy shifted the quick, undersized Hoyas into overdrive.
"I told them, 'If you can't push the ball, you're not going to play,' " she said.
The dividends were immediate — Georgetown won three games to reach the tournament's quarterfinals — but paled to those reaped this season.
Fueled in large measure by freshman guard Sugar Rodgers of Suffolk's King's Fork High, the Hoyas set a school record for victories with 26, tied for second behind unbeatable Connecticut in the Big East and earned their first NCAA tournament invite in 17 years.
In the process, Georgetown won 16 consecutive games, advanced to the second round of the NCAAs and defeated No. 4 Notre Dame — the highest-ranked opponent the Hoyas ever have beaten — in front of an overflow home crowd of 2,417 at McDonough Arena.
"Our kids bought into playing defense," Williams said after arriving in town for her big brother's recruiting gala, the Boo Williams Spring Invitational. "Nobody wants to play defense. Everybody wants to play offense. But if we didn't turn the other team over 25 times, they were disappointed."
Indeed, the Hoyas forced 24 turnovers per game, leading the Big East in average steals (13) and turnover margin (plus-8). Their full-court pressure reminded Williams-Flournoy of the Georgetown men's glory days under John Thompson.
While Hoyas men's basketball has long thrived, the women have long struggled, a 1993 Big East championship and NCAA Sweet 16 appearance aside. A graduate of Phoebus High (1987) and Penn State, where she played for renowned coaches Mike Tallon and Rene Portland, Williams-Flournoy was a low-level assistant on Georgetown's '93 squad, so she knew the program's potential.
But when Williams-Flournoy took over as the Hoyas' head coach after assistant stints at Georgia and Missouri State, colleagues wondered.
"Everybody thought it was a tough job, maybe even a graveyard job," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "But she's turned it into a place kids talk about. Before, you never heard kids mention Georgetown in recruiting. Now you do."
At the highest levels, too. Rodgers, a 5-foot-11 guard, was a national-caliber prospect and this season she led the Hoyas in scoring (17.6), steals (88) and minutes (30.8 per game), earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors.
Next season two more former Boo Williams players enroll at Georgetown, guard Samisha Powell from Virginia Beach's Princess Anne High and forward Andrea White from Lancaster. Add those recruits to a roster that loses only two significant contributors, and you see a program that might be built for the long haul.
"The hardest part of next year will be getting them to understand we are no longer a secret," Williams-Flournoy said. "We are no longer the hunter. We are the hunted."
Except, perhaps, against two-time defending national champion Connecticut. The Huskies beat the visiting Hoyas 84-62 in the teams' only meeting, that in late February.
Still, Georgetown's 13-3 Big East mark was by far the best in the Williams-Flournoy era, bettering the 7-9 of 2005 and '09. The Hoyas cracked the top 25 for the first time in 15 years, success their coach attributes to the 2009 WNIT surge.
"They got a taste of winning, and they liked it," Williams-Flournoy said.
This weekend Williams-Flournoy is bunking at her mom's house for some quality time and home cooking. Back in Maryland are her husband, Eric, an FBI agent, and their children, 9-year-old Maya and 6-year-old Eric Jr.
At the SportsPlex that carries her brother's name, Williams-Flournoy is evaluating the next generation while also accepting congratulations from peers.
"It's been remarkable what she's done," Landers said, "turning Georgetown into a legitimate top-20, top-15 team in such a short time."
And during Williams-Flournoy's time on his staff, 1996-2002, did Landers sense her head-coaching potential?
"Those (assistants) who are going to be successful head coaches start acting like it," he said. "They start telling you what to do, and I enjoy that. That's not an act of disrespect or disloyalty. That's a maturing of opinion and confidence, and Terri had it."
Yet after 12-16, 10-17 and 13-16 records in her first three seasons at Georgetown, Williams-Flournoy began to doubt. Subsequent years of 15-14, 20-14 and 26-7 have assuaged those doubts.
"I knew we would be good," she said, "but I can't lie. I didn't know we'd be this good."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
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