As the rookie coach of the Towson women’s basketball team, Niki Reid Geckeler understands — anticipates, in fact — that there will be growing pains for her players and coaches in the upcoming season. But that does not mean she has any intention of lowering her expectations.
“You set a high bar from the beginning,” Reid Geckeler said at the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball media day, held at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore on Tuesday. “I think any college athlete that is competitive wants that. They want a coach that’s going to come in and challenge them on a day-to-day basis.”
Reid Geckeler’s assessment seems to be supported by her peers in the league. The conference’s nine head coaches picked the Tigers to finish fourth in the preseason poll, trailing only preseason favorite James Madison, Drexel and Northeastern.
“Preseason predictions are just that — they’re preseason predictions,” she said. “We know we’ve got to get back into the gym and get on the hardwood and continue to work hard. That’s our philosophy, to make sure we put on those hard hats and work hard every single day.”
Reid Geckeler, who was hired in April after guiding Howard to back-to-back 20-plus-win seasons and three postseason tournaments, inherits a Tigers squad that returns four starters. Senior guard Tanisha McTiller, who was named to the preseason All-CAA first team, averaged 18.8 points last season. Sophomore guard Domonique Johnson averaged 9.0 points and was selected to the conference’s All-Rookie team.
But much of the team’s fate could be tied to the players’ relationship with the coaches. In addition to Reid Geckeler, assistants Brian Johnson and James Simmons are new to the program. Assistant Christie Rogers is the only holdover from former coach Joe Mathews’ staff. Mathews was not retained after a 12-18 record last season.
Reid Geckeler said she has sought honesty and trust with her players. So far, she said, the results have been positive.
“The young ladies have definitely bought into our system, they’ve bought into the coaching staff, and most importantly, they’ve bought into each other,” she said. “That’s always the biggest thing. You want to make sure that when you take over a program, the team chemistry and camaraderie is there.”
Still, Reid Geckeler fully expects a few rocky moments. But she is optimistic the team will respond.
“I think everything is new for all of our players,” she said. “I told the seniors to the freshmen, ‘We’re all freshmen this year learning a different system.’ But once again, I think they’ve definitely recommitted themselves and have bought into what they’re doing.”