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Dishin & Swishin: Brian Giorgis Takes Marist to the NCAA Tournament...And May Just Be the Best Coach In the Country

Brian Giorgis of Marist Gives a Heartfelt Speech to the Crowd After Marist Won the MAAC title

He cares about his players. So much so, that he was in tears addressing the crowd at Harbor Yard Arena after the MAAC championship game

He is in his 9th year coaching at a small school in Poughkeepsie, New York.  He is not that tall, nor that slim, but his coaching ability - first at the high school level and then at the college level - has him inducted to the New York State Hall of Fame.

And, Brian Giorgis, the head women's basketball coach at Marist may just be the best womens basketball coach around today.  Yes, I mean that statement.

His career record stands at 194-62 and his .758 winning percentage is 11th best among active Division I coaches.  He has been named Coach of the Year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 5 times.  Twice in the last four years, his team has gone undefeated through the conference season   Now consider this: Marist, located overlooking the Hudson River in New York, has 4,200 students.  This is not UConn, Tennessee, or one of the big schools we are talking about.

Giorgis' Red Foxes do it with hard-nosed, tough defense.  They lead the country in PPG allowed.  Perhaps more impressive is they are 4th in field goal percentage allowed behind...yep, Connecticut, Baylor, and Stanford.   They are careful with the ball and don't turn it over, leading the country in fewest turnovers per game. 

I talked to Coach Giorgis about Marist and his style of play.

Dishin & Swishin: Brian Giorgis on Marist's Style of Play

This year's Marist team is led by, in his own words, the perfect player for his system.  While Rachel Fitz, who recently graduated, may have been the most talented player that played at Marist, Erica Allenspach is the driving force behind the success of this edition of the Red Foxes.  Allenspach, the MAAC Conference Player of the Year does it all, and does it in the flow of the offense.  The MVP of the conference tourney, Allenspach shot 24-43 from the floor inclusing 12-15 from 3 point range, averaging just over 23 ppg, while only committing 6 turnovers.  Giorgis discussed his leader.

Dishin & Swishin: Brian Giorgis on Erica Allenspach

The common refrain in discussing Marist and the NCAA tournament is, "but they don't play anyone."  Seeing will definitely be interesting, because this year they HAVE played opponents.  They were supposed to play Arizona State and the weather canceled that game.  They played three Big East teams, and while they lost the season opener to St. John's they got a win at Villanova and against Louisville on a neutral court.  In fact, in the Duel in the Desert tournament in Nevada, they in succession defeated Big East's Louisville, Big 12's Nebraska and Conference USA's top team, Houston.  Coach Giorgis said the success was a crucial launching pad for the remainder of the season.

Dishin & Swishin: Brian Giogis on the Duel in the Desert Victories

When you factor in the record, the academic success as well (whole team over 3.0 GPA), the fact the school is a mid-major in a smaller conference, every year Brian Giorgis' name comes up as a "hot candidate" for a BCS opening, along with people like Bowling Green's Curt Miller and Xavier's Kevin McGuff.  So I asked Coach Giorgis the question directly: why stay at Marist, when you have achieved just about everything you can possibly do at a school this size?

Dishin & Swishin: Brian Giorgis on staying at Marist

So now that the conference tournament is won, the NCAA tournament automatic bid secured, the Marist Red Foxes of Brian Giorgis, led by Erica Allenspach, face the next hurdle: NCAA seeding.  They are currently ranked #19 in the AP poll, but only have an RPI of #51.  They defeated Louisville and Houston, but lost to St. Bonaqventure.  They are a mid-major, but not a mid-major like Xavier with proven success against a BCS team.

One thing is for certain, in my mind: I wouldn't count them out in a first round game, even as a possible underdog.  They are a fun team to watch, with some talented players you just haven't heard of because they aren't on TV all the time.  So if you get the chance, give them a try. 

Oh, and don't forget the band.  They have the best band in the land.  I have to get in that there too!