New York City - The common theme concerned a commitment to excellence: "Goals and standards."
Yet the New York Chapter of West Point's annual Meet the Coaches dinner, organized by John L. Buckheit, Esq. (USMA Class of '84), had another common thread to honor: support.
The US Military Academy fields 28 sports with 1,100 cadets participating. An impressive number in a situation where support is of the utmost prominence.
The support provided by many of the 200 plus in attendances goes beyond what may be considered the "flagship" sports of football and basketball; it reaches through the athletic program speaking volumes regarding the feeling graduates and boosters alike have toward the academy and its mission.
Yours truly attended this year and was afforded the opportunity to discuss the women's game with Lynn Chiavaro, a frequent attendee of this wonderful event. Lynn graduated and is in the Hall of Fame at Northeastern but maintains the academy's devotion and loyalty. She assisted two years at Iona in the early 1980's and later was head coach at West Point for eleven seasons. Today Chiavaro, who works for Northwestern Mutual ("I played at Northeastern and am at Northwestern," she humorously notes), remains in good health and is active playing in women's senior competitions.
Naturally her observations as a former coach and current player are always insightful.
One of the most intriguing aspects of UCONN dominance, I have always believed, is how the players buy in to coach Geno Auriemma's system. Virtually every recruit has been decorated with prep accolades and been the number one option on her high school team. Coming to UConn, their roles are altered: the 30 point per game high school scorer may be asked to rebound and set screens. Regardless, they buy into the roles and Auriemma's philosophy and expectations.
"The players comply because they want to be part of something really special," Chiavaro said from a coaching/playing perspective. "Playing at UConn you are competing and often winning a national championship, playing for a great coach at a great school. Players will do what is asked."
She did agree that that the women's players, in general, are less concerned about touches and getting their shots than their male counterparts.
Final note on UConn from Chiavaro: "I think Brianne Stewart is incredible. She (Stewart) might turn out to be the best women's player ever."
Army's season drawing attention
Commitments with their own teams prevented Army men's and women's basketball staff from attending West Point's annual Meet the Coaches dinner at the Union League last week. Yet among those in attendance there was favorable discussion regarding the season the Army women are having under the guidance of Coach Dave Magarity.
Army is 14-4 in the Patriot League, second to American University (coached by former Marist assistant Megan Gebbia and whom they spilt with) and 22-6 overall. Of paramount importance, they avenged an earlier home loss a few weeks ago by defeating Navy in Annapolis.