JERSEY CITY, NJ – Moving up from the assistant to head coaching position is a huge transition.
Coaches moving from assistant to head coach in the same school are invariably in a winning situation; the new head coach is also given the luxury of an off season to make the adjustment with the returning players in the program.
Making the move in the middle of a season is another story.
Tiffany Jones found herself in the latter situation. A fourth year assistant who starred for the Peacocks before playing internationally, Jones knows the pulse of the MAAC school. When St. Peter’s coach Stephanie DeWolfe gave birth to her second child in January, Jones was thrust into the role of acting head coach. In literally a day, her role changed drastically. Further compounding things, St. Peter’s was looking for win number one of the season.
Not surprisingly discipline was a major consideration for Jones. Head coaches administer discipline, assistants afford positive reinforcement, if needed.
“As an assistant you are there to pick the kids up when they are a little down or struggling,” Jones said. “As the head coach your relationship changes. I have to admit discipline was a major adjustment for me.”
To Jesika Holmes, the midyear change has been smooth.
“Coach Jones is doing a really good job – I know this isn’t an easy situation,” the Peacock senior forward commented. “To be moved up from assistant and almost immediately being asked to take over but she (Jones) motivates us daily in practice and gets us going.”
After a number of set backs, the Peacocks got in the winner’s circle with a 60-49 victory at Manhattan on January 27, a team that defeated them earlier at home. The past weekend the Peacocks knocked off Canisius on the road for another triumph.
“I am pleased with the kids,” Jones said. “The leaders we have are feeding off me. Each day we are working on shooting. That is a big consideration but overall the main task is teaching the kids how to win. It is one thing to learn how to play another to learn how to play to win.”
When the losses mount the routine reminds one of the movie ‘Groundhog Day’: you practice, game plan, walk through on game day and following a result on the short end you start the process all over again. The routine can be trying.
Jones will be the first to tell you, not for one minute has anyone in the program, player or coach, packed it in.
“They come to practice everyday work hard and genuinely try to improve,” she said.
Jones’ style is uptempo at both ends. She admits assistant Tom Flahive kids her about her philosophy calling her ‘Ms. run n’ gun’. Jones has the Peacocks running on every opportunity, whether turnovers or long rebounds. Personnel dictates more of a half court game and she has restructured her approach.
She has a solid player in Kristal Edwards, a senior forward averaging a team high 13.3 points per game. Of greater importance is Edwards’ work ethic and leadership on and off the floor.
Despite what is amounting to a long season, the Peacocks have caught the attention of observers. The St. Peter’s women have earned the praise and adulation of the school’s men’s coach John Dunne.
“The girls have been great,” Dunne said. “They never have their heads down and come to practice with a great attitude and give a solid effort.”
In conference, opponents feel St. peter’s is much better than the record shows.
“They have had some tough games where they were right there,” Marist assistant Megan Gebbia said. “They have been very competitive in a number of conference games.”
Praise is flattering, but Jones is concerned with improvement. Getting back in the gym, game planning, making sure her team is ready for the next opponent.
Roles from assistant to head coach change. Some things do not.