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NCAA Division I “Pack the House” Challenge.
Marist beat out 177 participating institutions
including schools from 32 conferences and sell-
out crowds by Army, Baylor, Duke, Gonzaga,
Louisville, Michigan State, Navy, Oregon, and
Pacifc; the College hosted a sell-out crowd of
3,200 fans at its game on Feb. 4 vs. Niagara.
Marist, which averaged 2,260 fans at its
women’s games this season, is the only school
in the country to sell out its “Pack the House”
game four years in a row.
The Red Foxes’ allure isn’t simply about
wins and losses; Giorgis has instituted a culture
of class that the fans can be proud of. “I just
can’t get enough of this team,” says Dr. Craig
Fisher, who is the faculty advisor for the team.
“I think people really love the girls because
not only do they perform on the court, they
do well in the classroom and exude a great
deal of respect for their opponent and grate-
fulness for their community.” According to the
annual “Academic Progress/Graduation Success
Rate Study of Division I NCAA Women’s and
Men’s Basketball Tournament Teams” conduct-
ed by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in
Sports at the University of Central Florida, the
Marist women’s basketball team was one of
just 19 teams out of 64 in this year’s NCAA
Tournament to graduate 100 percent of its
players. Using NCAA statistics, the institute
reviewed six-year graduation rates for the
freshman classes that entered college from
the 2000-01 through 2003-04 school years.
The team is a class act also because of the
people Giorgis brings in, with each individu-
al contributing to the team dynamic. “I kind
of look at myself like Grandpa,” Giorgis says.
“Fortunately I have staff that our kids identify
with and love to death.” Part of Giorgis’s genius
is enlisting a group of assistants whom players
can identify with.
“He’s always had a lot of his former players
on staff,” says Magarity. “I think that’s impor-
tant too. We [former players] know him; we
know how tough he can be. I think that it’s
good for the girls to have someone to go to
just to talk.” For Magarity, who is now head
women’s basketball coach at the University of
New Hampshire, Giorgis’s method of recruit-
ing the person frst made an impression. “At
our mid-major level, you’re not going to get
blue-chip players,” she says. “He taught me you
have to bring in kids who are going to be the
face of your program on campus and get out
into the community.”
Erica Allenspach ’11 became the new
face of the Red Foxes after the graduation in
2010 of Rachele Fitz, Marist’s all-time lead-
ing scorer and rebounder. At the beginning of
the season, Allenspach faced some diffculty
taking the reins, but Giorgis was able to ease
the transition. “After every missed shot, I was
thinking too much,” Allenspach says. “Coach
sat me down and said just keep being aggres-
sive.” It’s safe to say Giorgis got through. En
route to the 2011 MAAC Tournament MVP
award, Allenspach averaged nearly 24 points
per game, hitting 24 of 33 shots over three
games, including 12-for-15 from three-point
range. She was also named MAAC Player of the
Year, an award won by a Marist player each of
the past four seasons.
At the root of his work ethic and drive is
his genuine caring for his players. “As much
as it doesn’t look like it sometimes, you think
about them constantly,” he says. “You worry
about what they’re doing, [you worry about]
some people who are down. You’re really hurt
when you don’t play somebody as much as
they’d like to.”
Giorgis, who is unmarried, says he is
“absolutely” still open to the idea of starting
his own family. However, he has no complaints
about his current status; it’s merely a reason
to value the relationships with players even
more. “They’re much more like my family than
I am theirs,” he says. “Whenever people ask
me whether I have kids, I reply the same way:
‘I have 14 who I get to give back at the end of
the year.’ ”
Marist’s recent dominance in the MAAC
conference is undeniable. During this season’s
quest, the Red Foxes beat conference opponents
by well over 20 points per game en route to an
undefeated conference record, the second time
in Giorgis’s tenure that his team has won every
MAAC game in a season. Of course, Giorgis
never takes success for granted. While wins
against teams from larger conferences may
boost the Red Foxes’ notoriety, continuously
beating conference opponents is a more formi-
dable challenge than it may appear. Defeating
Marist can make the whole season of a rival.
When the team is on the national stage, “it’s
an incredible experience,” Giorgis says, “and it
keeps getting harder because people are getting
tired of seeing us there.”
The program’s recent national recognition
includes stints in the AP and ESPN top 25 polls,
mentions in the
New York Times
, the
Wall Street
Journal
, and
Sports Illustrated
, and a trip to the
NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2007. The
team held the longest winning streak in the
nation at 27 games before losing to Duke 71-66
in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But great coaches know that accolades
aren’t everything. “The spirit, the will to win,
and the will to excel are the things that endure,”
said Vince Lombardi. “These qualities are so
much more important than the events that
occur.”
For Giorgis, motivation is not derived from
the praise that comes with excellence, but from
helping others achieve greatness. “Are we the
25th best team in the country?” Giorgis asked
soon after Marist cracked the national rank-
ings earlier this season. “I don’t know; people
pick that. I know one thing; it’s not why we do
what we do.”
n
En route to the 2011 MAAC Tournament MVP
award, Erica Allenspach ’11 averaged nearly
24 points per game, hitting 24 of 33 shots over
three games, including 12-for-15 from three-
point range. She was also named MAAC Player
of the Year.
The team won its sixth straight Metro Atlantic
Athletic Conference Championshipwith a 63-45
win over second-seeded Loyola at the Webster
Bank Arena at Harbor Yard.