One man can change the world.
At least that’s what Big Sean, John Legend, and Kanye West said on their hit song. But, when it comes to the world of Seton Hall women’s basketball, the saying is most definitely accurate.
Head coach Tony Bozzella has taken the program from the basement to the penthouse of the Big East.
Before taking over the reins of the squad, the narrative on Seton Hall was a bottom of the barrel program that could not compete with the upper echelon teams. In the two seasons prior to Bozzella taking over, the team won a total of 19 games under previous head coach Anne Donovan.
Bozzella led the team to 20 wins in his first year and a program-record 28 games in 2014-15, earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. It was the Hall’s first invitation to the Big Dance since 1995.
The Pirates went 15-3 in the Big East, finishing the regular season as co-conference champions for the first time in program history. As the No. 1 seed they advanced to the conference championship game for the first time since the 1995 season.
Bozzella was named the Big East Coach of the Year, won the Maggie Dixon Division I Coach of the Year award presented by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association and was one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Division I Women’s College Basketball Coach of the Year award.
The narrative has changed.
“Anytime you have the success we had, winning a lot of games and going to the NCAA Tournament, a certain standard is put in place,” Bozzella said to a crowd of reporters at Big East Media Day. “The girls now understand the certain standard we have to have at Seton Hall for us to be successful.”
That understanding and knowledge was not something that was around when Bozzella first took the job. He had to hammer it home day after day to change the culture of losing that was inside the program. A big part of changing that culture has been the blossoming of players as they meet their full potential.
Look no further than senior forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith, who has gone from a player who averaged less than five points a game her freshman year to arguably the most talented offensive player in the Big East coming into this season. Richardson-Smith has averaged over 17 points the past two years, owns the program’s record for all-time three-point field goals made at 199 and was named a unanimous All-Big East selection for the upcoming season.
The narrative has changed.
The Pirates are now seen as the big test on everyone’s schedule. Visiting teams know that they are in for a challenging night when they enter Walsh Gymnasium as Seton Hall has been dominant at home the past two seasons with an overall record of 32-6. Opposing teams also know that they better be able to keep up offensively, as SHU averaged over 75 points per game last season.
All the statistics, all the success and all the accolades come back to one man, Tony Bozzella.
The man who took a chance to come back to his alma mater to lead it back to prominence. The man who has led his team to back- to-back postseason berths. The man who brought relevance back to the program.
For Seton Hall and all its fans, that man, has changed the world.
Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major from Manalapan, N.J. He can be reached at pierrech@shu. edu or on Twitter @CPLouis_.