Marissa Flagg never thought she would stop shooting a basketball, nor did she think that she would one day be on a coaching staff for a Division I basketball team.
As a point guard from Iona College, and then a professional overseas, Flagg believed basketball would never end, and she did not think that she would one day pick up the clipboard. Yet, at the end of her tenure in Puerto Rico, Flagg had to become more realistic with herself.
“It was definitely self-discipline,” Flagg said. “The fact that being away from home for so long, it really does give you time to think life after basketball. I think in the moment you do not really think about it until you really just sit back and say ‘Hey, what’s my plan B?’
“So when I came back from overseas, I went back to school, I received my masters, I started to work. I implemented all the things that I said I wanted to do when I stopped playing.”
Once returning from international play, wherein her only full season she averaged 10 points per game to go along with the league-lead in assists and steals, Flagg returned to her alma mater to receive her master’s in public relations and pair it with the criminal justice degree she graduated with.
After finishing school and working customer service for a short while, Flagg was named head coach of St. Anthony’s freshman girls basketball team in Melville, N.Y.
This was where Seton Hall women’s basketball head coach Tony Bozzella would reach out to his former player. She accepted the offer not just for Bozzella, but for everyone who has taught her the game of basketball.
“I coach as a ‘thank you’ for all the coaches that have coached me throughout the years,” Flagg said. “It definitely has gave me a new outlook on coaching as a whole, now being at the other end of the spectrum.
“Also, from playing with Coach Bozzella to working with him, it definitely has gave me a new insight on a lot of things I did not know as a player and I did not realize. I think I have the best of both worlds because I can really relate to the players because I once was in their shoes as well.”
Upon arriving at Seton Hall, Flagg spent one season as the Coordinator of Basketball Operations and two as the Director of Basketball Operations. Now, she is an assistant coach who plays a heavy hand in how the team’s guards perform.
Flagg said she is a player’s coach, so she offers as much information to her players as possible, as she once saw the court the same way they do today.
“I tell (the guards) all the time, if I knew then what I know now, I would have done a lot of things differently from a basketball standpoint,” Flagg said. “I stress to them all the time that two hours in practice just is not enough. You always have to go above and beyond and it will always pay in the long run.”
“If you work, if you focus, if you are disciplined, it will show. It may not be game one, it may not be game five, but down the line, playoffs, championships, hopefully that is when you will see all your hard work pay off. I continue to stress to them that to just go above and beyond and do extra.”
As Flagg continues to teach her players new points of basketball, she continues to learn as well, calling herself a ‘sponge’. She takes the tactics she has learned from previous coaches and adds a ‘twist’ on it, Flagg said, putting in the effort to one day be successful as a head coach.
Yet, the most rewarding part about her current occupation isn’t incorporating skills she has taken from others and improving herself, but rather developing relationships with her players.
“I just love the fact that I can be a role model, I can be a mentor,” Flagg said. “The fact that I impact a group of girls on and off the court is pretty humbling to me.
“The fact that when kids graduate and years later I still keep in contact with them to get wedding invites or [to hear] that they have received great jobs or are playing overseas. I think that is the best part about coaching.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_fallo.