When the Seton Hall women’s basketball team defeated the Georgetown Hoyas on Jan. 14, the win was more significant than a boost in the Big East standings. In a game in which the Pirates never trailed, the 70-65 victory was the 400th career win for Pirates head coach Tony Bozzella.
In the midst of his fifth season at The Hall, Bozzella has picked up 95 of his now 401 career wins. Coaching at his alma mater, Bozzella has posted a .629 winning percentage to go along with two NCAA Tournament bids in 2015 and 2016, and a Big East regular season title in 2015.
“I have tremendous love for Seton Hall and I think a big reason for our success is obviously our staff and our players,” Bozzella said. “But I think I represent the school as someone who loves the school.
“I’m very proud of the education that both my wife and myself got from Seton Hall and the one my daughter will graduate with this spring with. I think the most important aspect of Seton Hall is the people, and not just the people in athletics, but the people all around campus.”
Never one to keep the spotlight on himself, Bozzella attributes much of his success to those surrounding him. From his administrators and coaching staff, to the players and fans, the 26-year head coach is very thankful to those who have helped him along the way.
“The staff that I have makes all the difference in the world,” Bozzella said. “They’re hard workers, they’re great people, and they believe in what I want to implement. Another big factor is the administrators that hired me and are supportive of me. I would not be as successful at Seton Hall if I didn’t have such a great administration and staff behind me.”
Included on his current staff are assistant coaches Lauren DeFalco and Marissa Flagg. Besides sharing a bench on the Seton Hall sidelines, the two also shared a backcourt at Iona, giving them the experience of both playing for and coaching with Bozzella.
“The biggest difference isn’t so much playing for him or coaching with him but seeing how much he has changed over the years,” DeFalco said. “Me and Marissa [Flagg] joke about it all the time about how tough he was when we played at Iona, as opposed to now he is more aware of his relationship with the players. The kids know no matter what, at the end of the day, if it’s today or if it’s five years from now, they can always come back and count on him to help them in everyday life.”
Having such a long-standing relationship with Bozzella, DeFalco and Flagg often serve as an extension of the Pirates’ head coach in order to help connect better with the team.
“I’ve been through everything that they’ve been through, so being that voice between the staff and the players helps them understand where the coaching staff is coming from,” Flagg said.
This ability to mediate between the head coach and the players is a trait that Bozzella knows is integral to the success of the program.
“They are able to help relate my message to these kids in a better way because they’ve been through it before,” Bozzella said. “They’re invaluable to me.”
Coaching for 26 years takes a great deal of time and effort, while reaching 400 wins requires a passion and energy for the game that Bozzella certainly possesses.
“His energy radiates, a lot of kids feed off his energy and passion,” Flagg said. “He knows how to manage each player individually and I think some coaches struggle with that.”
Despite the landmark accomplishment of 400 career wins, perhaps Bozzella’s greatest success is the lasting effect he leaves on those he coaches.
Said DeFalco, “His players know that for the rest of their life, they have someone they can depend on.”
Nick Santoriello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.