Coaches Corner: Steve Curtis, Ladies Basketball
Friday, December 7, 2007



Hello again everyone,


The past week was one that reminds me of a line of poetry I learned in my younger days:  For all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “it might have been”.  That sums our week up perfectly.  We had two games with in-state opponents, and each of them got away from us. 


We had been looking forward to Saturday’s game in the CenturyTel Center for quite some time.  There were a variety of reasons for this.  This building is one of the finest arenas in the country.  I have coached in SEC and Big XII tournaments around the country, and CenturyTel is as good as or better than any of the facilities we used for those.  It would be a great place to host a conference tournament or even an NCAA regional.  It was good for our players to get the feel of what one of those is like, because the goal here is for us to develop our program into one that will participate in the NCAA Tournament soon.  I have been fortunate to coach in a few of those, and hopefully our players will learn what a great experience it is to play in that environment.  It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to make that happen though.


In the first game we scored first but then Lafayette went on a run to take a thirteen point lead.  Our team has a tendency to get impatient and take too many quick shots during these runs.  It’s almost like we are trying too hard and want to make good things happen.  When we take our time and move the ball (and ourselves) we are pretty good offensively.  We got back within two but had a breakdown and went to halftime down 10.  With five minutes to play we were within two, but we had a miscommunication and left a shooter wide open and just like that we’re down five.  We ended up losing by seven to a team that returns six seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but it was a chance to make a statement about where our program is headed that we let get away.


ULL is coached by one of my best friends, Errol Rogers.  We coached together at Mississippi State and shared a lot of good times.  We spoke briefly before the game, but afterward we spent about 30 minutes in the green room talking about each other’s team’s strengths and weaknesses.  We were also watching the USC-UCLA football game because Errol is one of America’s biggest USC fans.  In fact his son, Errol Jr., really believes he is Reggie Bush.  I remember him running around the court at MSU with his Reggie Bush jersey on at the age of three with a big smile on his face.  He and his wife Damita have six children with the youngest three being the same age as mine.  I don’t know how they do it, it’s all Claire and I can do to keep our three halfway in line.  Damita has had some health issues lately so she and the kids didn’t make it to the game but John, Mattie, and Katie were looking for them.  


The second half of the doubleheader was our men’s victory over Texas Tech.  Our guys did a great job of hanging in there and pulled out a great win over one of the best programs in the nation.  It just shows what can happen at Centenary – I talk to alumni often and am always impressed by their love for our school.  They talk of NCAA tournaments, the Gold Dome full of fans cheering and screaming, and the excitement the college and city had for our athletic programs.  We are working to bring those times back.


Tuesday night we went to Lake Charles to take on McNeese State.  We got out to an early lead, but as always there were lapses that cost us dearly.  In the second half, we were down by as many as nine but Bethany hit a shot to give us a five point lead with just under four minutes to play.  Then we made the exact same mistake that we had made when we were within two against ULL to give up an open three to bring them within two.   


They ended up forcing overtime, and we had a couple of chances to win again at the end of the first extra period, but two close shots in the final five seconds rolled just off the rim.  McNeese jumped to a seven point lead early in the second overtime, but I have to give our players credit – they are battling.  We fought back and took a one point lead with just under a minute to play.  We stopped them on the next possession, but we didn’t secure the rebound and they took advantage of their second opportunity to hit the game winning basket.  We got a good look to pull it out it as the buzzer went off but in the words of Tim Brando, the iron was unkind.  So what could have been a great ride home was another one of what might have been. 


This week the Dakotas are coming to town.  We host North Dakota State in a doubleheader with the men Saturday at 3:00 pm followed by South Dakota State Monday night at 7:00.  These are two great additions to our league.  They are two outstanding athletic departments – in addition to a terrific women’s basketball program NDSU has a football victory over Minnesota this year, and SDSU has road wins in women’s basketball in recent years over Kentucky, Southern California, Alabama, Oregon, and several other top programs.  Each will be challenging for us, so come on out and see how we do.  If you can’t make it, I’ll let you know how we do.  See you next week.


Go Centenary!




Hello again from Centenary!


A reality of college basketball is players miss a lot of the holidays most people get to enjoy with their families.  This Thanksgiving was no different; while 90% of Americans were getting ready for their feast we gathered in the Gold Dome at 9:30 am to begin preparations for Southeastern Louisiana.  For an hour and a half there were no visions of turkey and cranberry sauce.  They were replaced by thoughts of screening angles, post moves, and defensive rotations.  Luckily for us Claire and our moms were hard at work in our kitchen preparing the usual Thanksgiving fare.  When I walked in after practice her mother was making home made rolls from scratch while mine was finishing off her dressing.  The team arrived at 1 p.m. to find the following: turkey, ham, a turducken, two types of dressing, cranberry sauce, butterbeans, macaroni and cheese, peas, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole....well you get the idea.  When the first car arrived and our front door opened I heard Anne say “oh, it smells like Thanksgiving”. We had a great meal, lots of smiles, and while the players missed the holiday with their real families at least they had their basketball family to spend the day with.  The food was great and the fellowship was even better.  Thanks Granny, Grandma, and Claire.  You did great.


There were signs of progress in the Southeastern game Saturday.  We played well in the first half and went into the locker room with a lead.  It was the kind of game I love to coach in.  It was a battle all the way – the lead went back and forth with neither team able to lead by more than six.  Our offense was the best it’s been, and our defense was pretty good, but our rebounding was terrible.  They stayed in the game with second shots.  With just under 30 seconds to go Bethany hit a three to give us the lead again.  But we lost their best shooter in transition and she hit a big shot to give them the win.  Being a coach and athlete is crazy.  Think about it - the ball is in the air with five seconds to play and all our emotions are in the air with it.  If it goes in we are in agony, and if it bounces off we’re ecstatic.  This time it went in, and there were tears in the locker room as a result.  I can see our team growing up, but it needs to come sooner rather than later.   


On the way to Hammond my mind drifted to an autumn morning a few years ago.  It was during the September recruiting period while I was coaching at The University of Nebraska.  I had gotten home on a late flight the night before and had a visit set up at a junior college later that afternoon.  As was my custom then, I woke up and walked downstairs to listen to the radio while I ate breakfast.  The announcer said a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  I thought it was an accident, maybe a local pilot losing control of his aircraft or something like that.  I went upstairs to shower and get dressed.  When I came back down the announcer reported a plane had just crashed into the other tower.  Obviously this was no accident.  I got in my car and began the two hour drive through the corn fields to Cloud County Community College.  I was on the way to meet with Miklannet Tennal, a terrific guard who played at Cloud, and watch her practice later that afternoon.  Instead we sat together with Bret Erkenbrack, her coach, and watched the towers fall.  At that moment basketball seemed like the least important thing in the world.  Mick decided to go to Texas Tech instead of Nebraska, but in my mind we’ll always be linked.  She is now an assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana, and every time I see her I think of that day.


Tuesday Northwestern State came to town.  We weren’t nearly as good offensively in this game but we did enough to go into the locker room at halftime with a 13 point lead.  The first four minutes of the second half has been problematic for us and this game was no exception.  They cut the lead to six but we regrouped and with just under four minutes to play we were up 12.  At that point the wheels came off.  We had a stretch of nothing but turnovers and fouls, a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.  They scored 13 points in a row to take the lead, but our players would not be denied.  Monique hit a jump shot with about 15 seconds to play and they called timeout.  They went to their best player, but Cierra got terrific position and blocked her shot.  Anne grabbed the rebound and the buzzer sounded, giving us the victory. 


The triumph over Northwestern State was big for us.  We want to establish ourselves as a program the people in this area can be proud of and get behind.  As I often say this is a great place to live, and Centenary is a marvelous school, so we are working hard to give the Ark-La-Tex a basketball program they can support.  Games with local rivals give us a chance to show we are making progress.    


And so it’s on to the next week.  We play Louisiana-Lafayette in the Centurytel Center Saturday at 3 p.m.  They made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team last season, which means they were chosen by the committee as one of the best teams in the country.  Lafayette is coached by Errol Rogers, who was an assistant at Mississippi State while I was there.  It will be good to see him again; he is one of my best friends in the coaching fraternity.  His six children spent lots of time with John, Mattie, and Katie, so hopefully they will see each other before and after the game.  After we play, our men’s team takes on Texas Tech, and I’ve heard Tech has a pretty good coach.  It should be a great afternoon of basketball, so come on out and watch the Ladies and Gents in action.  Hope to see you there.


Go Centenary!





Hello again everyone


The NCAA requires us to take one day off each week and last week ours was Wednesday.  About 2:30 that afternoon I walked into our locker room and turned on the light.  From across the way I heard a voice say “Hey Coach”.  It was Ashley Jackson – she had been napping on the couch.  She explained she had been up late finishing a paper after we got in from Monroe Tuesday night, and there was a lot of commotion in the dorm (imagine that) so she decided to come to the locker room to catch up on her sleep.  I don’t think people appreciate how much goes into being a college athlete.  It takes a lot of dedication, perseverance, and desire to put your mind and body through everything it takes to succeed at this level.  There’s no doubt it’s worth it however. 


Thursday was a busy day for me.  We had practice at 6:00 am, and after my usual post practice discussion with Bojan and KC (who’s playing well, who’s struggling, what we should work on more, etc.) I left for Stockwell Elementary.  Mattie’s kindergarten class had a Thanksgiving Feast at 9:00 a.m. with songs, sketches, and last but not least food.  From there it was back to the Gold Dome to go through some film of the previous two games with our players at 11:00 a.m.  After 45 minutes of study it was off to Cypress Run pre-school for Katie’s Thanksgiving Feast.  Claire spent most of the night before making Pilgrim hats from cookies, marshmallows, and chocolate.  They were a hit at both places.   I say this all the time, but the smiles on Mattie and Katie’s faces when I showed up are what life is all about.  I can’t believe how fast they are growing up.


After a couple of good practice days we hit the court Saturday afternoon against Birmingham-Southern.  We broke out to an early 26-12 lead but followed that up with a period of sloppy play to let them get close at halftime.  We opened the second half by extending the lead to 11, but once again our mistakes cost us.  There is so much we need to learn.  We get out of position on defense, and we don’t make the appropriate read on offense all the time, but there are moments of pretty good basketball.  We were up eight with about five minutes to go but we made it fairly exciting at the end.  However, Anne set a nice backscreen for Bethany and Cierra found her for a lay-up to help us get our first ‘real’ victory of the season.  The players did a good job of keeping their poise at the end which is a good sign of things to come.  Cierra had an excellent grade, which will happen every time she moves well without the basketball.


Monday morning we headed down to McAllen, Texas, to play Texas-Pan American.  They have a veteran team with lots of experience that handled us fairly easily last season.  Once again we had some stretches of pretty good basketball mixed in with a few stretches of less than stellar play.  I believe basketball is a game of mistakes, with the team making the fewest usually coming out the winner.  This has been the case for us this season.  The unforced turnovers, the missed blockouts, and the lapses on defense are keeping us from having any success right now.  We were down five with six minutes to play, but some silly fouls, bad decisions, and sloppy ballhandling added up to a ten point loss.  They played a couple of defenses we hadn’t seen in a game yet, and it took us a little time to get our bearings against them.  Once we did we played fairly well from there.  I know I am writing the same thing every week but we just have some growing up to do.


This week brings Thanksgiving.  Take a moment to remember things you are thankful for.  I have so many things – a wonderful wife, three beautiful kids, the privilege of coaching this group of young ladies, the two people I am coaching with.... I could go on and on.  In addition we have games Saturday at SE Louisiana and Tuesday in the Gold Dome with Northwestern State.  Tuesday is a doubleheader with our men, so if you get the chance come on down to Kings Highway and watch a couple of rivals go at it starting at 5:00 pm.  Hope to see you then.


Go Centenary!




After a good practice Thursday we were back at it hard Friday afternoon.  About twenty minutes into the workout Jasmine Bothwell did a great job of splitting the gap in our zone defense and jump stopped to shoot.  She came down on someone’s foot and rolled her ankle pretty good.  She has practiced sparingly this fall as she recovers from off season shoulder surgery, but she has been very good when she is out there.  A few plays later after deflecting a pass Brittany Barbee grimaced and moved over toward coach KC Cowgill at midcourt; KC suddenly had a look of disgust on her face as Brit walked back toward her teammates.  Immediately they all screamed and turned away.  I thought her face was bleeding (her back was to me) but I soon realized it was her thumb.  Her knuckle was bent back and turned the wrong direction.  I didn’t get a good look at it before she made it over to Dustin, our trainer, but the descriptions I got from our players were pretty repulsive.  I was relieved when Dustin called from the hospital to tell me her thumb was ‘only’ dislocated, not broken.  She will be out for a little while but not as long as I feared.  In many ways she is our leader, her spirit and her work ethic inspire us all.  We need her and Jasmine back, and soon. 


Saturday began with the much anticipated Bossier City seven and eight year old championship game at 9:00 am.  The Stallions scored on their first two drives and held on for a 12-6 victory.  There was such elation in the air afterward as they jumped up and down high-fiving each other.  Each team took pictures holding their trophies with smiles all around.  I have to admit I enjoyed it as well, just the purity of children playing a game for the joy of it.  I want our team to experience that joy this season as well.


After the game we headed to the bus for the trip to Mississippi State.  Our bus is fantastic; it is divided into two rooms with an entertainment center complete with HDTV and DirecTV in each.  There are leather sofas, refrigerators, stations for video games, and room to sleep 26.  It’s always fun to watch everyone claim their spots for the year.  KC was quick to grab the prime location up front, a bunk with a great view of the television.  I may have to repossess that one at some point.  The good thing about this trip is Bojan and my families could go with us.  So as I am writing this Bethany has control of the remote in the back, I have control of the remote up front (much to the dismay of some), and John, Mattie, Katie, and Anja are coloring and watching a movie.  Those up front with me are getting dizzy from me changing back and forth between The Huskers game with K-State and Mississippi State’s game with Alabama.  I hope State wins this one, but tomorrow I will definitely be trying everything I can to give them a loss.


Our game against Mississippi State was a mixture of highs and lows for us.  We started out very slowly as we struggled with turnovers – MSU does a great job with their pressure, and it took us awhile to adjust to it.  We settled down and had a stretch of pretty good basketball to get within four points right before halftime.  We went to the locker room down eight but I felt we were in pretty good shape if we could continue to execute.  With about eight minutes to go they were still within reach but we had some costly breakdowns that let them get away from us.  There was quite a bit to be pleased about, but the bottom line is we have to become more consistent. 


As you probably know I came to Centenary from Mississippi State so this trip meant I would see a lot of old friends.  Early in the second half of  our game Sharon, their head coach, gave the signal for their zone trap, and I immediately yelled “watch the trap!” to our team.  All of the Lady Bulldogs on the court just looked at me and smiled – we had been through a few battles together but now I’ve come over to the other side.  So they ran their trap, we attacked it, and both teams went on about the business of trying to beat each other.  It was a nice moment nonetheless.  After the game more than one of them got on me about calling out their plays to my new team.  There were hugs, smiles, and laughs about old times.  I only wish we had been able to pull out a victory.  While we didn’t get that done hopefully our Ladies learned that we can be competitive with one of the best programs in the nation, and if we eliminate the mistakes we will become a very good team.


Which brings me to Tuesday night’s game at UL-Monroe.  We got off to a decent start and broke out to an early lead even though we were turning the ball over too much.  Monroe is a team that lives and dies with a full court press, so we were expecting them to be aggressive and they were.  The frustrating thing is the full court press was not a factor in our turnovers.  We would break the press and then just throw the ball away, or dribble it into trouble, or make a silly mistake with the ball.   It was a five point game at the half despite our 23 turnovers.  We went on to lose 59-46 in a game in which we gave up 25 offensive rebounds and had 34 turnovers.  Those are fixable problems but we need to fix them now.  It’s like I told our players after the game:  I am confident we are going to be a good team but I am tired of talking about what should have been.  I guess I’m finding out what Jim Mora felt like when he took over the Saints a few years back – woulda, coulda, shoulda.  It’s time to stop saying that and start winning some games. 


We have a full week ahead of us.  Wednesday is the first day of the fall signing period and we are expecting some activity there (NCAA rules won’t allow me to go into detail at the present time).  We play Birmingham-Southern on Saturday in the Gold Dome, then head out Monday for a game with Texas-Pan American on Tuesday.   We know what our problems are, so I’ll let you know next Wednesday if we are starting to get them fixed.  See you then.


Go Ladies




Welcome back everyone!


Wednesday night I left trick or treating early and headed to our annual Halloween Hoopla in the Gold Dome.  There were several activities going on outside before everyone came in to check out the ’07 – ’08 version of the Ladies and Gents.  The guys had a “scrimmage” that was right out of the And 1 basketball tour (if you don’t know what that is consider yourself lucky - it’s basketball’s version of professional wrestling).  The barrage of dunks got the crowd going and we followed it with some shooting contests involving our players and a few Centenary students.  Then came the dunk contest, won by Nick Stallings.  The winning dunk featured Ladies basketball player Monique Jefferson sitting on a chair in the lane.  She tossed a pass into the air as Nick ran toward her.  He soared over her head, caught the ball and slammed it in.  I was a little nervous but it was a nice assist.


Thursday at noon we had a C-Club luncheon with the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams.  Most of the local media was there in addition to members of the C-Club, Centenary faculty, and administration.  Our players introduced themselves and did a great job, as always.  Watching them reminded me again how fortunate we are to have such a terrific group of young ladies representing our school.  Then Coach Flaska and I said a few words about the upcoming season.  Each of us will be very young but both programs are moving in the right direction. 


Thursday night was the first time we had an opportunity to play against outside competition.  We scrimmaged three halves against East Texas Baptist and for the most part things went pretty well.  I like to script playing time in these situations to make sure we see all the combinations we need to see and everyone plays enough to be evaluated.    One of the best things about Thursday’s scrimmage was seeing one of my former players for the first time in a couple of years.  Ebonie Ferguson played a key role on some NCAA and WNIT teams at Mississippi State and is now an assistant coach at ETBU.  She has always wanted to coach and is doing a good job for Coach Bowen over there.  We had a few laughs about old times, especially how much she ‘enjoyed’ one of my favorite drills as a player. 


While there were quite a few big football games this weekend there was one that stood out above the others.  LSU – Alabama?  Nope.  Colts – Patriots? No big deal. Saints on a roll against the Jaguars?  I’m one of the biggest Saints fans in the world but the biggest game for me was the Stallions thrilling playoff semifinal in the Bossier City seven and eight year old league.  It was close, but thanks to a late defensive stand the Stallions are on their way to the title game.  So Saturday, before we get on a bus to go to Starkville and open our season, I’ll be on the sidelines watching my son John and his teammates going for the championship.  Life is pretty good.


Tuesday we had an exhibition against LSU-Shreveport.  There were the usual first game jitters early on but we worked our way through them.  It was an opportunity to see different combinations in action and to see where we stand as we get ready for the season.  All 11 players saw action, and each of them contributed in their own way to our win.  The game showed us some areas that need a little more attention; you always find out more by playing someone else than you do scrimmaging with each other.  As I suspected our defense and rebounding need to get much better, and we have to cut back on the turnovers.  Individually, several players did well with five (Leslie, Cierra, Ashley, Bethany, and Sarah) having terrific grades for the night.  As a team we had one of the best grades we’ve had since I’ve been here, so all in all it was a decent effort for the first time out.  Needless to say we still have a long way to go to be where we want to be.


So just like that the season is here.  There are questions everywhere.  Can our players ever learn the correct angles on our screens?  Will we support each other when the adversity arrives?  Will we put what’s good for the team ahead of our individual wishes?  Can we guard anybody?  This will be a challenging week with games Sunday at Mississippi State and Tuesday at Louisiana-Monroe.  The State game will be especially interesting for me since I helped recruit and know almost their entire team.  I’m not sure we are ready, but at this point but that’s irrelevant; it’s time to play.  Come back next Wednesday and I’ll let you know how we did.  See you then.


Go Centenary!




Hello everyone.


I’m Steve Curtis, Head Coach of the Centenary Ladies basketball team.  This is the first in a series of columns that I’ll be posting regularly throughout the season.  It will cover  a combination of things – our student athletes, our coaches, our families.  There will be some joyful stories of victory and some sad stories of defeat.  Primarily, I would like to give you a little insight into what life is like as a collegiate athlete and coach.  I hope you enjoy it.


I am fortunate to have two terrific people coaching with me here at Centenary.  Bojan Jankovic is an excellent coach who has international experience as well as playing and coaching here in America.  KC Cowgill was a terrific player in college for our Nebraska teams and has everything you are looking for in a coach.  Each is the type of person that will be excellent for my children to grow up around.


Speaking of my children expect to read a lot about them in the coming months.  John is learning the joys of football at the ripe old age of seven.  As I write this, he is getting ready for his playoff game tonight.  Seven year old playoff football, what could be better than that?  I also have two daughters – Mattie, five, is in kindergarten and Katie, four, is in preschool.  Nothing makes the missed layups seem tolerable like their shouts of “Daddy’s home” when I open the door and walk in.  I have also been blessed with the perfect wife in Claire.  Can it really be __ years since she “accidentally” left her purse in my car?  Time flies when you’re having fun. 


Our players come from all over the globe.  They are a terrific group that has been working hard to bring Centenary Basketball to a different level.  September went something like this:  Conditioning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at six a.m.  Weights Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30, and individual workouts mixed in between classes for a couple of hours each week.  On October 12th we started having official practices and those have gone pretty well for the most part.  There is still a lot to do, but I like the way we are progressing.


Our roster includes two seniors (Brittany Barbee and Ricquel Crockrom), two juniors (Cierra Bush and Karolina Zaloga), four sophomores (Monique Jefferson, Jasmine Bothwell, Leslie Forest, and Bethany Joseph), and four freshmen (Ashley Jackson, Anne Farrell, Sarah Weiler, and Michelle Hale).  Each has a unique story and perspective.  There are experiences ranging from All State athletic careers to nights as Prom Queen.  They share a common goal – to bring championship caliber basketball to the Ark-La-Tex. 


Shreveport – Bossier City is a great place to live, and Centenary is an outstanding academic institution.  With a bit of luck we can work together to develop a basketball program to make our community proud. 


See you again soon.


Go Centenary!