Awards: Coach of the Year

Wemen's Basketball head coach Rick PietriFirst year head coach Rick Pietri knew he had a lot to overcome when he took Jacksonville State’s women’s basketball job last June. He also knew he was the right man for the job.

Pietri developed the reputation for turning struggling programs around. He coached at South Alabama before coming to JSU. Before he arrived at USA, the Lady Jaguars totaled 10 straight losing seasons. By the time USA let him go, he had become the all-time winningest coach in Lady Jaguars history with a career record of 220-167.

He was right at home when he took the JSU job on June 24, 2013. To say the program was in need of a turnaround was an understatement. The Gamecocks finished just 1-27 and 1-15 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

When he was hired, his players were finishing up their summer workout program and headed home until school began in August. He quickly put together a staff and they got to work. Camp began that fall and the injury bug left Pietri needing more depth. That is when Pietri recruited LeCresha Horton from the Track team just weeks before the first game.

He made his home debut in an exhibition game against Miles. It was a welcome sight to see the Gamecocks who had only won once the season before walk away with a 73-48 win, even if it wouldn’t show in the record books.

As the regular season went on, the Gamecocks took their lumps. But then they started winning and winning a lot. They won a lot more and a lot faster than anyone could have hoped for. They became the main attraction at Pete Mathews Coliseum. But, Pietri was a show in his own right. His antics on the sideline proved to be humorous and genuine simultaneously. Whether he was pounding his hands on the chairs or scorer’s table, or jumping in the air with all of his might, the growing number of fans sitting behind him loved it.

Th Gamecocks finished 14-18 and 8-8 in the OVC. Mathematically, it was still  a losing season. But, anyone who watched the Gamecocks play this winter knows this season can be defined as anything but losing. The OVC took notice and named Pietri the OVC Coach of the Year in February. He coached Gamecock Illustrated’s Most Improved Team, so it’s only right that he be named our Coach of the Year.

 

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