Head coach of the women's basketball team Bill Gould arrived at practice with bruises on his face from a recently broken nose.
“People tell me I look tough with it,” Gould said with a smile on his face. “But when I tell them a 20-year-old girl broke my nose when I decided to help out in practice, the toughness kind of fades away.”
The former assistant coach for the Boston College women’s basketball team then chuckled and walked toward the basketball court to begin the late afternoon practice.
“He has a great sense of humor,” said forward Kristin Brice, a sophomore marketing communication major, and the team's leading scorer. “I have never had a coach like him. He lets us play on when other coaches call time outs, and his style of coaching makes me want to step my game up.”
Gould admitted he was never the best player, but said he has always had a sense for how the game of basketball worked.
“Even in high school I would help the players who played in front of me, because I would understand how the other team is trying to stop them,” he said. “I didn't realize it at the time, but that is when I started coaching. I love coaching more than I love playing.”
During his tenure at Boston College from 1997 to 2005, he helped lead the Eagles to a 171-77 record, including six 20-win seasons, six NCAA appearances, two trips to the Sweet 16 and a Big East Championship.
“One of the main differences is the mentality at BC,” Gould said. “We would say 'what do you mean you have class? No, you’re on scholarship'. If you don't want to get your scholarship cut, and you want to play in the NBA this is what your life has to revolve around. There are a million other
kids that can take that players place.”
But at Division III Emerson, the situation is different.
“None of our kids are on scholarship,” Gould said. “And as a result there is nothing that is binding these kids to the team, if they don't want to play they don't have to play. They have to be here because it is important to them and some of the players are not as invested as others.”
Gould began coaching at Emerson in 2007 to be closer to his family.
In his first year coaching the Lions for the 2008-2009 season, Gould was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) coach of the year. He took the team to a program-best 21-9, and helped Emerson reach its first playoff tournament appearance, and first trip to the GNAC conference championship.
The following season, the women's team went 13-12, then 9-17 in the 2010-2011 season, and 9-16 from 2011-2012.
This year, the Lions are 6-10.
“I got complacent with how I coached, and I thought I had figured it out at Emerson,” Gould said. “But I did not schedule right, and I did not understand how different recruiting is at a school where athletics is not the main priority for a lot of kids. And it takes a long time to fix a basketball team without scholarships.”
Amy Sherman, a senior point guard and a communication studies major, said she understands that Gould must adjust to a school with a lower athletic level.
“I think he has done a lot with the program,” Sherman said. “He is definitely transitioning from Division I to Division III, but he is a great mentor and cares about us as much on the court as he does off the court, and when we do what he says we usually end up winning the game.”
Despite the team's record, it has ranked among the top 15 Division III schools in the nation in terms of GPA since 2008.
Gould said that while he predicts that the team will improve this year, he is still sympathetic to players who have played while the program is realigning.
“We are a young team, and we will have a better record this year than we did last year,” Gould said. “We just got to go through it and we will get better.”
Deffebach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.