New Herd women's coach practicing patience
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - New Marshall women's basketball Coach Matt Daniel admits it isn't often that he's called a patient man.
But that's what his players say he's offering as they grow into his system.
"At first, a lot of us didn't want to ask questions because we didn't want to run or get in trouble, but he's really patient," sophomore guard Shay Weaver said. "He'll explain it and slow it down. As long as we're listening and we're going our hardest, he doesn't get upset with us."
Daniel knows it won't always be easy as he takes over for former Marshall Coach Royce Chadwick, now the coach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The Thundering Herd has been hovering around .500 since the 2005-06 season, except for an injury-filled 9-21 campaign in 2010-11.
But Daniel is no stranger to quick vaults up the standings. In four years at Central Arkansas, he guided the Sugar Bears from a 6-23 record his first season to three straight 21-win seasons and a Southland Conference title last year.
One of his first tasks is to instill confidence in his new team. He played with confidence as Arkansas' Mr. Basketball in 1994 and at both Colorado and Harding (Ark.) University. He coaches with confidence. Now he wants his Marshall players to feel confident when they take the court.
"It is a vital part of what we want them to be," he said. "At some point, the ball goes flat for everybody. I was a confident player because I had to be.
"We will play with a swagger," he added. "What that will result in, I don't know. The only promise I can make to the Marshall faithful is we'll play hard, we'll try to play smart and we'll try to play together and try to enjoy the process."
Daniel inherits a solid team. The Herd's 16-14 record last season was its best since the 2008-09 campaign, though the team lost 11 of its last 15. Six of Marshall's top nine scorers return, including their second, third and fourth best point producers. Redshirt junior guard Erica Woods averaged 6.7 points per game, while Weaver, a member of the all-Conference USA freshman team, averaged 6.1 points. Redshirt junior guard Jasmine Shaw averaged 6.0 points per game. Ten of Marshall's 12 returning players averaged at least seven minutes a game last season.
Even with that experience, Daniel said growing pains are a normal part of the process. But rather than get angry at mistakes, he'll just explain the process in greater detail. Daniel thinks that should help the players' transition.
"They're not scared of making a mistake," he said. "We're going to turn it over. We're going to miss shots. But nobody's trying to turn it over. Nobody's trying to miss a shot. What I don't have patience for is not being prepared. Hopefully game day is a celebration of your preparation. There's no excuse for not being prepared."
Weaver said Daniel's demeanor has helped the team adjust.
"At first we were nervous - what does he want? What is he going to expect?" she said. "But after being around him, we know that all we have to do is relax and play our heart out and we don't have to worry about anything else."
Daniel will take a hands-on approach to building a winner. At 36 years old, he can still lace up a pair of basketball shoes and join the players. He also has a very young staff - 32-year-old assistant Tony Kemper, 29-year-old assistant Tamisha Augustin and 26-year-old assistant Caronica Randle. All four have the ability to teach by doing, not just by lecturing.
"There obviously have to be changes that are made," Daniel said. "We're eager and happy to come in and try and implement those changes. It'll be a tough process. There'll be good days and there'll be bad days."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.