Cormier looks to rebuild Big Green basketball

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 1/22/12 11:00pm

by Yomalis Rosario / The Dartmouth

"Obviously, we'd like to win more than the five games we won [last] year and show progress in the win-loss column," Cormier said. "People on the outside have picked us, with good reason, to be worst team in the league. We're going to prove them wrong."

In his second season, Cormier is looking to resurrect the men's basketball program. Cormier has rebuilt many high school, college and NBA programs and hopes to return Dartmouth to the top of the Ivy League.

Cormier began his coaching career in the high school ranks before becoming an assistant coach at Bentley University. After leaving Bentley, he took an assistant coaching position at Villanova University before coming to Dartmouth in 1985 to take the head coaching position. He coached the Big Green for seven seasons and revitalized the program before leaving for Fairfield University, where he once again rebuilt a losing program and led his team to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Following his time at Fairfield, Cormier spent 11 years in the NBA as a scout and assistant coach.

When the Dartmouth coaching job became available again, Cormier jumped at the opportunity to return to New Hampshire and rebuild the program. He said he sees himself as a man who can take the team to the next level.

"They needed to hire someone who could rebuild the program and someone who really wanted to be there, not someone who wanted to get it going and get out," Cormier said. "In the Ivy League you can't build a program in two or three years. Since you don't have transfers you have to build with freshmen."

When Cormier arrived at the beginning of last season, he worked to refocus the team and create a more dedicated culture within the basketball program. The team worked hard in the offseason at both weightlifting and conditioning. Cormier stressed to his team the importance of players asking themselves at the end of each day, What did I do to be a better basketball player?'

This season, the team's focus is keeping itself in a position to win games. It is working on improving certain facets of its game each practice and on performing better each game, according to Cormier.

"We have got to get better every day," he said. "We have to have short-term goals."

The Big Green also continues to strive toward its long-term goal of an Ivy League Championship. To accomplish this goal, Cormier has refocused the team's recruiting efforts. He said he believes that his experience as an NBA scout has made him a better basketball coach, particularly in terms of recruiting.

Cormier stressed the importance of "creative recruiting" in his rebuilding strategy. As the last place team in the Ivy League, it is difficult to recruit players of high caliber from the Northeast, Cormier said. To change this, he is recruiting from different regions of the United States and even foreign countries. He believes that once the team makes strides in the positive direction, it will become easier to recruit locally.

"This is what I enjoy doing," he said. "I rebuilt this program the first time and had a similar situation at Fairfield. It is a very satisfying thing to go into a program in disarray and be able to organize them and get them on the right track. This time I want to get [the team] on the right track and complete the process by winning an Ivy League Championship."

To rebuild the program, Cormier stressed the importance of his six freshmen. The freshmen have worked to follow the lead set by older players and will need to be the leaders in the rebuilding process, he said.

"I really tip my hat to the Class of 2015," Cormier said. "We have some good players in that class who came in knowing the reputation of Dartmouth is not a good one. They wanted to be part of something special. I would like to think that by the time they leave they will have been in the NCAA Tournament."

Cormier pointed out that many iof these younger players have already stepped up and are making large contributions to the team. Several Big Green players, including Gabas Maldunas '15, Jvonte Brooks '15 and John Golden '15 have already received Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, Maldunas and Brooks multiple times. Currently, three of the Big Green's five starters are freshmen.

"They have stepped up mightily," Cormier said. "They are adjusting well not only to college basketball, but also college life and college academics."

Although the younger players have stepped up, Cormier also praised the dedication and perseverance shown by the older players on the team. He explained that these players stuck with the program the last couple of years even though they were not winning. He also stressed that these players avoided off-the-court issues that plagued the team in previous seasons.

"They have weathered a lot but have perseverance to stick with the team and trust us as a coaching staff," Cormier said. "They know they are a part of building process but will not be here to enjoy the fruits of labor based on a win-loss situation. In sports the goal is to win, and that's a tough thing. These guys will always be a special part of the team and a real cornerstone to whatever success we have here."

The team is already demonstrating progress from last year. It is only one win away from last year's total of five, and nine of its 14 losses have been by less than 10 points, an improvement from last year's scores. Although Cormier understands that the team will eventually be measured in terms of wins and losses, he stressed the importance of acknowledging these short-term accomplishments.

"As you go forward, you have to keep your eye on the long-range goal, but work daily towards the short-term goal," he said. "The fact that we're in nine of those games means that during the course of that game j we were very competitive. Now we have to find ways to finish."

As the team begins the grind of Ivy League play, it will work to continually improve and perform well on the court, Cormier said. He explained that players know one another better now and need to settle into their roles.

"We need to take better shots, make shots and cut down turnovers," he said. "We should be a better rebounding team. We need to turn a lot of close games into wins."

Cormier stressed how important it is that the school and administration are behind the basketball program. He pointed to the new basketball suites as a visual indication of a newfound commitment to the program by the College. Cormier explained that transparency is essential to running a good program because it allows the coaching staff to openly communicate with admissions, financial aid and other administrative and academic offices.

"That's the reason I wanted to come back," Cormier said. "No one can do it by themselves. It has to be an understanding of the word we.' From the president on down, the administration has to be committed to making men's basketball an important sport representing the school. That being said, it's going to take a lot of hard work and some patience."

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