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ND Women’s Basketball: Assistant coach Tsipis stresses team play

Molly Sammon | Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When Irish associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis arrived at Notre Dame nine years ago, he had never coached a women’s basketball team. After helping the Irish program improve its all-time winning percentage to .728 and come within six points of a national championship, he has no intentions of going back to the men’s game any time soon. 

“I like the teaching aspect of the women’s game better,” Tsipis said. “There is this great learning curve that the women’s game has, and the game has really grown. We’re getting faster, stronger, bigger athletes now, but it is still more of a team-based game. Every year it’s getting better.”

Tsipis said he favors the cohesive technical structure of the women’s game and dislikes the trend of the highly-individualized play he noticed on the men’s side.

“There are five people involved in almost every play,” Tsipis said. “That’s only in the women’s game. And with that involvement comes a team chemistry that you see with the women over the men.”

When he started with Notre Dame in 2003, Tsipis said Irish coach Muffet McGraw told him she did not want him to feel as though he needed to change anything in his coaching style. However, he said he noticed a difference in how his new team adapted to his guidance on the court.

“They pick things up quicker than when I was trying to say some of the same things on the men’s side,” Tsipis said. “The fundamentals of basketball are the same, but it’s different in the approach. To me, it’s what makes the women’s game a more pure game.

“I feel like I don’t deal with a lot of the same ego problems that I had on the men’s side. I think that end goal is different for them. For the men, no matter if they start or if they sit the bench, they still think they’re going to play professional basketball. That was something on the men’s side that I had to do, I had to tell people they maybe weren’t as good as they thought they were. I quite enjoy not working with egos and teaching people to have great self-confidence.”

Tsipis attended North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, but could not ignore his passion to be a coach. While in college he worked on the men’s basketball staff at Duke under prestigious head coach Mike Krzyzewski, before moving through the coaching ranks at Le Moyne College in New York, Cornell, Elon and UNC-Greensboro before ultimately arriving at Notre Dame.

For the Irish, Tsipis works specifically on season scheduling, building recruiting classes and mentoring specific players — namely fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory and senior tri-captain guard Natalie Novosel.

“I really enjoy the player development and the mentorship part of my job,” Tsipis said. “Seeing them coming in as freshmen, helping their game expand and recruiting them has been a big part of my job at Notre Dame.”

Aside from the mentoring, Tsipis said he enjoys his annual assignment of forming the team’s schedule.

“I really enjoy taking on some of the best teams in the country, preparing the film and getting everything for the game plan ready to present to coach McGraw,” Tsipis said. “When we play the [Connecticuts], the Dukes and the Tennessees of the world and are successful doing that, we need to be well-prepared in that sense, and it’s great to be given that responsibility.”

Contact Molly Sammon at msammon@nd.edu