For the third time in history, Miami will open its men’s and women’s basketball seasons with new coaches for both teams.
Kettering native and Chaminade Julienne graduate Meg Duffy is scheduled to open her first season as the RedHawks’ women’s coach when they take on Detroit Mercy on Friday at 2 p.m. at Miami’s Millett Hall.
Five hours later, former Purdue assistant Jack Owens is due to make his debut as the RedHawk men’s coach at Fordham in New York City. Miami’s home opener is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Wright State.
The head coaching jobs are the first for both coaches, though Owens did spend part of the 2000-2001 season as interim head coach at Howard Community College.
This is the first time Miami has had new faces a the top of each program since the 1993-1994 season, when Herb Sendek took over the men’s team and Lisa Bradley was in her first season as the women’s coach.
Here are five things to know about the 2017-2018 Miami women’s team:
All 12 letterwinners from last season’s team, which finished 11-21 overall and 5-13 in the MAC, good for a fourth-place finish in the East Division. The returning letterwinners include 5-foot-3 sophomore guard Lauren Dickerson, who started all 32 games and was named the MAC Freshman of the Year after setting the program’s freshman scoring record with 520 points.
The roster includes seven other players who started at least 12 games. Duffy, the Notre Dame product and former Michigan assistant, was impressed how her players were trying to adapt to a totally new program.
“I’m most impressed with how they’ve bought in with the new staff and style,” she said. “Our focus has been on being up-tempo and improving their toughness. It was difficult at first, but the energy has been high and there’s been a lot of enthusiasm.”
Not all has gone smoothly, she admitted.
“Sometimes, it feels like we have 14 freshmen out there,” she said. “There are moments where it feels like it’s all new. The other part is it can become a grind, and that’s where you need your juniors and seniors to help you.”
Miami’s only newcomers are two freshmen, 6-3 forward Kelly McLaughlin from St. Louis St. Joseph’s Academy and 5-10 guard Kenzie Schmitz out of Germanton (Wis.) High School.
Duffy and her staff have focused on improving the team’s conditioning, she said.
“They had a little bit of a problem finishing games last season,” she pointed out. “We took that on early. We talked about how we have to make practices harder than what games feel like. We have a long way to go. We’re long, but we need to be a little bit more athletic. That will come with recruiting.”
The new coach was responsible for many areas as an assistant, but it’s not the same as being the program leader.
“It’s hard to turn it off,” she said. “You’re managing everything. You need people you can lean on.
“I tried to come in with a positive attitude. We had a clean plate. The most important thing is establishing a culture, laying a foundation. I’ve fallen in love with the university. I’m fortunate to be in a good situation. I have to tell myself to be patient. That’s the hardest part.”
The opener against Detroit Mercy is the first of 11 non-conference games – five on the RedHawks’ home court at Millett Hall. Miami is scheduled to play at Purdue on Nov. 15 and at Cincinnati on Nov. 18, followed by a noon home game against Valparaiso on Nov. 21 and a trip West to play Denver and host Loyola Marymount in the Loyola Marymount Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 24-25.
The RedHawks also have home non-conference games against Canisius on Dec. 3, Jacksonville State on Dec. 9 and Florida A&M on Dec. 21 before opening their MAC season against Northern Illinois on Dec. 30 at home.
The RedHawks were picked in a preseason MAC media poll to duplicate last season’s finish – fourth in the East.