Dec. 2, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Homecomings are supposed to be special and Wednesday night will be for Georgia Tech women’s basketball head coach MaChelle Joseph.
But Joseph, an Auburn, Indiana, native, who will be back in Indiana, where she was an two-time All-American and four-time All-Big Ten performer — including a first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior in 1992 — at Purdue University and is a member of the school’s Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame (Class of 2010), also will be all business as her Yellow Jackets (5-2) faces the Indiana Hoosiers (4-2) as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
That approach will be crucial in her getting through about the only facet of the trip home that she knows will not be so much fun, seeing — actually facing — the coach on the opposing bench, Hoosiers’ second-year coach Teri Moren. That’s Teri Moren, Joseph’s former teammate and backcourt mate from 1990-92 at Purdue and from 2007-10, an assistant at Georgia Tech on Joseph’s staff.
Can you say buzzkill?
“Honestly, I’m not excited to have to play against not only a former teammate, a former assistant coach but also a good friend,” said Joseph. “Obviously, I’m excited about going back to Indiana and to have a chance to see my friends and family, but at the same time, it’s tough to go up against somebody that you care about and you are a good friend with.
“The way I look at the game, though, is it’s a win-win for me,” she added. “Because whether we win or she wins, somebody I care about is being successful.”
Joseph and Moren not only were teammates but teammates when Purdue’s program reached unprecedented heights. The Boilermakers went 73-16 (45-9) in the three years the two played together (1989-91) and they led the Boilermakers to their first Big Ten Championship. Joseph, who was First-Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year the year after Moren left, credits the team’s point guard, who was older by one year, for a lot of her success.
“We’ve known each other since we were about 17 years old and we went to three NCAA Tournaments together at Purdue and won the first-ever Big Ten Championship at Purdue,” Joseph said. “We played in the backcourt together, so we know each other really well. I was very fortunate to be able to score a lot of points but I wouldn’t have done that without Teri. She was a great point guard that helped me to get good shots. We depended a lot on each other both on and off the court to be successful.”
That didn’t change, even after both left West Lafayette. Joseph hired Moren to be her assistant coach prior to the 2007 season. She’d serve as associate head coach until 2010, and in those three years, the Jackets won 22, 22 and 23 games, making the NCAA Tournament all three years. They were the first three seasons a Joseph-coached team reached the NCAAs on the way to six straight appearances. Moren’s work, especially with center Sasha Goodlett laid the groundwork for Tech’s first Sweet 16 team in 2012. By then, Moren was coaching at Indiana State, where she compiled a 69-57 record in four years (41-31 in Missouri Valley Conference play), including the school’s first 20-win season in eight years, a regular-season MVC crown and a pair of WNIT appearances. She also developed six players into all-conference selections.
Indiana hired Moren, a Seymour, Ind., native, as its head coach on Aug. 9, 2014, when Curt Miller left to become an assistant with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Joseph felt the promotion into the big time was well deserved.
“She had worked really hard and deserved the opportunity to be the head coach at IU,” said Joseph. “As Purdue alums, it’s kind of a neat thing to see her being the head coach at Indiana. It’s an exciting time for her and her family and, obviously, I’m really happy for her and proud of her with the job she’s doing.”
The Hoosiers went 15-16 record, 4-14 in Big Ten play in Moren’s debut season in Bloomington, having their best scoring season (71.9 ppg), in almost 20 years, shooting the best free throw percentage in a decade (74.3) and recording the most steals in almost five years (284). They also hit 236 three-point field goals, the second most in school history.
Joseph isn’t surprised by the job Moren’s done.
“One thing is Teri’s work ethic. She is just a tremendous worker. She’s very high-character. She does a great job with her players,” Joseph said. “She cares about them, not just as basketball players but as students and then athletes. I think she does a tremendous job of mentoring these young women and I think she’s steady. Teri doesn’t get too high, she doesn’t get too low. She just works. That’s the thing I’ve always respected about her.”
Come Wednesday night, Joseph believes that the two teams will look similar in many ways. That’s no coincidence, as both coaches played and learned under legendary coach Lin Dunn.
“We run a lot of the same things. A lot of that is the influence of Lin Dunn. There’s no doubt about it,” said Joseph. “Both of us played for her and had the opportunity to be mentored by her. So it’s pretty interesting to scout a team that you know so well because you run basically a lot of the same things.”
Joseph stressed that at least for 40 minutes she’ll be able to put the personal stuff aside and leave the game in the hands of the players.
“I really haven’t thought about it as ‘Teri vs. MaChelle,’” she said. “It’s more of a great opportunity for my kids to see first-hand a lot about Indiana basketball. I know that Indiana has great fan support so I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids.”
Tech’s recent game against Northern Iowa during the Cancun Challenge should serve as good preparation for Indiana.
“That Northern Iowa team is a lot like Indiana,” Joseph said. “They’re well-coached, they execute well, they play great positional defense. So it’s going to be a tough game for us. But fortunately we played a team like Northern Iowa, who helped prepare us for the discipline it’s going to take to play against a team like Indiana.
“We have a really young team and our best player (Zaire O’Neil) doesn’t come back until January. She’s recovering from an ACL,” she added. “So we’re relying on a lot of freshmen right now and our two seniors have been carrying us. You never know what’s going to happen when you turn the lights on, so it’s just about execution.”
Joseph’s teams have executed so far in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, bringing a 6-2 record in the challenge into the game, and although it’s Georgia Tech’s first game ever against Indiana, Joseph was 8-0 against Indiana as a player, 4-0 in Bloomington, with an average margin of victory of 10.5 ppg — much of that was an 85-55 victory the last time there on March 6, 1992.
Her players know what the game means to their coach, even though she hasn’t come out and said it. She didn’t have to.
“She’s very passionate about playing Indiana — she’s very passionate about playing ANYBODY — but we know its Coach Jo’s home state. It really hits home and she’ll have a lot of support there,” said leading scorer Aaliyah Whiteside. “Just like if I was going home, it’s very important to get that win. We know she’s never lost to Indiana as a player. So I definitely want to keep that going.”