Anthony Crocitto is “looking to build something special” in his new role as the new women’s basketball coach at Saint Leo University,
Crocitto, named Saint Leo’s new women’s basketball coach on May 4, replaces Missy West. She resigned on March 29 after a 14-40 record in two seasons, including a 5-22 record last season.
Despite the team’s struggles in the win-loss column the past two seasons, Crocitto is “fascinated” by the opportunity to rebuild the women’s hoops program. He is confident it has all the ingredients to become a national contender at the Division II level.
“I believe with the facilities, the location, the academics and the support that Saint Leo athletics receives, there’s an opportunity to really take the program to another level — a national level in basketball,” Crocitto said. He last coached at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) for seven seasons, guiding that program to three 20-win campaigns over the last four years.
“There are a lot of plusses to relocating to Saint Leo, for sure,” he said.
After more than 20 years of collegiate coaching, Crocitto plans to use his experience from his time at NYIT and as an assistant coach at places like the University of Central Florida (2006-07) and Hofstra University (2004-06).
“I have the luck of working for some very good people at the Division I level, even my first job at the Division II level,” he said.
Crocitto said former Hofstra head coach (now University of Buffalo head coach) Felisha Legette-Jack was a major influence on his career. “I’ve been blessed with learning from some great people, so you combine all that together…and the opportunities at (Saint Leo) are greater because I’m combining the experience. As an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at a few stops, I was able to help rebuild three or four programs along the way, so…it leads to hoping we can reproduce what we did at (NYIT).”
Realistically, it may take a few seasons to see a major overhaul in the team’s winning percentage, but that won’t stop Saint Leo’s new coach from immediately implementing a change in the team’s style of play.
“I want to get up and down, and play fast,” he said. “Push the tempo as much as possible, but we got to grind it out on the defensive end, too. It’s really a big, big part of creating easy opportunities on the offensive end.”
To do that, he’ll need players — talented ones at that.
“At this level, to win, you’ve got to recruit some Division I kids, and you want to shoot for the moon and land on a star — you get a couple stars, and you’re a winner. It takes horses to win the derby,” Crocitto said.
“You can be the greatest coach in the world, but you still need players,” he said.
One player the incoming coach will have at his disposal for the 2016-2017 season is senior guard Chelsy Springs, the team’s leading scorer (16.2 points per game) and rebounder (7.6 rebounds per game) last season.
“I do like some of the pieces that are coming back,” Crocitto said. “We have an exceptionally talented young lady in Chelsy Springs that you can build her senior year around. We’re trying to bring in a couple players in the next few weeks as we’ve got some positions available, and I think it’s going to lead to an exciting season.”
In his first year, Crocitto said he’d “like to at least double the wins” from last year. Within four years, he wants the team to finish in the top four of the Sunshine State Conference.
“Obviously, I’m not that patient,” Crocitto said, echoing the sentiment of many basketball coaches nationwide. “But, you just don’t know what injuries you’re going to have, how your recruits are going to pan out, what level your returning players are truly at, so you want to do your best to see that happen. But, that’s a realistic goal.”
New York Institute of Technology (2009-2016)
Longwood University (2007-09)
University of Central Florida (2006-07)
Hofstra University (2004-06)
Fairleigh Dickinson University (2002-04)
Published May 18, 2016