For Anthony Crocitto, winning games is important.
Saint Leo University’s new women’s basketball coach hopes to be one of the top four teams in the Sunshine State Conference within four seasons.
To do that, the 20-year college-coaching veteran is on a mission to find high-level recruits — wherever they may live.
While he’s certainly looking for Florida-bred talent, he’s also searching far and wide to secure skilled players for the Division II program.
By using this approach, there’s a chance he’ll land an imposing post player from Tampa, a crafty point guard from New York, or maybe a sharpshooting forward from Europe.
“We’re going to look internationally, locally and nationally to find the best fits,” Crocitto said last week. “You’ve always got to keep it open because you may get a call from Alaska, and you may get five calls locally, so you’ve just got to unturn every stone.
“Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on something,” he said.
Crocitto didn’t miss out on much in his previous coaching stop at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), leading them to a 26-9 record and an appearance in the Division II East Regional Championship game.
That team featured players from all over, including New York and Tennessee, and Egypt and Greece.
However, it’s not just about finding exceptional ballplayers, it’s also about finding compatible pieces that gel together on the court, the Lions coach said.
When he’s assembling a team, he’s looking for players with an intense desire to play and he’s considering the overall dynamics of the team.
“I think when you recruit that and you don’t have cliques, and you do your best to maintain it as a family, you’re…not going to have any wars within your program. I think that’s how we were so successful at NYIT — we were able to mesh all that to win,” he said.
“You’re not always going to recruit the players like we did at NYIT that are All-Americans,” he added, “but you can consistently change the culture in how you act and how you hold yourself, the character you recruit, and the people that surround you.”
The coach said he’s not just recruiting players. He’s going after Saint Leo alumni, as well.
He’s trying to generate alumni support for a program that experienced a disastrous 5-22 record last season, under Missy West, its former coach.
Crocitto wants to build the alumni base of support a little more each year, noting that graduates from the university may not have previously received “a whole lot of love, or even a phone call.”
The coach is so determined to bring alumni back into the fold that he and Saint Leo athletic director Francis X. Reidy plan to call at least five to 10 alumni each week, beginning in July.
They intend to increase community outreach, too.
One way to generate interest involves scheduling athletic department functions at restaurants from San Antonio to Wesley Chapel, where fans and alumni can meet coaches, ask questions and build relationships.
He believes this approach will eventually generate more interest in his program, and may lead to increased attendance at games. Attendance has been down for the past three years, dropping from an average of 250 fans per game in the 2013-2014 season to an average of 220 fans per game last year.
Crocitto wants to build a relationship with fans that makes them “feel special.” He wants them to feel “that they can come back and watch practice, come to games, and be a part of receptions, and get out into the community a little bit more.
“As you build your locker room, you try to get to know people and that’s where I’m very good at — networking and building something special,” the coach said.”
Published May 25, 2016