Jim Lewis, who has been a success at nearly everything he has tried in the basketball world, said his first year as coach of the George Mason University women's basketball team has been "a learning experience." But he is confident success will be in George Mason's future.
Lewis, 38, went to George Mason after a 59-15 record, including three Great Falls District championships in three years of coaching boys at South Lakes High School. As a player at Groveton, he was named Virginia player of the year as a senior and went on to West Virginia, where his teams went to one NIT and two NCAA tournaments. He was an assistant at several colleges, including Duke, but this has been his first experience with women's basketball.
"I've had to make some adjustments, but the girls had to make some adjustments to me," said Lewis, whose team finished its season at 13-15 Saturday it was eliminated from the ECAC South tournament by host Richmond, 77-54. "I think the biggest difference is the sensitivity factor. The girls tend to take things more personally and let it affect their play on the court. The boys may take it personally, but it usually doesn't affect their play. We had some tears shed early, and I really didn't see a need for it."
Lewis does say he was pleasantly surprised at the talent he found. He liked the ability of senior Linda Jones, encouraged her to shoot more and her scoring average increased from 11 points to 17.7.
Many were surprised when Lewis accepted the position at George Mason, figuring he had a future coaching men at the collegiate level. He said several factors went into his decision, and although he does not rule out the possibility of someday coaching men in college, he does not regret the move.
"I enjoyed my three years at South Lakes, but I also enjoyed my time at Duke," said Lewis. "I wanted to return to the collegiate level as a head coach. Both my wife and I are from this area and wanted to stay here, so it was a good opportunity."
Lewis feels he accomplished his initial goals this season.
"I wanted to be competitive to start, and I think we proved we were capable of beating any team in the league, he said. "I was realistic enough not to expect to be an Old Dominion or a Southwestern Louisiana in three years."
St. Stephen's closed its best season since 1963 by winning the St. Stephen's Invitational tournament recently.
The Saints finished 20-3 overall, and tied Landon for the regular season Interstate Athletic Conference title at 11-1. The IAC does not have a postseason tournament, but St. Stephen's defeated Landon in the semifinals of its tournament and then defeated Ireton for the championship.
The Saints won the IAC title in 1983, but they had not won the St. Stephen's tournament since 1966.
"It sure has been a long drought," said St. Stephen's Athletic Director Al (Sleepy) Thompson, who started the tournament in 1957 and has seen the home team win only four times (1957 and 1963 were the others).
Much of the credit must go to fourth-year Coach Win Palmer and Mike Pascal, who averaged 19.9 points.
If there was a sign of hope in Oakton High School's 1-21 basketball season, it was that first-year Coach Tom Casey had five sophomores on the floor at the end of an 86-52 loss to T.C. Williams in the first round of the Northern District tournament last week at Lake Braddock.
Three of the sophomores -- 6-foot-6 center Jack Ruppert, 6-0 guard Chris Turner and 5-7 point guard Mike Hall -- had increased playing time as the season went on. For the tournament, Casey added two sophomores from the 16-7 junior varsity: 6-5 Mike Fay and 6-0 Pat Miller, who hit two 18-foot shots when he received a chance to play against the Titans.
"It is easy to make a lot of excuses for this year, but we just didn't play that well," said Casey.
Besides the Cougars' record, another disappointment this year was the play of 6-4 forward Tony Reid. Although he finished with a 15.5 scoring average, many people expected more of him. He scored only four points against Williams before fouling out early in the second half.
Casey said the year-long stress of playing against box-and-one defenses may have had some influence on Reid's play, but he was more disappointed that his best player also let his grades slip this year to a point where he will probably not be eligible for a Division I scholarship.
"Physically, he has tremendous potential and there are definitely some Division I schools he could play at," said Casey. "This year, I think he got frustrated by a combination of things. What will be in his future, I don't known. For now, we will start looking into some junior colleges for him."
Two more members of T.C. Williams' state championship football team have signed letters of intent for college scholarships. That makes five Titans who have signed, and Coach Glenn Furman says several more will follow.
Furman said Carlton Hallums, a 6-3, 248-pound offensive tackle, is headed for Norfolk State. Nose guard Sidney Ellis, who is 6-1, 212 pounds, has signed with Liberty Baptist.