A dawn of a new era has began at LIU Brooklyn. On Thursday, LIU Brooklyn Athletics officially introduced former Seton Hall assistant coach Stephanie Oliver as the school’s eleventh women’s basketball head coach at LIU’s Steinberg Wellness Center. It was on Monday in which the school announced her appointment.
Newly removed of his interim tag, LIU Brooklyn Director of Athletics Brad Cohen did the honors of introducing Oliver to the university and immediately showed great confidence in his new hire.
“For the women’s basketball program, we are going to take it the next level with Stephanie.” said Cohen. “What we were looking for the next women’s head basketball coach, we wanted to find someone that could relate to our players, take our program to the next level and bring out student-athletes to a place where we can be successful on and off the court. We believe we got the right person.”
The LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball program has been seemingly stuck in neutral over the last three seasons with back-to-back nine-win seasons and a seven-win season. It has now been 14 years since LIU’s lone NEC championship and NCAA tournament appearance which ironically came under the coach Stephanie Oliver worked under at Seton Hall in Tony Bozzella.
In Stephanie Oliver, LIU is getting a head coach who is enthusiastic and excited about her first opportunity to be a head coach at the Division I level.
“I’m very excited. I’m overwhelmed with excitement. I’m really looking forward to it.” said Oliver. “This is an amazing opportunity and I’m so thankful to be handed this.”
Coach Oliver believes that LIU Brooklyn is the ideal place to build a winning program and most of the pieces are in place to make it successful and breed a championship culture.
“Academically, (LIU’s) reputation is outstanding. The location is one of a kind.” said Oliver. “I think it’s a place where we can win and our athletic department and our administration are so hands on with everything that I think that is going to lead to a winning culture having everybody involved.”
Last season, Coach Oliver helped the Seton Hall Pirates return back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995 and finished with a school record 28 wins. Although a turnaround of that magnitude likely won’t happen right away at LIU, she feels she is capable of turning around a program that has won 25 games the past three seasons.
“I had a hand in every aspect of “turnarounds”, but I think the main thing is building a culture and most importantly building a program.” said Oliver. “I just don’t want to be the women’s basketball team, I want it to be the women’s basketball program. I want it to be a culture. I want it to be something that people are proud of. That when our players graduate, they can come back here and say this is the program that we built. I was able to do that as a player and I want players to be able to do that as well.”
LIU forward/center Jahmia Phillips who now heads into her senior season and her teammates are excited about the appointment of Coach Oliver and what the future holds for the LIU program.
“I just love the energy that she is bringing in here and I think he can turnaround what we have going on. She has been really great since she got here.” said Phillips. “Everybody is excited. Everybody is excited for something different, something new, just to get this rolling and going again.”
Coach Oliver doesn’t want everything to be all about basketball. She wants to be a great head coach to her players but she also wants to be a great mentor to them as well for life outside of basketball and she feels her experiences has helped prepare for that.
“I think being a mentor and being there for the players and letting them know that I have their back and creating that family atmosphere is absolutely something that I took from every experience from player to coaching. At the end of the day, we are on the court only for two hours for practice. I have to be there for them for everything else.”
As far as first impressions go, I believe Stephanie Oliver really knocked it out of the park with her new players, the administration, with the other LIU coaches as well as myself. It will likely take time to win over the LIU support community but winning changes things and as we all know, everybody loves a winner.
I think the time was right for a coaching change in the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball program and I believe LIU landed themselves a young, energetic head coach who is eager to do big things and from meeting with her, she has the look and the passion of a coach who is ready to meet the challenge of getting this LIU women’s basketball program moving back in the right direction which is hopefully to end a long championship drought and return once again to the NCAA tournament.