Harvey draws out offensive plays for practice. Photo by Kevin Wagner
The rhythm of bright, orange balls smacking the ground and squeaky sneakers scraping against the wooden floors are a daily melody for anyone that passes through the Panzer Athletic Center.
From the crack of the morning at 6 a.m. practices to the nightfall of the day, the Montclair State women’s basketball team owns the red and white courts.
Montclair State University head basketball coach Karin Harvey is known for setting the bar high for her team and building a program with much success.
Although victorious coaches are known to stick their roots, Harvey uses a unique style of coaching. Unlike many other teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, she keeps an open mindset, which enables her to try new plays to improve team skills, receive feedback from players, and find the right fit for the team.
“I try not to be married to a specific style and try to help and guide but not dictate players,” said Harvey. “My style involves a lot of sharing that way players are much more invested and have ownership of what they are doing.”
Traditional plays that are used by the team include everything from ball screening, and dribble handoffs to zone offenses and transition offenses. A typical Red Hawks’ practice incorporates at least 20 minutes of shooting, an offensive segment, and also a rebounding and transition segment.
Depending on what kind of zones the competitors play, Harvey will find ways to prepare the team for a win. Rowan, Stockton, and The College of New Jersey are all fierce competition in the NJAC.
TCNJ is known for switching every position during game time. Rowan is quick in bound and throws the inbound pass long. Since the team scouts their competitors, the Red Hawks are aware of these skills and a hearty amount of time is taken to rehearse plays prior to the match.
Harvey’s main goal is to put players in the best possible position to maximize their strengths, with hopes that this will grant more chances to score.
“We are not looking for one player to score every time. In a perfect world, five players have ten points,” said Harvey.
Although all positions on the court are key during game time, the point guard plays a significant leading role.
Senior Kate Tobie has been the starting point guard for the Red Hawks since her freshman year. Tobie appeared in all 29 games last season, was ranked fourth in the NJAC in assists, 13th in steals and third in assist-turnover ratio. At six-foot-tall, it is unusual to see a point guard with such tremendous height, working to the team’s advantage.
“Tobie has a very high basketball IQ on the court and has a lot of length,” said Harvey. “She does a great job of leading our team.”
Some characteristics of a high basketball IQ include understanding how certain plays should be run during the game, how the tempo should go, what plays will work with certain people, and knowing where the strengths are to score against certain defenders.
In order to find out what each game mission is for the team, a collaborative effort is made between the coaches and the players. Tobie reflected on the importance of discussing game plans during practice.
“Coach and I constantly talk and she always asks for my input,” said Tobie. “She takes whatever I say and applies it to our practices.”
Tobie also described one practice where Harvey requested her not to communicate on the court to see how the team would respond.
“I couldn’t even stand there and do it,” said Tobie. “The practice was terrible, I can’t imagine not talking again.”
Clearly, communication is a critical necessity in the sport of basketball and a core for the Montclair State team. Harvey mentions different key players, including Katie Sire and Taylor Harmon, whom both do an excellent job at reading and contributing ideas to different kinds of offenses.
“On defense, I should always hear ‘I got ball, screen coming, or I’m through’ and on offense our team communicates through hand signals,” said Harvey.
Last year, the Red Hawks were top ten in the country for three-point defense. The team infiltrates defense into every single practice, participating in drills like boxing out and repetitive work on half-court defense.
What outsiders do not know is that Harvey and assistant coaches can spend up to two hours or even two days on devising defensive drills like how to defend a ball screen. Some reasons why ball screens are beneficial is because they help players get open and create defensive mismatches, so that the offense can score.
Recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Colleen O’ Connell shared the importance of taking time to finding different ways to build defensive drills.
“It takes a long time because we focus on each small detail of defending and there are so many ways of doing so,” said O’ Connell. “Our team must know how and when to effectively use each different strategy in both practice and game settings.”
Harvey’s coaching style ultimately brings originality to the table. O’ Connell also vouched for her unique style of coaching, which has attracted talented and intelligent athletes from all over the country.
“Harvey does a great job of finding the perfect balance in creating our practice plan,” said O’ Connell. “Our team gets to practice multiple parts of the game all at once, which translates really well into live situations.”
Montclair State | New Jersey