‘Rising star’ Methven, UAlbany women’s basketball associate head coach, leads Great Danes’ prep for top-seeded Louisville in NCAA tournament

UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen, left, discusses strategy with associate head coach Megan Methven during practice for the UAlbany women's basketball program at SEFCU Arena on Tuesday.

UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen, left, discusses strategy with associate head coach Megan Methven during practice for the UAlbany women's basketball program at SEFCU Arena on Tuesday.

Head coach Colleen Mullen answered the question with confidence, which is likely how she handled dishing out the assignment, too.

Which UAlbany women’s basketball assistant coach was in charge of the season’s toughest scouting report, the one to prepare the 16th-seeded Great Danes for top-seeded Louisville in Friday’s first-round game of the NCAA tournament? 

“Megan is the lead scout on Louisville,” Mullen said earlier this week.

That’s Megan Methven, UAlbany’s associate head coach and someone Mullen referred to this week as a “rock star” and someone who will be a “terrific head coach” when the 33-year-old gets that opportunity.

“She’s a rising star in this business,” Mullen said, “and she’s ready to be a head coach.”

When Mullen was hired at UAlbany in 2018, Methven was one of the newly minted head coach’s first calls. They had worked together for the prior two seasons at Army — Mullen as associate head coach, Methven as assistant coach — and Mullen quickly grew to rely on Methven, much in the same way that then-Army head coach Dave Magarity relied on Mullen.

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“Really quickly, she built up my trust,” said the 41-year-old Mullen. “I was always leaning on her for advice.”

During the long college basketball season, the general practice is that assistant coaches take turns as the “lead” on developing a scouting report and game plan. There are different factors that go into which coach gets which opponents, but the trust Mullen has in Methven is evident. Before Louisville, Methven’s roster of opponents to serve as the lead scout included Maine and Stony Brook.

So, essentially, the biggest games of UAlbany’s season.

A Corning native who graduated from Stonehill College, Methven started some work on Louisville — and Baylor — last weekend, even before the Great Danes had their opponent confirmed. Preparing for one of the best teams in the country, and a club with much more athleticism and size than UAlbany, is a different type of task than getting ready to play a mid-January game against a fellow America East program. One of the adjustments Methven said she made was to watch more clips — as compared to full games — of Louisville than what’s typical.

“Because there’s such specific things that we really have to be good at,” said Methven, who listed rebounding and handling Louisville’s defensive pressure as two of those items.

During practice this week, the Great Danes specifically worked on actions that other mid-major programs used to — at least, some — success against Louisville this season. Most recently, Louisville played fellow ACC foe Miami, and Mullen noted that “Miami’s personnel isn’t exactly what our personnel looks like,” and that makes utilizing how Miami played against Louisville unlikely for the Great Danes.

“So when you’re doing a scout, it’s really good to try to go back in time . . . just to see a team that may be more similar to you or your personnel, and what their strategy was,” Mullen said.

For that reason, Methven said Louisville’s 80-66 win on Dec. 5 against Belmont was a game she broke down more than others.

“But it’s really about keying in on what we think we can do to be successful — and there’s certain things that we’re just not going to get,” Methven said. “[For example], scores around the basket are going to be a lot tougher for us against a team like Louisville that has so much size.”

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Methven made clear, though, that UAlbany’s strategy against Louisville isn’t one devised to leave the 6 p.m. game at the Cardinals’ home KFC Yum! Center with a respectable showing on the scoreboard. There are things the Great Danes likely need to concede — such as Louisville’s dominance on its defensive glass — but the goal is to win.

“Whenever you’re playing in this type of environment, you have to be aggressive,” Methven said.

Less than a decade ago, Methven was teaching and coaching at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in Massachusetts. She was an assistant coach at Stonehill before heading to Army, and said it was a “no-brainer” to head to UAlbany when Mullen asked.

“She taught me so much [at Army]. I really believe in her, and I really thought that she could do this,” Methven said. “I knew [rebuilding UAlbany’s program] was going to be a big job, and I was excited at the opportunity to do that with her.”

When Mullen started at UAlbany, she said there were a few weeks where it was just Methven and herself starting the work that eventually landed the Great Danes back in the NCAA tournament, and Mullen used the term “co-coaching” as to how highly she values Methven’s contributions during the past several years.

“We have a great coaching staff and everyone is a team player,” Mullen said, “but Megan’s been integral in this four-year rebuild. . . . She really has an understanding of how to run a program, from top to bottom.”

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