Ali Jaques isn’t 100 percent sure what she has for a team yet, billboards notwithstanding.
On her morning drive on Route 9 from Waterford to the Siena College campus in Loudonville every morning, she passes a huge sign depicting herself and players Lily Grenci and Tehresa Coles.
“The first time I saw it, I almost drove off the road,” Siena’s new women’s basketball head coach said with a laugh on Tuesday.
Jaques and her new staff are in the process of catching up to a marketing campaign, based on the theme “A New Ballgame,” that is already in full swing.
That started with partial team workouts this week.
Having worked her way through a hectic mid-summer that included pretty much every task imaginable except evaluating her team, she has finally been able to settle into a routine whereby she can figure out what she has and what she’ll do with it in her first season as a head coach.
“My goal was to get to Aug. 1, because when you have to put a staff together and you have to go on the road and recruit, and get your players through summer school, it was just one thing after another,” Jaques said at the Siena Sneak Preview season ticket drive. “Once we hit that, and once I had my staff set, things really fell into place. We could take a breath, we could re-evaluate where we were. August was a great month for us to reconnect and collect ourself and get ready for September to hit.
“This summer absolutely flew by.”
Grenci, second in scoring and third in rebounding in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, is the only senior back, and Coles, a Colonie High graduate, started 22 of 29 games as a freshman last season, thus warranting billboard attention.
Other than that, the Saints will be trying to find an identity under Jaques, who replaced Gina Castelli after 22 seasons.
Although Jaques has just one senior, the junior class is pretty deep.
“There’s positives and negatives in any situation,” Jaques said. “I like to look at the positive in that we have a very large junior class and only one senior, so, to me, they’ve been through the two first years, which always seem to be the toughest.
“So when you get to be an upperclassman, you kind of know the routine. And even though I’m a new coach, they know the intensity level, they know how hard they have to work.”
One of Jaques’ first jobs was to assemble some assistants.
She hired Margaret Carey as her top assistant and recruiting coordinator, Jack Castleberry and Safiya Grant.
Carey was the lead assistant for the last two seasons at New Hampshire, and Castleberry spent the last four seasons at Virginia Military Institute as an assistant.
Grant was the director of basketball operations at Providence the last two seasons.
Jaques, who worked for two seasons at George Washington and two at Northwestern for defensive mastermind Joe McKeown, said she’s leaving it to her assistants to look at game film from last season.
She prefers to assess her players first-hand, in practice.
“People ask questions about, well, are we going to run?” Jaques said. “I’ve worked for some great coaches, so I know we’re going to be able to put a great product on the floor that can achieve greatness. We’re going to run a little bit, too, so that’ll be fun.
“When I said to my team that I wanted them to have a fresh start, I really meant it. My staff has definitely looked at some film, but I wanted to be objective and give everyone a fresh start. We’ll see where we go.”