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First-year EA girls coach puts stamp on program

| Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011

First-year head coach Mike Osiecki has a lot of work to do to make East Allegheny a formidable team in Section 3-AA.

The Wildcats finished last season 6-12 overall and 2-10 in section play. With just three weeks on the job, Osiecki said he is up to the task and has a plan in place.

"I'm just trying to improve the whole program," Osiecki said. "I'm trying to rebuild and start over but keep the spirits up. We scrimmaged California and Brentwood and we took a lot of lumps, but it was 100 percent better than what I saw last week.

"There's definitely a lot of work that needs to be done. But I'm going to try to bring enthusiasm and positive energy."

The first lesson he's preached is finding the identity he wants the players to embrace. Osiecki said there is potential and talent on the roster, but expressing a desire for the girls to grasp his views will be key.

"I want my players to know I'm a hard-nosed guy," Osiecki said. "I was not a star my days in high school. Everything I did in basketball was hard-nosed.

"I take this as a passion of mine. When people don't take it seriously, I want them to know how I want them to play."

Senior forward Rebecca Martz • named team captain • hopes to leave the East Allegheny program in a better place when she graduates. It didn't take her long to accept Osiecki's philosophies, and she is prepared to be a court general and carry out his requests with her teammates.

"I think it's a good thing. I'm excited because I love the game," Martz said. "I want everyone else to have the same passion for it. If everyone does, I think our season is going to go well."

Senior guard LaChae Irish understands Osiecki's pressure. After transferring from Allderdice to East Allegheny, she also is a newcomer to the program. At first glance, she has noticed some of the positives with the coaching change and the team dynamic.

"He is a good coach, and if we just listen to what he has to say, things will fall into place," she said. "This is his first year at EA and it's my first year, but I've been playing basketball for a while. We're both kind of new to the team, so we're learning together."

Osiecki is excited to work with sophomore guard Kaitlyn Keenan, a returning starter who Osiecki described as a "fire plug" and someone he will be able to work with for a few years.

"There's not a shot that she doesn't like," Osiecki said with a laugh. "She's an in-your-face person. I'm trying to get the girls to feed off of her. She's 100 feet to 100 feet up and down the court."

The growing pains will surely continue as the year progresses, but Osiecki is happy with what he's seen in his limited time at the helm.

Knowing his gritty background, it's easy to understand why a defense-first attack has been of the utmost importance to this point.

"Our defense was atrocious just running a basic 2-3 (zone defense)," he said of preseason scrimmages and practices. "It's come a long way in just learning the proper rotation, responsibilities and switching. We're now getting into building the basic man-to-man looks."

The first true test of the year will happen when the Wildcats open the season against the host team in the Freeport Tournament on Friday. Osiecki will have his first opportunity to see if his plan has taken form. It's a long season and for now, he understands it will take some time.

"We may start off slow but it's an ongoing process," he said. "Are we going to win 20 games• Probably not. But to get a playoff spot, all we got to do is come in fourth. Is that out of realm of possibility• I don't know.
"They know we're business and it's time to get on this."

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