Charlie Buscaglia maintains RMU women's basketball's winning ways
Winning and losing matter to Robert Morris women's coach Charlie Buscaglia, but he can find victory outside the basketball court, too.
Buscaglia saw it in the eyes and felt it in the handshake of Greek father Lefteries Stamolamprou, who entrusted his daughter, Anna Niki, to Buscaglia and the Robert Morris staff four years ago.
Anna Niki Stamolamprou is a four-year starter and 2017 Northeast Conference Player of the Year for the No. 1 seed Colonials (19-10), who play No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson (8-21) at 1 p.m. Sunday in the NEC Tournament quarterfinals at Sewall Center.
Usually, Lefteries follows his daughter's career on the computer by waking at 2 a.m. (because the seven-hour time difference between Moon and Greece) to watch the games.
Two weeks ago, he traveled to Robert Morris to watch Anna Niki play collegiately for the first time in person. Her mother, Jenny, visited last year.
Robert Morris won both games with Lefteries in the stands, but the scores were less important than what the men said to each other.
“He was so happy that she came here. He was so appreciative,” said Buscaglia, named NEC Coach of the Year on Friday. “People are really caught up in winning and losing, and it's really important to the program to have success but to see a father that proud of his daughter for coming here and he is so thankful, that meant a lot to me.”
Much of Robert Morris' success can be traced to its 5-foot-9 point guard, who will graduate this year with degrees in economics and international business and the second-highest point total in school history (now 1,743, 14.4 per game).
“She always was talented,” said Buscaglia, who found Anna Niki in Thessaloniki, Greece, on one of his many recruiting trips overseas. “What she's done better this year is battle through the tougher days, the days when the ball didn't go in early and the ball was hitting her in the head.”
Those days haven't emerged too often in this or any of the previous three seasons. Robert Morris has reached the NEC championship game the past three seasons, winning in 2014 and '16.
Those were the third and fourth titles won by Charlie's dad, Sal, who retired as coach after last season — his 13th at Robert Morris.
Sal, a three-time NEC Coach of the Year, still comes to almost every game — he hasn't missed one at Sewall Center this season — and father and son occasionally discuss strategy and personnel.
“He likes me to reach out to him,” Charlie said. “I don't know how much he enjoys (the games) because he's probably going crazy with his nervousness for the team, but he's handled it well.”
Charlie said he's a different from his dad in many ways, especially on defense where Robert Morris plays mostly man-to-man after Sal liked to regularly change schemes.
“We've gone zone a couple of times on the year, and both times I was cringing,” Charlie said.
Charlie follows the defensive style of Virginia coach Tony Bennett, whose teams annually are one of the toughest to score against in men's college basketball. He's visited and discussed strategy with Bennett many times through close friend Johnny Carpenter, who is Virginia's video coordinator. It's probably no coincidence Robert Morris is allowing almost three fewer points per game this season.
“I've always looked up to people who have gone through it before,” said Buscaglia, 37. “I'm an old soul. I listen to '50s music, '60s music.”
Stamolamprou said her former and current coach are different people.
“Coach B (Charlie) likes more details, more routine,” she said. “I know one thing: They both love the game.”
Note: Junior forward Megan Smith was named to the All-NEC third team, and center Nneka Ezeigbo was named to the all-rookie team.