How Doug Novak will approach Mississippi State’s interim women’s basketball role

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STARKVILLE – Like almost everyone, Doug Novak didn’t know what was going to happen.

He joined Coach Nikki McCray-Penson’s team at Mississippi State in September as an associate head coach, bringing with him extensive varsity coaching experience, including eight seasons at the helm of the men’s basketball team. ball from Bethel University. But just over a month after taking office, Novak’s role quickly changed.

McCray-Penson resigned focus on his health. Novak was raised in the interim role. All the while, the season was fast approaching.

In the two weeks since everything changed for players at Novak and Mississippi State, the interim coach has worked hard to prepare a team for a season despite a seismic shift in build-up, focusing on each day. progressively while avoiding the temptation to take shortcuts.

“I came here to add value as an assistant coach and to help Nikki, and that’s what I thought I signed up for,” Novak said on Thursday, his first press conference since taking over. took interim control of the Bulldogs. “However, things changed quite quickly. And so our goal is always the same, or my goal is always the same: to add value. Now, it’s just a different position, a different seat.

“Anytime there’s a change – a change in your life, a change in anything – it takes a while. But I think every day we build a foundation, get to know each other a little better, understand what is important to move forward.

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Novak said McCray-Penson had a chance to speak with the team, and then Novak and the other staff started to move forward. They gave the players a few days off so the team could process the news and the coaches could organize how they would go about running Mississippi State without McCray-Penson.

For Novak, that meant developing relationships off the pitch before mastering the games on the pitch.

“You can’t skip steps,” Novak said. “I feel like we’re behind in some areas, and I want to skip some of those relationship steps and move on to basketball and the things that matter. But until you build it and get a solid foundation, not all the technical or tactical elements really come into play. So we’re kind of halfway right now in developing a foundation while also crafting patterns and on how we’re going to train and how we’re going to create a winning culture.

Guard Myah Taylor said they held various team-building meetings, expressing their thoughts outside of basketball in groups before translating those ties onto the court. The Bulldogs had a team meeting after McCray-Penson left to “make sure we’re all on the same page” heading into the season.

Taylor, one of the oldest statesmen on the team, said she is taking a leadership role in helping the adjustment period. Novak will be the third Mississippi state head coach Taylor has played for, and she knows there is a learning curve at the start of a transition – especially a transition so close to a season.

“Complete confidence in Coach Doug stepping in as an interim coach and just knowing this team is still in good hands,” said Taylor. “We are still going to have a wonderful year. We’re going to have the hiccups, but I can just say that we are working really hard and have full confidence in our coaching staff.

Mississippi State played for a national title as recently as 2018, falling to Notre Dame in the championship. In McCray-Penson’s only season at the helm, the Bulldogs finished 10-9, missing the NCAA tournament.

Even under the difficult circumstances, Novak said he wanted to bring the state of Mississippi back to those high standards, living up to the expectations that were set for the program.

But he doesn’t consider this an audition for the full-time role. Instead, he tries to complete each practice as it goes, with the first exposure against Mississippi College on Monday before the season opener against Alabama State on Nov. 9.

“There was no program, there was nothing I was looking for other than I thought it was a program that I could come and help, and I felt there was a need there.” , Novak said. “Obviously the need is a little different from what I thought when I took the job. So beyond having good practices, beyond developing this team over the year, there is no end to the game other than us trying to win games and play in this incredible SEC league.

“And whatever happens, happens, even with the victories,” Novak continued. “Of course you are in the state of Mississippi. There should be expectations. What has been done here is incredible. And I’m honored to be a part of this thing right now and looking forward to developing this thing in our own way, and maybe in a different way than it was before.


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