Jonathan Tsipis, a nine-year veteran on Muffet McGraw's staff at Notre Dame, has been named the new head coach at George Washington University.

Coaching For Coaches

Oct. 21, 2010

By Lauren Chval

Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team may have some new tricks up their sleeves. In preparation for the start of the 2010-2011 season, associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis traveled to a coach’s retreat held by NCAA legend Rollie Massimino at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The retreat consisted of 15 coaches with differing ties to Massimino. Each of them spoke on a different topic over the course of two days and learned as much as possible from one another. Tsipis presented the Notre Dame’s Princeton offense, and many of the coaches have already implemented it into their programs.

“Everybody’s challenge at this retreat was when we went over something to try to pick angles–try to morph it this way or tweak it this way, and then also look at it from the other side,” Tsipis explains.

“We showed small clips of everything, and then they had copies of not only the Princeton write-up, but also the DVD they could take back. Coach Massimino has already put it in. I know a couple of the high school coaches are going to put it in.”

Tsipis describes the retreat as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” with coaches from the high school level all the way to the NBA in attendance.

“It was amazing because it was some people who have been in the NBA, some of Massimino’s former players who haven’t been coaching that long, and we’re all kind of assigned topics,” he says.

“And as much as you know about your topic, it was equally or maybe even more fun to learn from other people, whether it’s someone like Mike Fratello, who was considered one of the experts of pro basketball, down to a former player who’s trying to give the player’s point of view.”

Tsipis is at Northwood again this week during the Irish’s fall break to watch practice as they gear up to start the season. From experiences such as these, he brings back changes to old drills that may better prepare the team.

“I thought it was really neat because you have people from such varying backgrounds,” Tsipis says.

“But it’s always fun to go to something like that and bring it back and talk about a drill that we may have done for the last ten years and it has one small change in it that makes it almost a new drill. It’s more exciting to our players while still accomplishing a lot of the things that help us improve.”

After graduating five seniors last year, Tsipis describes this year’s team as young and sure to face adversity. Still, the team’s goals don’t change from year to year because expectations are always high.

“There’s not one person who had the same role that they had last year,” he says.

“And obviously freshmen coming from high school and making that adjustment, we have three very talented freshmen. It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s exciting.”

Tsipis sees those high goals as just a part of being at Notre Dame. Since becoming a part of the Irish coaching staff, Tsipis has seen the team go to three NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen’s and beat University of Connecticut twice. Still, he says nothing can top his memory of his first game at Notre Dame.

“It’s obviously such a special place that when you walk in if you don’t get goosebumps–in the same way as when the team runs out of the tunnel for football–there are just certain traditions that if you don’t get goosebumps you should probably move on and leave this place,” says Tsipis.

And so Tsipis, along with head coach Muffet McGraw, is always trying to improve the tradition that has already been established here at Notre Dame.

“I think Coach McGraw inspires me to always improve,” Tsipis says.

“She does that, not only by challenging me, but how she conducts herself. Not a lot of hall of fame coaches are still trying to learn and get better. She has always tried to challenge us to go out during our breaks and learn from different people. Anytime you can go to those, if you can get one thing to bring back, it’s been worthwhile.”