There is a new era underway in Foggy Bottom again. Chris Caputo takes over as the third new head coach at George Washington since 2016.
The Colonials haven’t had a winning season since 2017 while becoming a regular in Wednesday’s dreaded first round in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Forget about getting to the weekend, the program hasn’t reached Friday’s quarterfinals since 2016.
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But Caputo does not see a crater to climb out of as much as the possibilities of the program’s past that he embraces.
“Some of the things that have happened here — Sweet Sixteens, multiple NCAA Tournaments in a row, winning the NIT — all of those things,” he said. “They’ve been done-and if they’ve been done they can be done again.”
Caputo is no stranger to March success. He was a first-year assistant on the 2006 Final Four team at George Mason under Jim Larrañaga and followed his mentor to Miami in 2011, where he’d see an ACC Tournament championship and multiple Sweet Sixteens while also being on the bench for the 2015 NIT Championship Game.
“I like the stuff he’s bringing in from his old program at Miami. They went to the final eight last year,” senior forward Ricky Lindo Jr. said. “So he’s bringing a lot of what they did into what we’re doing this year: be quicker defensively with the personnel we have.”
Lindo is one of seven players who averaged over 10 minutes per game on last year’s team to return, and the new coach can’t underscore enough how comforting it is to have a solid nucleus in place.
“For me the benefit of not having a mass exodus per se where that has happened a little bit in college basketball,” Caputo said. “There is some continuity; we do have an older group, we do have some experience. It’s been great for me to have an older group, not a lot of younger guys to bring along within the transition.”
While Lindo led the Colonials in rebounding, blocks, and steals, James Bishop was GW’s top scorer not only last year but the season before. The Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore) graduate knows he’s far from a finished product and where he has to improve.
“Know which shots to take and which shots to give up. Try to take down some of the difficulty (he was 39% in field goals and 32% from 3-point range last winter) in some of the shots I’m shooting,” Bishop said. “Being able to hit the open guy and also just move without the ball better so I can get some open looks and get other guys open looks.”
Armed with Lindo inside and Bishop outside gives the new coach a head start at putting together a solid starting five, rotation and locker room.
“I couldn’t ask for better guys. Those two along with Brendan Adams and Hunter Dean, veteran guys with a lot of experience that have been great to work with in my first year,” Caputo said. “I think when you take over and you inherit some guys-you don’t know what to expect. I couldn’t be happier about the type of people I’ve inherited.”
The schedule begins Nov. 7 when Virginia State comes to the Smith Center. The non-league slate involves the usual cast of locals (American, Howard, Radford and Coppin State) plus a trip to Hawaii over the Christmas weekend before beginning Atlantic 10 play on New Year’s Eve against new-to-the-league and 2019 Final Four team Loyola Chicago.
While the new coach does not know what sort of results he will see just yet, he does have an idea of what he wants to see on the floor consistently.
“When you are playing ‘winning basketball’ that doesn’t mean you win, but you’re doing the things that go into winning,” Caputo said. “Playing defense, rebounding, and sharing the ball. Playing hard-playing with purpose. If we can get to that point, I think that’s a good start for us in the first year.”