Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, I spoke with women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman about coming to Syracuse, the current and future state of the Orange, and even the quality of the University's business school.
Quentin Hillsman is in his seventh season as head coach of the Syracuse Orange. Hillsman led Syracuse to a 22-9 record and an NCAA appearance in 2007-2008. It was only SU's second winning season in 18 years. Since then, the Orange has four consecutive winning records and four WNIT appearances. SU has never won an NCAA Tournament game and has an 0-4 record in the Big Dance ('85, '88, '02, '08). This season, Syracuse (21-3, 9-2 BIG EAST) is having one of the best seasons in program history. ESPN's bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Orange as a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament in his most recent update.
SF: It’s easy to see the success Syracuse is having now, but when you came here, the team had a long streak of losing seasons. Why did you come to Syracuse?
Well obviously it’s a great place to be. Look at our facilities now, look at our administration, Dr. (Daryl) Gross and Dr. (Nancy) Cantor have been awesome for us. They’ve provided every resource that we need to win. With our new administration, they are continuing to help us and increase our resources. And it’s all about resources and academics here. Obviously the academics of our communications school and our business school are tremendous and our facilities are great. The Carrier Dome is the Carrier Dome…everyone knows the Carrier Dome. It’s doesn’t matter where you are. If you’re a basketball fan, you know the Carrier Dome.
SF: How does it feel for you personally as the Big East games are coming to a close?
We’re at a point in the season where we need to start stacking a couple more wins. You can’t get into next year. We’re looking at the Big East and the Big East Tournament and the NCAA tournament. We’re not even worried about looking down the road.
I’m trying not to make this a personal thing because obviously everyone around here, every sport, has a big connection to the Big East conference.
It’s been a great conference for us. It’s been good to us so moving on is exciting, but obviously I grew up in this conference. This is my first head coaching job, being in the Big East. There are a lot of friends and people that we’re not going to be associating with on a daily basis but they’ll remain friends and they’ll remain great colleagues.
SF: You’ve talked a lot about the quality and depth of this conference. So is there a part of you that’s a little bit disappointed in the move to the ACC?
No, because the quality of our next conference is going to be tremendous. We’re going over with Louisville and Notre Dame and obviously Pitt is a young team that’s going over and they are going to be a better team in the next two or three years and even now Pitt’s young kids are playing well. So it’s promising for anyone going over to that conference, joining Duke and joining Carolina and joining Virginia Tech and Virginia. It’s going to be a tremendous conference. I don’t think we’re downgrading. We’re going to another tough conference.
SF: Syracuse's incoming recruiting class (ranked No. 10) is four players: 6-foot-4 twins Bria Day and Briana Day, and guards Alexis Peterson and Tasia Butler. What should Syracuse fans know about the next group of players?
I think we’re adding depth. Obviously we’re losing Kayla (Alexander), Carmen (Tyson-Thomas), and Lacie (Hall) who have been big for us. But I think we’re adding depth, adding people that can help us right away.
SF: Syracuse is ranked No. 21 in the Coaches Poll, the highest ranking so far this season. Did you expect these results coming into the season? Or did you exceed your expectations?
No, not even close. I think that we still have room to grow and get better. I think we can continue to win games and climb up in the ratings. Our goal is just continuing to get better every game and every day and that’s our focus. All we are going to continue to do is play clean basketball and get better.