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Tricia Fabbri, Bill Simmons and the Secret to Basketball

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Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Josh Silverman, Basketball Beat Reporter

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What you’re about to read is a secret that only a select few understand.

Luckily for Quinnipiac athletics and its fans, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team is not only in on the secret, but embodies everything that comes with it.

In October of 2009, Bill Simmons, a prolific NBA writer and analyst, released The Book of Basketball. In the infamous book, Simmons talks about a conversation he had with legendary Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas.

Thomas explained what he learned from following the perennially successful Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics teams in the 1980s.

What he learned was the secret of basketball.

“The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”

What? The very secret of the sport is not about the sport. How could that be?

“Maybe Dantley was a better player than Aguirre, but Aguirre was a better fit for the 1989 Pistons,” Simmons wrote.“If they didn’t make that deal, they wouldn’t have won the championship. It was a people trade, not a basketball trade.”

“And that’s what Isiah learned while following those Lakers and Celtics teams around: it wasn’t about basketball. Those teams were loaded with talented players, yes. But that’s not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else.”

“We measure players by numbers, only the playoffs roll around and teams that play together, kill themselves defensively, sacrifice personal success and ignore statistics invariably win the title. We have trouble processing the ‘teamwork over talent’ thing. But how do you keep stats for ‘best chemistry’ and ‘most unselfish’ or even ‘most tangible and consistent effect on a group of teammates’?”

Now you may be asking what that has to do with Quinnipiac women’s basketball.

The answer is actually quite a lot.

Specifically the line about those teams being loaded with talent, but that not being the only reason they won.

“The year we went to the Sweet 16 we didn’t have one player who was on the All-MAAC first team,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “We have gone undefeated twice in our five years in the MAAC and we have not had a player of the year. That just speaks to the character of the young ladies in the program that put the team first and ‘we’ first.”

Most often, Quinnipiac runs a system it calls the Gold Rush.

It refers to the coaching staff essentially creating two entirely different lineups. Instead of swapping one player out for another, as another coach may do, all five players on the court will come out and an entirely new five will sub in.

Given the talent on its roster, this system is extremely beneficial for Quinnipiac. It keeps the players fresh not only for the end of each game, but for the end of the season as well.

However, it does mean that the best players on the team won’t rack up the accolades that they would in another system.

“In the MAAC, the top players on their team play 40 minutes a game,” MAAC preseason player of the year Aryn McClure said. “A lot of our top players sacrifice because we buy into the system. Our system is the gold rush and we play 25 minutes (per game).”

“I know a lot of people look at it like ‘oh that’s bad you don’t get as many minutes,’ but it benefits us because it allows for other people to step up and actually get playing time,” the senior forward said.

Her teammate and unanimous preseason first team All-MAAC selection Jen Fay echoed the same philosophy.

“Just for our team in general, since I’ve been here as a freshman, there hasn’t been just one player that scores more than 20 points per game or even 15,” Fay said. “I think everybody chips in and everybody knows their role. On any given day it’s going to be somebody else scoring. I think that’s why we’re special.”

For arguably the two best players in the conference, winning is valued over individual statistics. And yet, it’s not just them. Every player on the roster shares those same values.

So how did Quinnipiac get so lucky?

“It’s automatically weeded out through the recruiting process,” Fabbri said. “That’s the beauty of it when we’re allowed to go out and recruit and say this is how we have won and how we’ve remained consistently successful for a number of years. It’s through recruiting, and our style is so uniquely different.”

As a team in a mid-major conference, Quinnipiac has not only reached the NCAA tournament the past two seasons but has won at least one game at the big dance. A more-than-impressive accomplishment.

The Bobcats are able to do it with a great coaching staff, talented players and a strong work ethic.

However, Simmons’ secret proves even that might not be enough.

If that was all Quinnipiac had, it might not have achieved the same level of success.

What Quinnipiac does have is the final piece.

“Our style is based on the team,” Fabbri said. “You’re not going to get someone that needs to have the ball in their hands for 30 minutes a game but we all know who is going to have the ball the last second of the game. It’s going to be Jen (Fay) or Aryn (McClure). Everybody is good with that. You know why? Because the team wants to win.”

And win it has.

The past four seasons, Quinnipiac is 72-6 in conference play with three NCAA tournament berths and three tournament wins.

Quinnipiac opens its 2018-19 season in Philadelphia at Drexel Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

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