Coach Porter: Four Years of Trust

December 1, 2011   ·   3 Comments

by John Powell

After four years, Jeri Porter finally has a team she can call her own.

Finally, everybody is on the same page. They know what they need to accomplish. And their expectations are high.

When she signed on with Mason, she took over a team that was struggling. In the 2007-08 season, the Patriots went 9-21 overall with a 3-15 conference mark. They grinded out the season with only one home conference win.

Clearly, there was a change needed at the top.

Through each of Porter's first three seasons, the Patriots have greatly improved. She'll look to build on that improvement to climb the ladder and reach the top of the CAA this season.

Porter will be the first to say that year one in Fairfax was a struggle. The team won four games all year, but things were looking up. The program was moving in the right direction.

“It may sound simple, but I think we’ve gotten better every year,” Porter said. “I think we’ve gained a little bit more confidence every year. I think we’ve proven to ourselves with each year that we can be competitive.”

They went 10-20 overall in her second year and, last year, they finished with their best conference mark in recent history. The team did not show a winning record, but they showed progress. The grassroots transformation was taking hold.

Most importantly, she did it the honest way. When recruiting for the team, there was no bending the facts. She let everyone know that the team was rebuilding. Some young players only want to succeed and see results immediately, but others wanted the challenge to turn a team around.

“Trust me, some kids don’t want to step into a rebuild, and they’ll tell you that,” Porter said. “It’s a recruiting process. You respect that and you move on. Some kids are intrigued by the opportunity to bring their own individual talent into a situation that’s going to make a major difference.”

It was not Porter’s first involvement in college basketball. Out of high school, she was recruited by Liberty University and caught fire in her junior year. The awards piled up. She was the two-time team Most Valuable Player and made the first-team All-Big South Conference. She scored a combined 717 points in her junior and senior years, putting her in the upper echelon of scorers in the history of the program. In 1998, she was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.

But it was not enough.

She stepped away from the playing side and immediately stepped into the role as an assistant coach at her alma mater. In her final year as an assistant, Liberty only took one loss, winning the regular season and the conference tournament.

“I can remember going from being a student-athlete to being a graduate assistant, and a full-time assistant and thinking, ‘Man I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. All the work, all the preparation, the recruiting, and film breakdown,’ “ Porter said.

“And then I can recall six years later going from being an assistant to being a head coach and feeling like, ‘Man! Once again, I’m not doing the same job,’ All of it is in the confines of college women’s basketball, but as you transfer from one role to another, I think you’re really enlightened as you move on.”

That enlightenment from dealing with each different type of pressure paid off.

After a stint with the University of North Alabama, she took the head-coaching job at Radford University, Liberty’s conference rival. She led her girls to a 93-85 record with a 43-39 conference mark. Most notably, she brought the Highlanders to their second-highest win total in the program’s history with 23 wins.

It was at Radford, after their increasing success, that Porter recruited Taleia Moton, a high school point guard who was brought on to be a central part of her head coach’s offensive attack. Little did she know, the 5-foot-6-inch guard would become a central piece to her team.

Moton originally signed on to play for Mount St. Mary’s more than four years ago. Unfortunately, her head coach resigned before the guard could suit up for the first time. It threw her into a tailspin. The former coach called Porter, who acted quickly on the possibility of signing the leading scorer of Prince George’s County high school basketball.

Again, Moton’s head coach, this time Jeri Porter, left the program and signed on to bring the Patriots back to glory. The guard followed suit.

“It’s humbling,” Porter said when asked about Moton’s decision to transfer. “We work hard as coaches to develop relationships with all of our kids to get to know them and have that special bond as people, not just as athletes.”

With pride in her recruiter, Moton followed her north. She signed on to lead Porter’s offense. No matter where the head coach went, Moton would follow through on the promise because she was convinced that her coach’s offense worked.

“Once a point guard has bought into your system and believes in what you’re doing, I think that’s always a hard sell for the next coach coming in,” Porter said. “Taleia and I, obviously there’s a great relationship off the court.”

Gone are the days that CAA play is dominated by one team. Old Dominion no longer runs the gauntlet with ease, especially after Mason won their first game against the Monarchs in Porter’s first season. James Madison won the last two titles but, without their Player of the Year, it looks to be a tough road for the Dukes. With a changing of the guard at the top of the conference, the Patriots have set themselves up well to slide into the top.

The team’s aim is no less than to become the next perennial power. The fact that Porter has improved the Patriots’ record in each of her years with the team bodes well for fans in Fairfax.

“I don’t expect you to support me until I’m putting a product on the floor that’s worthy of support,” Porter said. “In all honesty, in our first three seasons here, as we’ve gotten better and as we’ve grown, I’ve been very pleased and impressed with the support that we’ve gotten to this point.”

The coaches will continue to bolster their local recruiting and Porter will be able to attract players because of her experience. In their head coach, they have a friend who has been through the good times and the bad times, a coach who has stood in their shoes, someone who seems physically unable to let her players down.

Throughout the team, whether they win or lose, there is one common theme: Complete trust.

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Readers Comments (3)

  1. Karen

    Joel King – Katie, you are the best! The pics turned out just as I imiagned. You helped turn my dream into a reality. I can’t thank you enough. Staci and I feel truly blessed.

    Reply »
    • i think much of the magic in this song really lies in the inprlteay between waters and gilmour’s voices. if you look at the waterless performance from pulse, or the times this song has shown up in solo tours ( whether on an island or the other wall shows, their is something missing when compared to this or the album or the original wall shows. the inprlteay of their voices is crucial to the impact of this song

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