March 26, 2023
Jim Crowley returns to St. Bonaventure
What the start of the second Crowley era means for the Bonnies
Shortly after St. Bonaventure announced it was parting ways with head coach Jesse Fleming on Jan. 15, executive senior associate athletic director for administration, facilities and operations Steve Campbell called former head coach Jim Crowley to talk about some names for the open position. At the time Crowley was Providence College’s head coach.
Campbell could barely get the words out to ask Crowley if he was interested before Crowley said “Yep, I am.”
On March 7, Providence announced it was mutually parting ways with Crowley who went 85-126 in seven seasons at the helm, including 32-93 in BIG EAST play. Just three days later on March 10, St. Bonaventure announced Crowley would be returning to Olean, where he served as head coach from 2000-2016.
“I had always thought in the back of my mind that if the opportunity arose I would be very excited about it,” Crowley told reporters on March 13. “So as the conversations happened, and then I was able to have those conversations with Providence where they were and where I was. And it was worked out for [the] best for both of us.”
In 16 seasons at the helm in his first stint at St. Bonaventure, Crowley recorded 258 wins, the most in program history. He also led the school to four WNIT berths and two NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 run in 2012. His 108 Atlantic 10 wins rank sixth-all time in conference history.
Crowley’s name remained well known around St. Bonaventure even after his departure. After the team’s loss to Rhode Island on Jan. 22, 2023, director of athletics Joe Manhertz, who was hired in August 2021, was briefly introduced to Crowley. After an obligatory “nice to meet you” Manhertz, still upset from the loss, walked away. He took 10 steps before turning back to run over and properly say hello.
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Though Crowley’s name is familiar to many at the school and around the community, he’s a new face to the current student-athletes and knows this is a period of transition after a challenging season for them. His focus is on the current players and what the future holds for them. In the last seven seasons, St. Bonaventure finished with double-digit wins once, with Fleming recording a 12-16 record in 2021-22.
Reflecting back on his first stint at St. Bonaventure, Crowley knows that it was only possible because of the people. In the short term, he wants to find out where the current players are and knows the team has a lot of work to do. “I’m here because I want to be here and we want the same for our players and just that excitement to get going,” he said. Crowly felt he adjusted to being back in Olean quickly, but he hopes that the current players who don’t know him are okay with that and understand the challenge that it creates for them.
Crowley kept his ties to St. Bonaventure even at Providence, his three assistant coaches and director of basketball operations last season either played under or coached under him at St. Bonaventure.
As he builds his staff, Crowley believes that St. Bonaventure is a special place “but it’s not all things to all people.” With that in mind, he wants to find people who want the opportunity St. Bonaventure provides. “If we can find some folks and we will find some folks who have a passion about Bonaventure who understand it, who believe in it, who are also great teachers of young people and excited about this opportunity, then we’re gonna get them here,” Crowley said.
He believes the best version of himself is in Olean, and his family agrees. He told reporters at his introductory press conference that every day since he left his mom and brothers told him he made a mistake and were enjoying reminding him of that in the first few days of his return.
Though he had everything he could have wanted at Providence, Crowley still felt something was missing. In May 2022, while Crowley was at his alma mater Keuka College to give the commencement speech an interaction with Father Dan Riley, a well-known face at St. Bonaventure led to a realization. While in line for dinner, Father Dan put his hand on Crowley’s shoulder and blessed him.
“There it was, that was what was missing,” Crowley said. “I was missing. This part of me. I was missing this community. I was missing the people. I was missing the Franciscan values. I was missing the feeling that is Bonaventure. So I had made a decision at that time that if the chance came, I’m taking it.”
With the return to St. Bonaventure comes a return to the A-10. Since he left, a new program and many new coaches joined, with only Cindy Griffin (Saint Joseph’s), Dan Burt (Duquesne) and Beth O’Boyle (VCU) remaining from his first stint in the conference.
“Exciting league, never been too far away from it,” he said. “Always have had that high regard, still have good relationships with some of the coaches who were here. There’s not too many left [from] when I was here, but I know a lot of the new ones and I have known them for a long time. So really looking forward to working with them and I just always thought the camaraderie in the A-10 was really special. And I appreciated that even more after leaving and [I’m] looking forward to getting back.”
Crowley appreciated his time at Providence, learning from the competition in the BIG EAST helped him understand different things from both an X’s and O’s and personal perspective.
On the court, Crowley plans to build the team around defense but offensively will be planning around the players he has on the roster for next season. Conceptually, he likes ball movement and playing through the paint in his offenses. His top priority over the next three months is putting together a roster so he can organize his offense and continue to move forward toward the upcoming season.
Crowley’s vision for the team is putting together one that gets better every day, plays hard, competes and plays together with discipline, something he hopes will make people want to come back and see the team play again.
St. Bonaventure ranked last in the A-10 in attendance last season, averaging 196 people per game at home, but Crowley is determined to change that. “They can handle a result on the scoreboard if they see passion, if they see fight, if they see togetherness,” he said. “We want people to want to come back again, and that’s in our control, to leave them with that feeling.”
Written by Natalie Heavren
Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.
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