Lindsay Gottlieb is very good at basketball. The high basketball IQ of the USC coach is the first of many that players praise their new leader.
So when the former California coach and assistant to the Cleveland Cavaliers put together a PowerPoint this summer about what it takes to become an elite team, Trojans were on the books. Gottlieb, who was hired in May, has taken a close look at key analytics from teams that have advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals in recent years, pointing out similarities among the top contenders. The players sat quietly in the cinema hall.
Their silence was not the result of indifference to the topic, Gottlieb said several months later. Its players, none of whom have played since the conference tournament with USC, honestly just didn’t know what it took to become an elite team.
This is where the freshman head coach comes in.
Having survived the seven-season drought of the NCAA tournaments, the Trojans are thirsty to drink from Gottlieb’s well of knowledge. She is tasked with bringing the once proud program back to prominence by elevating the Trojans tactically, but most importantly, mentally.
While processing the numbers from Gottlieb’s presentation, Desiree Caldwell felt humiliated to see how badly the Trojans fell in some categories. The defense was particularly prominent, which was one of the least effective defensive teams. But the senior point guard also had motivation.
“It was constructive criticism that this is where we came from and this is where we are going to go,” Caldwell said, “and this is how I’m going to lead you to it.”
Caldwell, the three-time team captain, is already excited about the end of her USC career. She has gone through so much, from the cancellation of her first postseason experience in 2020, when the Trojans were waiting for WNIT to appear, to a coach change this season. Although she averaged just 5.9 points, two rebounds and 2.9 assists last season, the 5’8-inch senior from Texas is “our heartbeat,” Gottlieb said.
“It’s a luxury,” the coach added, having an experienced point guard leading the new coaching staff. “I try not to take it for granted, but it’s hard not to accept just because she is so consistent, always present, positive and loud. All the leadership qualities that you put in the boxes, she tests everything. “
With Caldwell at the wheel, Gottlieb wants the Trojans to accelerate their advance and use their extensive roster of post players, including 2019 Pac-12 freshman of the year Alyssa Peely and striker Jordan Sanders, who is once again the team’s top scorer. Gottlieb tries to use his players creatively and experiments with Caldwell off the ball in addition to his usual point guard duties.
As she prepares to leave USC, Caldwell is determined to help the new coaching staff lay the foundations for the future. She is already looking forward to her return as a graduate, presenting a program built on tenacity and resilience and showcasing the best skills of each player.
According to Caldwell, Gottlieb focuses on strengthening personal skills, as opposed to how players can lose their individuality while trying to fit into collegial schemes. The strategy seems perfect for the talented USC roster, which boasts three All-Americans and Gatorade McDonald’s from two states.
The Trojans, who were 11-12 before former head coach Mark Trach’s retirement last year, are trying to turn talent into victories. Gottlieb inherited seventh-grade recruiting nationwide among freshmen McDonald’s All-American post-player Clarice Uche Akunwafo and Raya Marshall and security guard Bella Perkins, who was Virginia Player of the Year at Gatorade. USC also made it to the top 10 recruiting classes in 2019, led by Peeley and former USC security guard Endia Rogers, who moved to Oregon during a coach change.
High-profile players have shown glimpses of greatness, including an exciting double overtime win over UCLA in 2019 and a one-point loss to the finalists of the Arizona national team last season’s runner-up, but the success has not been permanent. Armed with key numbers about rebounds, offensive and defensive effectiveness, and hitting choices, Gottlieb was determined to showcase the important areas to focus on in order to become a reliable Pac-12 force.
“We can beat these teams, we can play these teams,” Gottlieb said. “But what I was trying to show was really elite, and to be successful I did it over and over and over again.”
Once the epicenter of women’s basketball with legends such as Sherrill Miller, Cynthia Cooper and Lisa Leslie, USC was picked by league coaches and finished ninth in the Pac-12 preseason poll. Swanky hired coaching prepared the Trojans to turn the story around.
“We’ve been underestimated for so long,” Sanders said. “Our name was up there, but at the moment we were down there, so no one really expects much from us. We just have all the opportunities in the world now. “
USC Women’s Basketball Schedule
November eleven:Hawaii, age 14: Virginia; 18: against Western Michigan; 20: v. Missouri; 25: v Central Florida (Cancun); 26: against Iowa (Cancun)
December 2:v. University of California, Irvine; 5: against San Francisco; 15: vs. Cal State Northridge; 18: against Texas Southern; 21: in the state of Long Beach; 28: at the University of California, Los Angeles; 31: against Arizona
January 2:against the State of Arizona; 7: in Colorado; 9: in Utah; 14: v. Washington State; 16: against Washington; 22: against UCLA; 28: in Oregon
February 4:against California; 6: against Stanford; 11: in Washington; 13: in Washington state; 18: against Utah; 20: against Colorado; 24: in the state of Arizona; 26: in Arizona