Gina Castelli believes in setting goals – especially when it comes to basketball. As a teenager, Castelli was point guard of the girl’s team at Archbishop Carroll High School in her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. Each spring, when the season ended, Castelli would make a list of skills she wanted to work on over the summer. It was a habit she continued as a student-athlete at Canisius College, and it paid dividends. Castelli completed her career with the Griffs as the second-leading scorer in the history of the program, with 1,524 points. She also set records for field goals, assists and steals.
Castelli doesn’t attribute this success purely to athleticism, but to “a lot of hard work.” Today, in her first season as head coach of Le Moyne’s women’s basketball team, she encourages her players to set goals, individually and collectively, that require a similar commitment. The team’s new mantra is “NE-10 Champs.” Castelli knows that, before they can reach that lofty target, the team will first have to meet numerous smaller ones. The players have begun to do just that. Before each game they set 12 goals known as “The Dolphin Dozen” in areas that include rebounds, free throws and assists. They strive to reach six of them at each game and have found that, when they do, they win. Their coach said it has already helped them to “identify patterns and stay focused.”
For Castelli, coaching is all about “seeing your players succeed – both on and off the court.” And while she asks a lot of them, she also demands a tremendous amount of herself. Castelli had only been an assistant coach two seasons – first at Marquette, then Siena – when her mentor and Siena Head Coach Jim Jabir announced he was leaving, and she was tapped to succeed him. To be offered the lead job at a Division I school so early in her career was “scary,’ Castelli recalled. She took the chance, though, and became the winningest basketball coach in the college’s history, with a record of 336-296 (.532) over her 22 seasons before spending a year the director of player development at the University of Rhode Island, and then coming to Le Moyne.
At the center of a career that now spans 25 seasons and four schools is Castellli’s enthusiasm for a game she has loved since she was a child. And while she has evolved as a coach over that time, the lessons she has learned “go beyond the X's and O's (and) are to care for your players, show them your passion, and to promote a family atmosphere.”
“My general philosophy is hard work, attitude, respect, trust,” she says. “But the most important thing to me is to care for my players above and beyond the court!