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The MCC women's basketball team eyes a fourth consecutive national title

Lady Tribunes eye fourth consecutive national title 

The MCC women's basketball team eyes a fourth consecutive national title

Sports

Six members of the MonroeCommunity College women's basketball team pound their feet on their treadmills, the hum of the machines drowning out their heavy breaths. They are sweaty, exhausted, spent, but they keep running, some shouting out encouragement to each other, some stoically silent.

Their coach, Tim Parrinello, flits between them, checking their speeds and making sure they get the most out of their grueling workout. "They don't just give you that trophy!" he barks. "You've got to earn it!"

The trophy in question is the National Junior College Athletic Association's national championship trophy. MCC has claimed three of them in a row, and the Tribunes desperately want a fourth in 2007.

Parrinello has built one of the junior college world's best women's basketball programs, and tonight offers an explanation of how. As the six players grind through their workout, Parrinello pushes them to the wall, but he does it knowing that they're capable of not only surviving the workout, but also thriving on it.

For the last 11 seasons, Parrinello has demanded excellence from his players, and they're given it to him, to the college --- and to themselves. They succeed because they believe they can succeed, because he believes they can succeed.

"He's the best coach I've ever had," says sophomore guard and East High grad Tiffany Wilson. "I consider him like a father figure to me. He has so much respect for us."

That's a word you'll hear early and often when discussing the MCC women's program. "What impresses me most of all," says MCC athletic director Bruce "Murph" Shapiro, "is that he gets a great respect from his players, and he treats them with an equal amount of respect."

That coaching style has been honed over the years as Parrinello has slowly transformed the way he teaches the game. In the past, he might have gotten on a player for making a mistake. Not anymore.

"I think I've progressed as a coach," he says. "I used to demand perfection, but now I do more encouraging than screaming. I do a lot more of pointing out the positive, not the negative. We're players' coaches. I always ask myself, 'Would I want to play for me?'"

Last season perhaps exemplifiedParrinello's ability to raise his players' expectations of themselves. After winning three NJCAA Division II titles in five years, the Tribunes made the move up to Division I for the 2005-06 season, meaning the quality of play they faced moved up as well.

But MCC didn't skip a beat. The Tribunes went 31-1 and rolled to another title by beating Odessa College, 76-64, in the national championship game. With the crown came even more...what's that word again?

"It gets you a lot of respect," says sophomore guard Dawn Coleman. "Everyone knows who Monroe is. It's an honor playing here. MCC has a great legacy, and I'm glad I can add to it."

Parrinello says that winning championships has earned the attention of NCAA Division I coaches who want MCC grads to play for their team. In all, Parrinello's MCC teams have sent 31 players to NCAA Division I programs, including Syracuse, Temple, Pittsburgh, and Miami.

"When my phone rings and it's [legendary Tennessee coach] Pat Summitt or the coach at [defending NCAA champion] Maryland, or when I get text messages from eight or 10 coaches, it shows what people think of MCC," Parrinello says.

But Parrinello prides himself on his ability to develop a player not only athletically, but academically and personally as well. "We're involved in every facet of their lives," he says. "We've stressed academics from Day One, because it matters how many players you graduate."

Parrinello scours the eastern United States looking for diamonds in the rough, players who might have been passed over by other programs for whatever reasons. "I get a lot of players who aren't supposed to make it," he says. "We help them to succeed."

Trenise Fuller puts her hands on her hips and gulps for breath, sweat pouring down her face. She's taking a break --- albeit a short one --- from her treadmill workout, and she's clearly exhausted. But she still extends her hand to the reporter, smiles, and answers questions with composure.

"He's fun," the Queens native says of Parrinello, "but he also knows how to take care of business. He works us hard, but it pays off in the end. He's pushed me to become a better player. I'm grateful to be here."

Fuller says her goal is to earn a scholarship to a four-year school and continue her basketball career. Well, that and win another juco championship.

Is that possible? she's asked. A huge smile breaks across her face.

"Of course, yeah," she says. "Everybody here is hungry for another one. We'll go after it."

With the conclusion of the interview, Fuller heads back to her treadmill and continues her workout with her teammates. Standing behind her is Parrinello, ready to encourage her and push her even more.

The MCC women's basketball team plays its next home game Tuesday, January 23, at 6 p.m. against NiagaraCountyCommunity College. For more information call 292-2830.

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