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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nashua’s Aloisi having fun as Rivier assistant hoop coach

Rivier College women’s basketball coach Paul Williams spotted Laura Aloisi working out in the Muldoon Center one summer day following a basketball camp. He was determined to keep her there until winter.

Now, obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. But Williams, knowing Aloisi’s place in Nashua basketball history, wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip by. He desperately wanted her on his staff.

“I walked into (athletic director) Joane Merrill’s office and I said ‘Joanne, that’s my next assistant basketball coach’,” Williams said. “Joanne told me I was crazy but I began to work on Laura at that point.”

It wasn’t necessarily the easiest sell. But for Williams, it was a no-brainer.

“I mean, this is a girl who played in multiple NCAA tournaments,” Williams said. “And played at a very high level, and was a very good player at a very high level.”

Not to mention the recruiting aspect. Aloisi was the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004, playing on the final unified Nashua High School and Class L championship team. The point guard went on to a stellar career at Holy Cross and also played briefly in Europe.

She certainly had the credentials to explain to any high school athlete the benefits of college basketball.

Aloisi had been working as a counselor liaison at Bedford High School but on the side she had been giving private workouts to players. But it wasn’t the same as being involved with a team.

“To be honest I missed that,” she said. “I missed being around basketball, definitely. I saw the girls come in and out of the gym, the chemistry they had, and (Williams) was trying to turn the program around.”

Aloisi was definitely thinking about getting involved in coaching, and Rivier seemed like the perfect fit as she was taking courses toward a Masters Degree there. At first she was hesitant, because “I thought coaching would make me miss playing more.”

But it was basketball, and fun basketball at that.

“Typically at the Division III level you don’t have the family approach that we have here,” Williams said. “I think she was excited about the thought of getting into a system like that.”

“He was definitely persistent,” Aloisi said. “I think he knew I wanted to do it. I knew I was in school, working full time. But now that I’m in it, I wish I wasn’t working full time. I wish this was my full time job. Paul and I talk about it all the time. It’s an awesome job. … It’s great seeing the same passion that I have for the game in the girls.”

And it’s that passion that Williams was counting on.

“She’s outstanding in every aspect,” Williams said. “She’s at practice early every day, stays late every day, she knows the game so very well. She’s played for some very good coaches, and she’s able to express and articulate the knowledge she’s gained from so many other people. And she’s able to connect it with our team here.”

“It’s definitely a different look at the game,” she said. “The other night after practice, one of the girls said ‘Can you help me with my jump shot?’ I love that. Any athlete who wants to get better, how can you say no to that?”

And the players, Williams said, appreciate that attitude.

“The girls see how hard she works and how passionate she is and how much she cares,” Williams said. “It’s real, it’s not fake.”

Williams runs just about anything by Aloisi. He’s not averse to, when calling a late time out, handing her the board to draw up a play. Especially, he says, “if I like hers better.”

Which has been the case a few times.

“In terms of trust, I couldn’t trust her any more than I do,” he said.

“You definitely see a different aspect of the game,” she said. “I find myself being harder on the point guards.”

And she loves the recruiting.

“I love watching basketball,” she said. A career playing in Europe – Germany and Poland – wasn’t what Aloisi expected on and off the court. But so far, coaching in college has exceeded her expectations.

Aloisi said she’d love to stay at Rivier until she’s done with her Masters Degree. And then, who knows? Perhaps she may stick with coaching.

“I definitely feel a connection with the girls,” she said.