The Basketball Podcast: EP319 with Carly Thibault-Dudonis on Transforming Fairfield Basketball

RELEASE DATE : 08/05/2024

In this week’s coaching conversation, Fairfield head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis joins the Basketball Podcast to share her insights on 5-Out and team and basketball identity.

In just her second season at the helm, Thibault-DuDonis led the Stags to a program-record 31 wins as part of an historic 31-2 campaign, the second-highest winning percentage in the nation. That mark featured a conference-record 29 game winning streak culminating in a MAAC Championship, their fifth in program history.

Thibault-DuDonis was named the Maggie Dixon Coach of the Year, All-Met Coach of the year, the ECAC Coach of the Year, the College Insider Kay Yow Coach of the Year, and the MAAC Coach of the Year to celebrate Fairfield’s historic season.

The Stags also achieved the program’s first-ever national ranking as they slotted No. 25 in the AP Top-25 poll and also received votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They finished the season ranked fourth in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll.

The Stags capped off their historic season with the MAAC Tournament and Regular Season Championship while punching their ticket to the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

In her first season with the Stags, she led the team to a top-5 finish in the conference, receiving a bye into the MAAC Championship Quarterfinals with an 11-9 conference mark.

Carly most recently served as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Minnesota. Before joining Minnesota, Carly was an assistant coach at Mississippi State and Eastern Michigan.

Thibault-DuDonis’ father Mike Thibault was a three-time WNBA Coach of the Year previously coaching the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics while also being an assistant coach in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. Her brother Eric, is the current Head Coach of the Washington Mystics.

Carly Thibault-Dudonis

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Carly Thibault-Dudonis Quotes:

“There are a lot of things from a basketball perspective that we look for, but [we] recruit people that love the game. I your best coach and your best option if you don’t love it. I want people who want to be in the gym, who want to keep getting better, who are hungry.  My staff’s done a great job of recruiting student athletes like that.”

“Number one for me is to have great people around me, people who are going to challenge me as a coaching staff . . My staff and I sat down and talked about . . what my standards were. They kind of fit with my values. As a person, my values are joy, truth, and relationships . . so how does that now translate into a team culture and what do those standards look like? Our standards as a team are selfless, tough, accountable, and grateful. And that that spells out, the acronym STAG our mascot.”

“We have standards, and that allows us, as coaches, the flexibility to coach within our standards and hold people accountable within our standards, because not only does that make you a great basketball player, but it also prepares you and helps you be successful in life.”

“Mid-majors that have won games in March and won games in the NCAA tournament . .  all of those, all those teams have versatile ‘posts’ that space the floor in some version of a five out. So, we studied a lot of that and we knew we wanted to recruit posts that could be on the perimeter that can space out . . that’s a tough mismatch for some of the power five post players that are a little bit more back to the basket oriented.”

“We’re not putting you in a box on the block, but there are a lot of opportunities to post up within our motion, within our cuts. So not putting you in a box, I think has been really fruitful in recruiting as well.”

“That’s the concept that we not only use in transition, but attacking closeouts, attacking the rim. You go until stopped. And if you’re stopped, jump stop, kick out. And we have heavily emphasized the jump stop.”

“I think transition defense is one of the, the hardest parts of the game and that, for us, the hound takes out the ambiguity of who’s stopping the ball. And I think that that allows everything else to fall in place.”

“We talk no middle, no paint, no rhythm threes. The no middle part keeps people out of the paint. Our rotations are typically cleanest when we have some baseline drives and baseline helps. And the no paint, it probably is even more important than the no middle because there would be a time here and there where we knew this person was only going right and we would have some tweaks and adjustments.”

“We watch film almost every day of the week. We always start with some type of film whether it’s early in the season and it’s practice film against our scout guys. Once we get to season, we have a pretty normal film cadence of focusing on ourself, then focusing on the next opponent.”

“I think it’s easy to push them [the players] once you have that trust built. Part of the trust is built on being there and them knowing how much you care about them, but also being really transparent of like, ‘Hey, you did this really well. You didn’t do this well.’”

“I had to go from being a doer as an assistant coach and a recruiting coordinator. You’ve got your checklist and your to-do list and all these things. And now, as the head coach, you have to make some time to think and plan and visualize and be visionary and work your calendar and all these things that are a little bit more big picture.”

“I think for me, it’s being able to not lose sight of the standards that we started with and that  ultimately drove a lot of our success. We had great players and my staff is great.  So much of our consistent success was because everyone was bought into doing things the right way every single day. And so, while it’s easy to kind of take three steps forward, you don’t want to lose sight of what kind of built that. And I think that’s going to be a personal challenge for me to make sure I start and end my day with the values versus the wins and the results.”

Carly Thibault-Dudonis Breakdown:

2:00 – Positive Team Environment

5:30 – Offensive Identity

9:00 – Coaching Strategies for Mid-Major Teams

12:00 – Creative Advantages in Offense

14:30 – Cutting and Spacing

18:00 – Basketball Analytics and Player Development

23:30 – Defensive Strategies

27:30 – Defensive Fundamentals

30:30 – Film Analysis abd Drills

34:00 – Workload Management

38:00 – Coaching Philosophy

41:00 – Skill Improvement

Carly Thibault-Dudonis Selected Links from the Podcast:

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