What happened last year: (10-18, 4-10 Ivy): Dartmouth was expected to take a step back after notching its first postseason appearance since 1959 in 2015, particularly after Gabas Maldunas’ graduation and Alex Mitola’s transfer. And the Big Green did, via a five-game skid in late January and early February, followed back-to-back overtime losses at Brown and Yale. After the season, Dartmouth Athletic Director Harry Sheehy dismissed coach Paul Cormier, who was six years into his second stint in Hanover. Cormier had gone 54-116 (.318) overall and 23-61 (.274) in his second stint in Hanover. The Big Green had gradually improved during his tenure, but Sheehy told the Dartmouth in an outstanding piece by Alexander Agadjanian that he wanted to see greater player development and recruiting, prompting him to choose a different direction for the program.
Cormier’s forced exit was initially puzzling, but it can be justified if his players were not ultimately getting a positive experience out of Dartmouth basketball. This whole student-athlete thing is supposed to be about becoming better people through working together on a playing surface and enjoying that process, and that’s the standard that coaches should be held to. Only the players for themselves know whether Cormier met that standard, and their recollections of Cormier in the previously mentioned The Dartmouth newspaper article were mixed.
What’s new: Enter David McLaughlin. No, not that David McLaughlin. McLaughlin comes to Dartmouth via Northeastern, where McLaughlin was associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the past three seasons. Northeastern made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years in 2014-15 with McLaughlin as associate head coach. Prior to his stint at Northeastern, McLaughlin was head coach at Division II Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. for nine seasons, going 189-99 (.656) record from 2004-05 through 2012-13. Stonehill made five NCAA appearances and two Final Fours under McLaughlin.
Sheehy’s bet seems to be that McLaughlin will be more of a players’ coach than Cormier and is can develop players more speedily. McLaughlin inherits a roster that loses Connor Boehm and his offensive rebounding and efficiency, as well as Malik Gill’s excellence in pick-pocketing. Also new are freshmen guards Brendan Berry, Ian Sistare and James Foye, and frosh forwards Ian Carter, Jonas Stakeliunas and Will Emery.
Offense: Dartmouth had the worst effective field goal percentage among all Ivies during league play, as well as the worst assist-to-turnover ratio. The Big Green registered 10 more turnovers than any other team during league play, reflecting an offense that frequently sputtered despite featuring freshman phenom Evan Boudreaux, who instantly and deservedly became the team’s offensive focal point last season. Boudreaux’s a bruiser with a jump shot, and it’s his team on the floor. But the Big Green need a sharpshooter or two to complement Boudreaux. Juniors Miles Wright and Taylor Johnson showed flashes of playmaking brilliance last season, but inconsistency got in the way.
Defense: Dartmouth collected the most turnovers in league play (along with Cornell), but as mentioned before, Gill’s stealing prowess is now gone, and those turnovers didn’t translate into significantly fewer points allowed. And the Big Green have no real shot-blocking presence, finishing last in block percentage last season. Additionally, the Big Green also finished next-to-last in two-point percentage defense, too often allowing good looks.
Cormier’s teams tended to be defense-oriented, so McLaughlin’s impact on this end of the floor will be interesting. His work is cut out for him.
Intangibles: It’s a program in transition, clearly. There’s talent to build on, given that each of the past two Ivy Rookies of the Year (Boudreaux and Wright) are on this roster. But much like Cornell, Dartmouth needs to figure out how to streamline its offense to supplement and strengthen the efficiency of a shining sophomore under a new coach. McLaughlin will be tasked with making the most of role players like sophomore Guilien Smith, because it’s going to be the strength of the supporting cast around Boudreaux that determines Dartmouth’s progress over the next few years. Here’s hoping McLaughlin can pull it off.