MONTGOMERY: Pisani moves up to new post

Former WW-P North standout is MHS girls basketball head coach

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   At Rider University, Megan Pisani made her mark over four seasons with the Broncs field hockey team.
   Lost somewhat in the accolades of being the Broncs captain as a senior, graduating sixth all-time in the program’s scoring though she played fewer games than others on the list, and claiming the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-NEC selection, was the fact that Pisani had at one time been a very good basketball player.
   ”Even though I went to school for field hockey, my first love was basketball,” Pisani said. “The first sport I did was basketball. I did AAU. I didn’t do club field hockey.”
   Pisani was a three-year starter in basketball at nearby West Windsor-Plainsboro High North before heading to Rider. She did play a little basketball at Rider, but no one was keeping statistics for intramurals. It did keep her connected with the game that she loved.
   ”I played in the co-ed league,” Pisani recalled. “It was very intense.”
   It is in basketball, not field hockey, that Pisani — a secondary education and math major at Rider — has found her first head coaching job. Pisani is the new varsity girls head coach at Montgomery High School.
   ”I was looking to get into coaching,” said Pisani, who is in her second year teaching math at MHS. “I’ve always loved basketball. I didn’t know it would happen this soon. Now that it has, I’m excited and looking forward to the experience.”
   It came faster than the 23-year-old could have expected. Pisani just finished her second season as assistant coach for the MHS field hockey team. An assistant coach last year for basketball, Pisani takes over the basketball reins from Jessica Doyle, who led a young Cougars team to a 10-15 record last year — a nine-win improvement over the year before — that included a second-round win over Ridge in the Somerset County Tournament.
   ”They’ve been struggling with getting the wins,” Pisani said. “They were a young team. Being with them one year, I know it’s putting it all together. We focused on fundamentals and getting it all down. Once we got it down, they started to play so much better together. We have returning players and strong leaders. They’re all on board.
   ”If we put it all together, we’ll be good to go. I really promote working hard and hard work pays off. If they’re all on board with that, we’ll be good to go.”
   Pisani will be a vocal coach — perhaps not quite as vocal as one of her mentors, WW-P North head coach Bob Boyce — and she hopes to share her passion with her team.
   ”I love being with the girls, the relationships you build,” she said. “I want to build the program into something special. I’ve been working with the younger girls, K through 8. They mean the world to mean. I’ll spill my guts for them.”
   Pisani has been encouraged by what she has seen in the last six months with the program. She was the interim coach through the summer until the “interim” title was lifted this fall. Being with the girls gave her the opportunity to start molding her team.
   ”I had the summer to work with them, which was a great experience,” Pisani said. “They trust me and got to know me.”
   Most encouraging to Pisani is a boost in the numbers that are out for the team, especially with the underclassmen that will help her to shape the program in the coming years. Over the summer, they showed a willingness to improve that should pay dividends.
   ”There’s definitely huge progress, not just with skill,” Pisani said. “There hasn’t been a huge interest in the program before, but the numbers are better now. They wanted to be there, they wanted to get better.
   ”One of the last games of the summer, we were there for each other. They were setting screens, running through the offense, and it was such a difference from playing as individuals and trying to go on your own. The small things will add up to give us a stronger start to the season than starting from scratch.”
   Pisani is borrowing some things from her old coach at North. Boyce and she coached in the same summer tournament, and she has been using some of his teaching in her coaching.
   ”He was a great coach, so I take a lot from him,” Pisani said. “A lot of my practice plays are what we did. We’re going to run a similar game — push the ball up the court and take advantage of our speed. I’ll bring in my new stuff, but it’s a good groundwork.”
   It’s also a good starting point to have some experience with which to work. Pisani has that, and is familiar with the team after helping to assist them last year.
   ”We have all the starters back,” Pisani said. “We still have a strong core. We have underclassmen that have a lot of potential and are going to play up. It’s a good young group. They play AAU, so they play all summer together. They’re comfortable knowing where each other go.”
   Pisani is pleased at where she had gotten to just a couple of years after graduating from college, and not so long after she was playing for WW-P North. The MHS position keeps her close to where she grew up playing, though she faces some different conference and county opponents. After a year teaching and coaching in the district, however, she is happy to call it her new home, and a perfect starting point for her first head coaching position.
   ”I’m very happy here,” Pisani said. “Even though I am close, it’s kind of its own private area. I don’t think I’m still at home. It’s a good experience. I like the district. I’m happy to be here. I think it’s a good fit.”