It's been a hectic six weeks for Jon Waters.
After longtime coach Carolyn Hunter abruptly resigned from the Christopher Newport women's basketball team on Sept. 2, Waters, already the wearer of many hats as CNU's senior associate athletic director, was named interim head coach. Since then, he's been scrambling to prepare for the 2011-12 season, which tips off Nov. 18 against Randolph-Macon.
On Friday, Waters finalized his coaching staff with the addition of three assistants, including former Old Dominion guard and Woodside High star Jen Nuzzo.
"I've been looking to try to make sure I put the exact right group of people together to work with our team this year," Waters said. "(Nuzzo) is very impressive. She's had a chance to see a lot and do a lot. In the first five minutes talking to her, I knew that she would be a tremendous asset."
Nuzzo, who earned a business graduate degree from ODU in May, was working in the Constant Center ticket office and at a local YMCA when CNU assistant Chris Harper, who coached her in middle school, floated her name to Waters. That began a dialogue that ended with Nuzzo, who turns 26 on Wednesday, signing a part-time assistant contract Wednesday night.
"It's exciting," said Nuzzo, a 5-foot-8 guard who averaged 6.8 points per game and made a team-best 75 percent of her free throws as an ODU senior in 2008-09. "Basketball is definitely a passion and a love of mine."
Nuzzo wasn't convinced, though, that she wanted to be a coach, preferring to work with athletes in smaller, one-on-one settings and also wanting to pursue a business career. Then CNU's sudden staff shakeup led to an unexpected but welcomed chance.
"It's a great opportunity," said Nuzzo, who also talked with ODU coach Karen Barefoot about a position that didn't pan out. "I definitely want to give it my best effort. … I'm just going to provide what I can and be there to aid in all facets of the game and just be another ear and set of eyes out there for Coach Waters. I'm just looking to have fun with it."
"Growing up around here, with the local coaches and the types of systems and programs, everybody sort of talks," Nuzzo said. "I've got my few people that we shoot texts or call back and forth about so-and-so. You always have to be on the lookout."
Waters also added former CNU student assistant Adam Tippett, who spent two seasons on former South Carolina coach Dave Odom's staff, and Randi Raff, a CNU volleyball assistant who will serve as director of basketball operations, to his bench.
Waters, who spent 19 seasons as an assistant coach with CNU's men's basketball team, picked up his whistle again when Hunter, 265-103 in 13 seasons at CNU, resigned on Sept. 2. No reason was given for Hunter's departure, which came mere months after the Captains advanced to their first Division III Final Four, losing to eventual national champion Amherst.
"We were all surprised with the timing of everything that took place," Waters said. "We dove in head-first, from everything from trying to get equipment ordered to trying to solidify the roster. We were just trying to get our bearings and go from there. ...
"The team has been phenomenal. The girls have been great. They worked hard on their own, doing conditioning and playing, and have been just very open with me and communicated well about what they saw as their needs overall."
Waters and his assistants are charged with replacing Chelsie Schweers, the Captains' all-time leading scorer, who averaged 25.6 points per game last season, along with Barbara Davis (8.6 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game) and Jessica Moore (8.9 ppg). CNU returns rising seniors Kimmy Hopkins, who averaged 6.4 points per game last year, and Lauren Gural, who averaged 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds.
The CNU men's and women's teams begin practice Monday.
"I've never even seen this group on the court," Waters said. "We've kind of got Plan A, B and C, depending on how much we need to change things after the first five minutes of practice."