Lisa Faulkner is the new head coach of PLNU’s women’s basketball team. Faulkner, who was hired on March 30, will be taking over after prior coach Bill Westphal finished his seventeenth season for the Sea Lions.
The Point: You have many successes as a player including the single season assists record for University California, Irvine; did you ever have any aspirations to play in the WNBA?
Faulkner: No, I mean I knew I wasn’t quite at that level. I was a 5’4” point guard, so I knew I probably wasn’t going to be playing in the WNBA. I did consider playing overseas, actually, my first year out of college I was going to go play in Germany.
But my body was a little bit run- down and I had made some promises to a couple of recruits to stay at Vanguard and coach. So I stayed and coached and then the following season I went to try to play again in Hungary, but I ended up getting cut. Then after going to Romania with a different team, I decided to come back to southern Californian to continue coaching.
The Point: How do you go about administering your past player experience with your coaching?
Faulkner: I think for me it’s more of the competitive part of it. I was a super, super competitive player. Like I said I am not very big, I am 5’4”, but I really didn’t care who I was playing against; so just that mentality is how I want my players to play. I don’t care who we’re playing whether it’s APU or UCONN or Hawaii Hilo—it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go out and we’re going to compete as hard as we possibly can. That’s what I draw on from my own playing experience, but just being a good teammate, too.
The Point: This is your first season in your career as a head coach. What are some of the differences between assistant coach and the head coach position?
Faulkner: I’ve been on the job now for a week, so I can tell you already that every decision that is made is now on me. As an assistant coach, you’re kind of a ‘suggestor’—ultimately it is up to your head coach to decide what they want to do [on the court]. For me it’s like ‘oh, I am the one who’s deciding, I am the one who has to figure out everything from what uniforms we’re wearing to what we’re going to run offensively and defensively.’ So there’s just a lot –for me I am still trying to figure some things out- of decisions that need to be made on a every day basis.
The Point: You had some experience coaching at Boston College, which is at the Division 1 level. Could you talk about what led you to coach at the Division 2 level rather than D.1?
Faulkner: I’ve always wanted to be a head coach. I’ve always said I wanted to do it at a place that fits me very well. I went to Vanguard which was NAIA -after transferring from UC Irvine- mainly for the spiritual aspect. For me as a coach, I knew that before becoming a head coach that I needed certain things. I’ve never gotten caught up in ‘oh it’s division one or oh it’s division two’ and sort of the prestige that’s behind division one. I think basketball’s basketball and you can have great kids at any level—then you can be successful at any level.
So for me, I wanted to be at a school that values the same things that I do, like academics. Clearly Point Loma has a spiritual emphasis so being able to pray with my team and being able to talk about life with my players is very important to me.
You can really have that family atmosphere at Point Loma and sometimes at the Division one level it’s a little bit harder to do some of those things. And I am not saying that that doesn’t happen at that level but sometimes you can get sidetracked with the minutia of that day to day business.
The Point: At Boston College, you were tasked with developing the perimeter players. Could you go into more depth on that and how you look to implement your strategy with PLNU’s outside shooters?
Faulkner: So I worked a lot with our guards, but more specifically I worked a lot with our points guards last season. In terms of skill development we worked on foot-work, shooting, timing, ball- handling and all those things. A big part of my job over the last eight seasons was on the offensive side of the ball. So I helped with offensive strategy, things we could be running and just big picture stuff in terms of our program and our system. So those were kind of some of my strengths. I have some ideas of things I want to run here, but now as a head coach it’s everything, both offense and defense.
The Point: What are some of the core principles that you rely on as a coach?
Faulkner: Just like I said before: having the competitive drive, having commitment, everybody being bought in, having great team leaders, and being willing to work—no matter what your role is, and accepting that role. And then the service part where we’re serving each other.
I think the overall thing for us is going to be competing to the best of our ability, being supportive, enthusiastic and communicating. I hope when somebody walks in the gym and watches us practice they say ‘man there’s something different about Point Loma, there’s something different about the way they interact with each other and go about their business.’
The Point: As you know, prior coach Bill Westphal led the Sea Lions for the past 17 seasons to the playoffs and a lauded career winning percentage. Do you feel any pressure to fill his shoes at all?
Faulkner: Honestly, no. I think what coach Westphal has done here was amazing and he’s a really really good coach; I hope he comes and watches games to be proud of what he’s built up so far. He’s done an amazing job and I can only hope that I make him proud of the way the program is run after he’s retired.
It’s a little bit different of a situation; sometimes you’ll get a head (coaching) job because the coach before you did a poor job, well that’s not the case, here. I don’t feel pressure about it; I feel excited because the team that is coming back is really good and hopefully I can bring my own coaching style to it and it just improves.
The Point: What are some of the goals you have for the women’s team?
Faulkner: My goal is to win the Pac- West and to be a national contender every season. I think that is very possible. There’s work to be done –it’s not going to happen overnight- but building (character) on the court—that’s the results part of it. The other part of it is just having a program. You know, when people hear about PLNU women’s basketball I want them to know that they’re not only good at basketball but they’re even better people—that’s my goal.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BOSTON COLLEGE UNIVERSITY