Bob Boldon, the head women’s basketball coach at Youngstown State University, is always looking for ways to improve his team.
Conveniently for Boldon, he doesn’t have to travel far to find new ideas. He only has to step out of his Beeghly Center office and walk the short distance to Dom Rosselli Court.
This season, Boldon has made a habit of watching the men’s basketball team practice at least once a week, “just to get some ideas and check out some of the things that they’re doing,” he said.
While the women’s squad (10-4) is undergoing drastic improvements under Boldon, the men’s team is no slouch either. Led by head coach Jerry Slocum, the Penguins (9-7) seem destined for their second consecutive winning season.
So, with both teams experiencing an uptick of success, Boldon’s and Slocum’s teams are happy to feed off each other.
“We like to catch up on the boys’ games and see how they’re doing,” women’s forward Brandi Brown said. “I guess we do kind of keep up with them, and we’re happy for them and all their success.”
Men’s sixth man DJ Cole said the men are “all good friends” with the women.
“[We] go [to the women’s games] when we can be there,” Cole said. “We just try to support them like they support us.”
Boldon said the close relationship between the teams is in large part due to the facilities.
“Our kids share the same gym, and we practically share the same office with how close they are,” he said. “The locker rooms are beside each other, and we use the same training room. I know we’re cheering for each other to win.”
Slocum, who referred to the basketball program as a “family,” agreed with Boldon.
“We’re very happy for them,” Slocum said. “They’re obviously a group that works very hard, and we’re very excited for them. … We pull for them to continue their success.”
The simultaneous improvements of the teams are no coincidence, Slocum added. He pointed to a shared formula.
“There are coaching staffs on the men’s and the women’s side — and I’m talking about, obviously, our assistant coaches and theirs — that have a lot of pride in what they do and have a lot of pride in Youngstown,” Slocum said. “We can’t do it without players, and I think both of us have gotten some better players over the last couple of years and signed some really good kids.”
The recent successes of the YSU basketball program raise a question that couldn’t be asked for at least the past decade: Is YSU, which is obviously a football school, becoming a basketball school as well?
Brown, a senior, said she believes the Penguins are heading in that direction, although the program and its players “still have work to do.”
“We still have to win more games, more [Horizon League] games,” she said. “I think for us to be considered a basketball school we need to be able to go far in the playoffs, win championships and things like that.”
In the meantime, Slocum and Boldon just want to continue to move toward that label.
“I would hope so,” Boldon said of YSU eventually becoming a basketball school. “I think the men have done a great job. They play an exciting style of basketball, and they’re well coached. Hopefully, we can follow suit and continue to play good basketball.”