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"She doesn't ask you for anything you can't do," says Brozh, a 5-6, 124-pound sophomore from Louisville, who shoots a mean 3-pointer. Indeed, it's only when you stop to notice the size of the players that you remember this isn't Division I. Never mind the meager turnout at some gamesat the Russell Sage contest, dozens of guys came out of the adjoining gym to watch the navel-pierced NYU Purple and White Dance Team at halftime and then returned to their bench presses when the game resumed. And forget that there are no athletic scholarships here. Basketball is every bit as important to these players as it is to those with dreams of the WNBA. It's just that their academic pursuits are equally important, and understanding thateven emphasizingthatplayers say, is part of what makes Quinn such a good coach.
"She wants to know about your grades and evaluations," Pearson says. "She makes sure we've registered for classes on time. And if any of us has a problem, she's the first person we go to." Players say Quinn has helped them through every college experience imaginablefamily difficulties, adjustment problems, pregnancy scares, coming-out dramas.
"I came to NYU because of coach Quinn," says senior Vicari, who turned down scholarship offers at D-1 schools. Graduating this spring with a major in politics and history and leading the team in assists, Vicari has applied to law school and is hoping to go to Harvard.
As an honors student in economics nearly two decades ago, Quinn, too, thought she'd become an attorney, and she was accepted to several law schools. But when she was offered NYU's head coaching job at age 23, she deferred her admission year after year until the schools told her she'd have to apply again. She's never gotten around to it. "There's something very seductive about winning," says Quinn, now 37. "And I need to be in a position where I can win." That also explains why she's passed up offers for jobs in D-1. "I don't want to have some athletic director sit me down and say, 'Well, coach, we'd like to finish in the top third in our conference,' " she scowls.
Besides, instead of fostering the one-on-one flash of some D-1 schools, at NYU she can promote "the amazing interconnection of people and timing in this game, the focus of five people working together for one shot." She sits back to reflect. "It's almost un-American these days to say you shouldn't focus on being the individual big cheese," she says, then bolts forward again. "In order to play this game well, you've got to love it."