By Joseph Manniello
The hugs, kisses and memories that are associated with Valentine’s Day came a day early for Queensborough Community College women’s basketball head coach Yuriko Jung and the Lady Tigers.
On Feb. 13, the 26-year-old rookie head coach led QCC to its first and only win of the season, a 53-42 victory at home over Kingsborough Community College.
“I wasn’t thinking too much about Valentine’s Day,” said Jung, a former scholarship player for the University of California-Irvine who moved to New York in 1999. “I was just really happy for the girls. I felt like they deserved it. They needed to feel what a win felt like … to have this win and remember it for their college careers.”
Friday the 13th is synonymous with bad luck, curses and misfortune, but a complete 180-degree turnaround took form for Jung and her Lady Tigers in Bayside.
The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 11, but due to a Kingsborough conflict, the matchup had to be rescheduled.
“It is a little ironic,” Jung said when asked if it was weird to win for the first time on such an “unlucky” day. “For us, it was a good day.”
After suffering 18 straight losses by lopsided margins, including 78- and 81-point humiliating defeats, Jung’s team finally had something to smile about.
For the first time in what seemed like an eternity of a season, the Lady Tigers had a night of their own and it did not matter that their lone night of glory came against a team that only had one win as well — against QCC, of course.
“We were happy,” said Kandyce Gunning, who played at Bayside High School for two years and is the only player with significant high school experience. “Me and Carlene (Bartley) were on the bench counting down the seconds. You know that old saying your mother tells you: ‘Act like you’ve done this before.’ Forget that, we were happy.”
It has been a trying season for Queesborough and Jung, especially when the program did not even exist the year before.
“I anticipated it being a very difficult season considering I only had one recruit,” said Jung, who served as an assistant for two years under Medgar Evers men’s basketball coach George Moore. “My main concern was that the girls never gave up and that they still were able to hold their heads high.”
The win marked a night of firsts for everyone involved.
Jung, perhaps the only Japanese-Chinese-American college basketball coach in the country, recorded her first win as a head coach, as her roster full of first-year players finally had a reason to celebrate after losing all their games by an average score of 80-25.
As the final seconds wound down and the Lady Tigers won their first game, Jung was never more proud.
“You guys did a very good job and it was a well-deserved win,” she said, recalling what she told her players after the win.
Although the Lady Tigers lost to Hostos Community College, 98-35, in the first round of the CUNY Playoffs on Feb. 17, Jung is proud of her team for never giving up.
“I’m really proud of them,” she said. “I’m glad that their hard work paid off.”
“It’s been tough,” Gunning added. “It was hard especially (going) from a team that always won in Bayside. I got used to winning all the time.”
All the losing doesn’t seem to bother Jung, a first-year special education teacher at PS 150 in Brownsville when she’s not drawing up plays on the hardwood.
“I was very fortunate to get a head coaching position with little experience,” said Jung, who is grateful for all the support from the college’s president. “I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I love the game of basketball.”
Gunning said Jung started from step one and was always very positive, remembering how practices were always fun and nobody minded attending them.
“I’m guaranteeing we’re winning more than one game,” Gunning predicted for next season. “I’m going to keep it plural.”
With Jung’s attitude, positive outlook and her players’ faith in her, that seems like more of an understatement than a high expectation.
Reach contributing writer Joseph Manniello by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.