Roar, Lion, Roar

Engles, Griffith Lead Lions Basketball

Two familiar faces have taken the helm of Columbia’s men’s and women’s basketball programs this season. Jim Engles, who was an assistant coach at Columbia from 2003 to 2008 before achieving success in eight years as the head coach at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), takes over a men’s team that won a school-record 25 games and the CIT Championship last season but lost key players to graduation. Meanwhile, Megan Griffith ’07, who captained the Lions for three seasons before playing pro ball in Europe and being an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Princeton, is the new head coach of the women’s team.

A man holding a basketball and a woman standing next to him

Jim Engles and Megan Griffith ’07

Mike McLaughlin / Columbia Athletics

The men’s team, which finished third in the Ivy League last season with a 10–4 record, will begin conference play at Cornell on January 14. The Lions went 4–5 at the start of their non-conference schedule, with veterans Luke Petrasek ’17 and Nate Hickman ’18 and newcomer Mike Smith ’20 leading the scoring.

Engles, who played basketball at Dickinson, was an assistant coach for 13 seasons at Wagner and Rider before coming to Columbia in 2003 and helping head coach Joe Jones build the Lions into a consistent competitor in both league and non-conference play. He left in 2008 to become the head coach at NJIT and steadily built the Highlanders, who had only competed at the Division I level for two seasons prior to his arrival, into a team that won 15 games in 2012–13. He was the Metropolitan and Mid-Major Coach of the Year in 2014–15 after leading NJIT to the first of two 20-win seasons.

Griffith helped Princeton win five Ivy League championships and hopes to build a comparable winning culture at Columbia, where she was an All-Ivy League player in 2005–06 and 2006–07. When she was introduced as coach of the Lions last spring, she described herself as “a builder and a worker” and said “progress within our process” will be her mantra. As for being back on Morningside Heights, she said, “It just feels right. I know this is where I need to be and where I want to be.”

Griffith’s team got off to the best start in school history by winning eight of its first 10 games behind Camille Zimmerman ’18 and Tori Oliver ’17, the two leading scorers and rebounders from a year ago. Like the men, the women will begin Ivy competition at Cornell on January 14.