Women’s basketball coach, Notre Dame • Coached teams to two NCAA national titles, six national championship final game appearances, eight Women’s Final Four appearances and 25 tournament appearances • Inductee, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame • Inductee, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame • Three-time consensus national coach of the year • Saint Joseph’s, ’77
I fell in love with basketball pretty much the first time I picked up one. I was in seventh grade, and the priest came in and said, ‘We’re about to start a girls basketball team. Who wants to play?’ I had played a little bit with the guys, so my hand shot up first. I just loved it from the first moment I had a practice, and I still have the same passion for it now.
That was at St. Agnes Grade School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I was aggressive and competitive, and I found that out very quickly. Every team I’ve been on, I’ve led in fouls. I loved the competitiveness and the team camaraderie. And I love to win.
I was a criminal justice/sociology major. I wasn’t sure where that was going to go. I was looking for jobs, and a high school job opened in the Philadelphia Catholic League. I said, ‘I’d like to give that a try.’ Basketball was ending, and I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to keep going. I applied for the job, and the first practice, I said, ‘Yup, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’
Men’s basketball coach, Saint Joseph’s • 2004 consensus national coach of the year • Seven NCAA tournament appearances • Widener, ’76
The game caught me. It hooked me. I realized that on a court I could make my skills blend with somebody else’s skills. I also was blown away, in the late ’60s in this country, that it transcended race, and it transcended economics. Basketball does not discriminate. It can be played in the inner city. It can be played in the suburbs. It can be played on blacktop anywhere in this country — male, female, you don’t have to have a certain W-2, you don’t have to drive a car. It’s a societal masterpiece, this game.
Athletics director, Stanford • Leads athletics department that has won at least one NCAA team championship in each of the last 42 academic years • Chair, Division I Men’s Basketball Committee • Brown, ’90
At age 7, I moved from New York to Gainesville, Florida. I joined a Boys and Girls Club, and we had teams and leagues as early as 7 and 8 years old. They called it Bitty Basketball League. We learned tenets, like pick and roll, two-hand chest pass and bounce pass. We learned the basics, and we would go out and play. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun being part of a team. The strategy got me: How do you defend? How do you score? How do you move up and down the court?
We tell our student-athletes today, ‘These are going to be your friends for life.’ That certainly has been the case for me and my Brown teammates. We just didn’t win as many games as we would have liked.
This is a great game, and we get to celebrate it every March and April. There are a lot of teams vying to have the opportunity in the regular season, and then you get to the conference championship and the great buildup to March Madness and tournament time. The game has evolved — especially the spectacle we call the Final Four — and it culminates in a heck of a tradition we’ve created in this country.
Men’s basketball coach, Toledo • Chair, Division I Men’s Basketball Ethics Coalition • Minnesota Duluth, ’88
As a coach’s son, I was always around practices, rebounding for players, being sort of a manager — even as a kid. I just fell in love with the game and the competition.
Some people have no idea when they’re in high school or college what they want to do for a living. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a coach. And to take it a step further, I knew I wanted to be a college coach.
As a player, it’s awesome to compete. But as a coach, you’re competing in the game, you’re competing on the recruiting trail, you’re competing through it all. The competition is addictive. And then as I get older and develop in the profession, it really has become about helping young men grow and leave college well-prepared for the future. There’s nothing better than the relationships with guys you’ve coached in the past.
Director of multimedia communications, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, athletics • Took advantage of UMBC’s moment in the 2018 March Madness limelight to tweet UMBC’s story to the world. The Twitter account jumped from 5,400 followers to 110,900 overnight. • UMBC, ’12
Last season, we were excited to make the tournament — but then we see that as a No. 16 seed, we’re playing Virginia, a No. 1. Some people were like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re playing Virginia.’ I said, ‘Don’t call me crazy. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but our style matches up really well with Virginia. We could keep it close.’
Normally we would have tweeted from the team account, but we decided as a group: Why don’t we do it from athletics? If we lose like everyone thinks we will, even if we get just 100 people checking us out, they’ll say, ‘Oh, look, they have a lacrosse team. They have a softball team.’
Did I expect us to win by 20? Absolutely not. I’ll never forget — after the game ended, there’s just the longest line of reporters I’ve ever seen. Then a reporter from ESPN interviewed me. I said, ‘Why me? I didn’t beat Virginia — they did.’ But he said, ‘You were part of the story.’
On any given day, anybody can beat anybody. Whether it’s a pickup game or an intramural game or you’re just playing with your buddies, anything can happen.
Retired men’s basketball coach, Arizona • Inductee, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame • Coached teams to one NCAA national title, five Final Four appearances and 28 tournament appearances • Augsburg, ’56
When I was 6 in North Dakota, we lived on a farm until my dad and oldest brother died within a space of nine months. At that point, we had to move into town to Mayville. It was a tough, tough go. I lost the advisors that I would have had. My coaches ended up being surrogate fathers to me.
That’s really where it started. Mayville State was a few blocks from my high school. What we would do was go over and work out without anybody knowing, and we would go through one of the windows and play. We got a lot of indoor work as a result of that. It worked out really well for me. Having Mayville State there, I was able to watch good basketball. They had good teams. We probably went through the window for the games, too — I don’t think we got tickets. You have to do what you have to do.
Recreation director for city of Providence, Rhode Island, and NCAA men’s basketball official • Has officiated 11 NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournaments, three Men’s Final Fours and three national championship games
Growing up, playing basketball at the rec program opened my eyes to understanding teamwork and how to make friendships. I played in high school and went to community college, but to help my mom out, I left school and went and got a job.
The recreation center gave me the opportunity to be athletic coordinator. I was also coaching basketball. One day I was getting on the referees, and one of my friends told me I should get an officiating license because I thought I knew more than they did. I took the class and failed the written exam because I didn’t study. I thought I knew it all. I was really upset. So then I took the class again the next year, and I got a 100.
There’s one thing I’ve learned about officiating college ball: It’s your job to be able to feel the game. When I’m refereeing games and I see Coach A or Coach B is about to explode, I have to communicate before it blows up. The rule is always be proactive. Don’t just react.
You’re only as good as the last call you made. You can work multiple Final Fours; you can work multiple championship games. But when I leave this racket of officiating, I want them saying, ‘That guy right there did it the right way. He was respectful of the players, the coaches and the people who gave him the opportunity.’
Composer, “One Shining Moment,” the song that has accompanied each televised Division I Men’s Basketball Championship awards ceremony since 1987 • Earned Emmy Award for writing the score of a PBS documentary, “The Magic Never Ends: The Life and Work of C.S. Lewis” • Albion, ’77
My father died when I was 12. It was a difficult period, and I was a lost and lonely kid. I had never really played basketball before, but I had a friend named Chucky who had a basketball rim.
One night we were shooting, and it was snowing. A carload of other lost and lonely kids pulled in and said, ‘Hop in. We’re going to go and have some fun.’ I remember thinking, ‘No, I’m going to stay here. I like this.’ I stayed another hour by myself and shot baskets in the snow. The other kids ended up going to an abandoned house and getting into all sorts of trouble.
It can be such a solitary affair. If you’re a young man or a young woman who is processing things, there’s a strange psychic rhythm of shoot, retrieve, shoot, retrieve.
The rhythm of the game gets in your veins and gets in your blood. It’s hard to describe to the uninitiated.
Director of player programs and franchise development, Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and Fort Wayne Mad Ants • Four-time Olympic gold medalist • 2011 WNBA Most Valuable Player • Five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year • 10-time WNBA All-Star • Won NCAA Division I national championship at Tennessee, 1998 • Tennessee, ’01
I was in eighth grade the first time I saw a woman play basketball on TV. Watching Tennessee and seeing Pat Summitt stomping up and down on the sidelines, I was thinking, ‘Oh, all this orange is just awesome.’ When I saw Pat, it wasn’t just, ‘I want to go to college.’ It was, ‘I want to go to her college.’
I got made fun of a lot because of my hearing aids, so basketball was my safe place. Me and my ball, we could go to any court, anywhere. If somebody made fun of me, I could say, ‘Let’s go play basketball.’ I was comfortable if I had that ball in my hand.
I threw away my hearing aids in seventh grade, so I went from seventh grade to my freshman year in college without them. I would figure out other ways to be successful in the classroom. I learned how to read lips.
One day after practice, Pat and my trainer took me to the side and said, ‘Look, long story short is, one day your story will impact thousands of people. Don’t hold yourself back because of what you think other people think about you.’ I thought she had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t talk to people. I definitely wasn’t going to be talking to people about my story. But I got back to wearing my hearing aids.
Travel the world, play basketball abroad, play for the WNBA, play for USA Basketball — all opportunities that basketball has afforded me and my family. This ball can take you anywhere and everywhere you can imagine.
Women’s basketball coach, Stanford • Four-time national coach of the year • Led Stanford to two national championships and 30 appearances in the NCAA tournament • Led U.S. women’s basketball team to gold medal in 1996 Olympics • Inductee, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame • Inductee, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame • Indiana, ’75
I can picture myself in the little elementary school gym. I was in the fourth grade, and we did the three-player weave drill, and I remember thinking, ‘This is just crazy. Wow, this is fun.’
But I also remember not being able to play. They had teams for the boys in the fifth grade and the sixth grade and the seventh grade and the eighth grade and freshman year and the JV and the varsity. And I did not have a team to play on. It was extremely painful to me.
When I got to college, I wanted to see what a really high level of college basketball looked like, so I convinced a friend to drive from Albany, New York, to Normal, Illinois, to see the AIAW national championship. There were 16 teams there. I said, ‘I’m going to transfer to Indiana and play basketball.’
The more you know about basketball, the more there is to know about basketball. I never feel like I’ve got it down. At Indiana, I watched the college guys practice. What really attracted me to the game was the strategy of it, and watching practice showed me how players were developed. Watching made me a better coach. It helped me in the long run.
Women’s basketball coach, Bentley • First Division II women’s basketball coach to amass 1,000 wins • Led Bentley to a 35-0 season and Division II title in 2014 • Five-time Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year • Bridgewater State, ’76
Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, I played softball — the only organized activity we had for girls was Lassie Lake Softball — but it seemed like basketball always took a No. 1 spot in my heart. I was pretty much the only girl who wanted to play, so I would sit at the park and wait to be chosen on a team.
I had a very good, motivational high school coach — a female. It just looked like she was having so much fun, as a high school teacher and our basketball coach. She had gone to Bridgewater State, so I went to Bridgewater State.
And then in college, I became fascinated with the coaching aspect of basketball. I would go to coaches clinics and take notes and march myself into my coach’s office and say, ‘These are all the things I learned this weekend at the clinic.’ I don’t know what she did with them after I left the office, but it was a time of great fascination for me in terms of the X’s and O’s.
That desire to learn has really just stayed with me my entire career. I love to learn as much as I can about the game.
Athletics director, Tennessee State • As a women’s basketball coach, led teams to two NCAA tournament appearances • First woman to serve as head coach of a Division I men’s basketball team • Vanderbilt, ’80
Across the street from our house was the Lookout Mountain Colored School, where my father, aunts and uncles had gone to school. It was closed, but it had a playground that had baskets with chains. Those chains would swoosh when you played.
I was from an era when girls didn’t play; they sat around and watched the boys play. As a couple of years went by and they knew I was a good athlete, I got to play a little more. I was still almost the last one chosen, but they knew I wasn’t going to be a detriment. And I just loved basketball.
It’s probably my favorite sport — but it’s also the one where I ended up getting opportunities. They didn’t have an intercollegiate team my freshman year at Vanderbilt; they had club sports. I wasn’t on athletic scholarship or anything, but boy, did I find myself trying to find a way to play some ball. And then when I was a sophomore, they added an intercollegiate team.
I graduated with a degree in economics and moved to Atlanta. Then the coach called and asked if I was interested in a restricted-earnings coaching position. It was an opportunity for me to get into coaching, so I convinced my company to transfer me so I could coach for Vanderbilt. It was really my sneaky way of trying to get back into the sport.
Men’s basketball coach, Iowa • Eight NCAA tournament appearances • Pennsylvania, ’82
When I was little, my first love was baseball. Back then, we all started playing Little League baseball first. The reason I fell in love with basketball was because of my father’s love for basketball and my older brother’s love for basketball. It became our social life: Friday nights we went to high school games, and Saturdays we went to college games, and then in Philadelphia, on Sundays, we went to high school games again. We went to college games at the Palestra on Tuesdays.
I played for my school and played independently. It is part of the fabric of our family. I’m incredibly fortunate to have this life intertwined with basketball. And now it goes to the next generation. My wife played, my children play, and one of them is going to play for me this year. I just feel blessed.
Coach of the Power, a men’s three-on-three professional basketball team • Coached team to the 2018 BIG3 Championship title • Former WNBA player and coach • Inductee, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame • Inductee, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame • Silver medalist, 1976 Olympics • Led Old Dominion to Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships in 1979 and 1980 • Old Dominion, ’80
I fell in love with basketball when I was 9 years old. I grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and I had always been a football fan and a Yankees fan to the death. I was throwing out the garbage one day, and I looked at the back of the Long Island Press, and it said, the Celtics beat the Knicks 120-115 or whatever the score was. And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe how many points they scored.’
I watched the games on TV after that, and I saw Walt Frazier, and I said, ‘I want to be so cool and be like that guy.’ From that day on, I wore No. 10 my entire professional career. I went to the park at PS104, and I would play all the time. And then, when I was 12 years old, I took the train at night from Far Rockaway to Rucker in Harlem. I put T-shirts in my jacket so people would think I looked bigger. I was a skinny little kid with this flaming red hair, and I walk into Rucker, and they said, ‘Little girl, are you lost?’ I said, ‘No. Are you?’ They said, ‘Do you know where you are?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m at Rucker Park. Is your name Rucker?’ And the black kids said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Good. It ain’t your park. I want to play basketball, and I heard you’re really, really good, and I want you to help me be really good. My mom doesn’t know I’m here, and she doesn’t want me to play because girls don’t play sports.’
They were like, ‘Holy cow! What’s wrong with this girl?’ It was like a Dr. Phil moment. These guys, Ronald, Donald and Gary, put their arm around me and rode the train to Far Rockaway and took me home. I walked in the house, and my mother said, ‘Where have you been?’ I said, ‘Mom, I fell in love with this game, and these guys are really cool.’ She said, ‘You weren’t in the park.’ I said, ‘I was in the park.’ She said, ‘You weren’t at PS104 across the street.’ I said, ‘I went to Rucker Park where all the great players play, and I’m going to be really, really great.’ She said, ‘What’s wrong with you? You’re a little Jewish girl. They don’t play sports.’
That was the beginning of an amazing love story. Basketball has never cheated on me. It has never let me down. When I had no food, no father, no heat, no electricity, it slept in the bed with me. I would sleep with my ball. When I was hopeless and helpless, it changed my life. Olympics. Going to college. Teaching my mother not to be prejudiced and judgmental. And it’s the coolest love story. I’m 60 years old. I’m as much in love with basketball today as I was at 9.
Women’s basketball coach, Haverford • Former chair, Division III Women’s Basketball Committee • Richmond, ’85
If you grow up Catholic in Philadelphia, you are playing basketball before you are in grade school. My mom played in college at Rosemont in the ’40s. My mom and my dad played in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Growing up, we were either at the Palestra at Penn, St. Joe’s, Villanova, we were there every Wednesday or Saturday. Two bucks for a seat, and I can remember sitting up in the corners, and my heart would be beating so fast. I was 5 years old. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
I didn’t really have a choice but to love basketball. I loved playing it; I loved watching it. It was just such a part of my family and such a part of the community I lived in. My experience wasn’t different from the people who were around me. I just stayed with it. Other people moved on.
I don’t know that what sparks my love for it today is any different from when I was 5 years old and could feel my heart pounding. Before a game I still get — it’s not nervousness, but it’s game time. In Division III, these kids have the same feeling. They commit to year-round training for basketball. No scholarships — they’re just doing it because they love it. Nothing could be better.
Men’s basketball coach, Kennesaw State • Henry Iba Award winner as Division I coach of the year, 2001 • Former NBA and ABA player • Led teams to nine NCAA tournament appearances • Massachusetts, ’74
It was the easiest sport and the most accessible to play as a kid. All you needed was a ball since there were hoops everywhere. I never had a ball, but someone did. So I would go out and play.
That started it, and then it just became part of the competition. That’s the game I played. I started to play when I was 8 or 9 years old, trying to throw the ball in the basket and wanting to participate. Then, you got goals. To be on the YMCA team, the next thing was the junior high school team, then junior varsity, and then the varsity. And then I wanted to get a scholarship. There was always a goal.
In basketball, I could get my hand on the ball almost every time and at least get a touch. And that was really important to me. The biggest thing was I always set a goal, and along with setting goals playing basketball, in my family, in order for me to play, I had to get good grades. They always went hand in hand. I wasn’t allowed to play if I didn’t have good grades. And this is where I am today: college coaching.
Senior vice president of basketball, NCAA • Dartmouth, ’88
My father, Dave Gavitt, was a Division I college basketball coach at Dartmouth College and then at Providence College. My earliest recollection is my brother and I going to team practices at Providence and playing around in the gym before or after practice. That was definitely when I would pinpoint falling in love with the game — just those days when I was around his team.
The relationships with the players, their relationships together as a team, the way they treated my brother and me as ball kids and welcoming us around their practices — that’s what drew me at first. But I also appreciated the relationship my dad had with his players. To have that kind of impact on young men who go on to be successful in their own lives — that’s pretty impactful.
As I got older, I certainly had a love of playing the game. I worked at it and wanted to be good at it. I was never great, but I was good enough to enjoy it. I watch every game from an entertainment standpoint but also from a strategic standpoint: What’s this coach trying to do? What’s that coach trying to do? What are these players trying to accomplish strategically in this game? Personally, I think it’s the greatest game in the world.
Director of women’s basketball, NCAA • Former women’s basketball player at Immaculata, 1974 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national champion • Championship team inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame • Edinboro, ’77
There are very few opportunities you see as young women where you have the opportunity to grow academically and socially, somewhat at the same speed. I think that’s what sports allow women and girls to do.
I was always the player who wanted everybody to get along and have fun. I was a decent scorer, but I loved passing the ball. As a teammate, I would hope my teammates would say they had fun because I was very inclusive. Even the people who didn’t get to play a lot, I wanted to get to know them.
That’s the part that I love about being part of women’s basketball from an NCAA perspective. I’ve never wanted to be the star of the team. I don’t like to be out in front. So I love that I can be behind the scenes at this type of association, creating experiences for student-athletes that they will always remember. I still cry at every national championship.
Men’s basketball coach, East Stroudsburg * Former chair, Division II Men’s Basketball Committee * Division II Coach of the Year in 2014 * Has led East Stroudsburg to four appearances in the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament * East Stroudsburg, ’86
I had two older brothers — one six years older, one four years older. My parents were always looking for ways to get us out of the house. They put up a basket in our driveway, and that’s where I got my introduction.
But even as a young person, I would get out a piece of paper and watch games on TV and start diagramming plays. It was something about the schematics that drew me. I was captivated by the game. It is fast.
I had a JV coach in high school who I probably patterned a lot of my early career after. He was a health and physical education teacher. I liked his lifestyle as far as teaching and giving back to the game. He went to East Stroudsburg, I went to East Stroudsburg. And then when I got to college, a mentor on the health and physical education staff said, ‘You’re going to want to have your own program. It’s like being a CEO.’
He was right. Thirty-two years into the profession, it all goes back to what it was like to be a 10-year-old diagramming plays. Even today, we run our game really fast; we play 94 feet and run a press. As far as teaching, at this level, it’s all about giving young men an opportunity and trying to develop them, make them the best basketball players they can be, and make sure they get a good education.
Vice president for athletics and recreation, Northwestern * Member and former chair, Division I Men’s Basketball Committee * Former member, Division I Women’s Basketball Committee * Former chair, Division I Council * Illinois ’90
I grew up in a family of 10 kids — six girls and four boys — so we had enough to play five-on-five. I grew up in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago, and I remember just picking up a basketball at such a young age and loving the sport, loving what it meant and how it brought people together.
You’d play with guys in the park at a young age, and you didn’t see race or anything. They were just your friends, and you just played. It is the ultimate in bringing people together. You shared the same objective of competing and working hard and experiencing failures and successes and all of that. It’s a game that I know has meant so much to so many people, and I feel like one of those individuals in that it really led to the life and career I have.
I loved playing, but I quickly saw there were going to be some limitations on how far I could play. But when I transitioned out of basketball into administration, my love affair with basketball never stopped.
Men’s basketball coach, Duke • Inductee, Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame • Five-time Division I men’s basketball championship coach • Five-time Olympic gold medalist coach • Record 34 NCAA tournament appearances • Army West Point, ’69
I got into coaching because of my high school coach, Al Ostrowski. I was a pretty good high school player, but he made me better. His belief in me was a big part of my development, and it always resonated with me the impact he had on me as a person. I knew from that moment that I wanted to get into coaching and have the ability to have that same impact on my players.