June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

College basketball: Caroline McCombs takes her biggest shot

After 15 seasons as a Division I women’s college basketball assistant, 1994 Medina High graduate Caroline McCombs is moving over one chair.

The 38-year-old will be introduced this morning as the head coach at Stony Brook University in New York.

“It’s amazing,” McCombs said Thursday evening in a phone interview. “It is just an awesome feeling. To start my own program and to build the foundation of something special, putting together some things I’ve learned throughout my coaching career from all my mentors, it’s just really an exciting time in my life. It’s an unbelievable feeling.

“It was the right fit. I don’t know what else to say. Stony Brook is a place I can see myself at, raising a child of mine and having it go to school here. It’s just a place you want to be a part of.”

McCombs, the 1994 Gazette Senior Female Athlete of the Year and a 2001 Medina County Sports Hall of Fame inductee, spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Auburn. Prior to that, she was an assistant at Northwestern, Pittsburgh and Valparaiso. She helped those teams to 11 postseason berths, including five NCAA Tournament appearances. Pitt reached the Sweet 16 in 2008 and ’09.

“Our goal is to build a championship-caliber program that contends for America East titles and NCAA Tournament berths on an annual basis,” Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said in a statement. “I believe that Caroline brings the experience and vision that will allow the Seawolves to reach new heights.

“More importantly, Caroline demonstrated an ability and desire to be a mentor to young women, and she embraces our mission to develop leaders on the court and in the classroom.”

McCombs will replace Beth O’Boyle, who recently accepted the head coaching position at Virginia Commonwealth after leading Stony Brook to a 24-9 record and Women’s National Invitation Tournament bid in her third and final season.

“I’ve always had those aspirations to be a head coach,” McCombs said. “When the position opened at Stony Brook and I started doing research on who they are, it was a no-brainer at that point. After talking to the people, it made me feel this is such a special place. You want to be a part of it.

“I loved my role as an assistant coach, but this is a place I can see myself and feel myself being a leader.”

The Seawolves will return players who combined for 53 points a game last season. They also will have three incoming freshman and two players who were redshirted in 2013-14.

“The well’s not dry,” said McCombs, who plans to emphasize defense and utilize an up-tempo offense. “A couple key pieces graduated, but we have a solid core back who have experienced winning. They’ve tasted success and want to continue to be pushed.”

McCombs graduated from Youngstown State in 1998 and was later enshrined into the school’s hall of fame after helping the Penguins to four straight Mid-Continent Conference regular-season titles and two NCAA Tournament berths. She was a second-team All-MCC choice as a sophomore and senior.

McCombs scored 1,577 points in her college career, still the seventh-most in YSU history. A 5-foot-7 guard, she played in 115 games — her 112 starts rank second in school history — and averaged 13.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists for her career.

McCombs went on to play professionally in the Czech Federation before going into coaching, where she has mentored two All-Americans and three players who went on to play in the WNBA.

At Medina, McCombs scored a school-record 1,287 points over her four-year career. She was also a standout volleyball player for the Bees.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.