By ALAN HOSKINS
Named in honor of legendary Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, the inaugural Pat Summit Trophy will presented at the Fourth Annual WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) Awards Show to be held during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, April 7.
Trenia Tillis Jones of Tyler Junior College and 2009 Coach of the Year Ned Mircetic of Ventura College are the other finalists for the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA Community College Coach of the Year award which will be announced in the Broadway Ballroom of the Omni Nashville Hotel.
“I’m a little lost for words; it’s a great honor,” said Stambersky. “My assistant, Shaun Burki, told me I had been nominated and I laughed. But then I received an e-mail informing me I was a finalist and was totally shocked.”
Stambersky will be accompanied by her husband, Damian Stambersky, and their two children, 6-year-old son Taylor and 4-year-old daughter, Tyler, at the Women’s Final Four.
“In her 15 years at KCKCC, Coach Stambersky has done things the right way,” says Burki. “She’s certainly helped me grow as a coach and as a person and I hope that all of her hard work and passion will come to fruition and she’ll win the national coach of the year award I believe she rightly deserves.”
In addition to her coaching duties, Stambersky is the assistant athletic director. Those responsibilities include maintaining the college’s athletic website and campus wide communications.
The winningest coach in KCKCC history with 183 victories, Stambersky’s 2013-14 team recorded a career best 24-8 record with six of the eight losses to teams ranked in the top four nationally. Three of the losses came to Highland, which lost in overtime in the national championship game; two to Johnson County, which finished No. 2 in the national rankings; and one to North Iowa, which was No. 1 in the final rankings.
The Blue Devils gave national runnerup Highland a huge scare in the semifinals of the Region VI tournament before a late comeback fell short in a 62-58 loss at Highland. “Another minute and I think we could have got it into overtime,” said Burki.
The 24 wins are the most since KCKCC finished fifth in the nation with a 35-2 record in 1997. Averaging 74.8 points, the Lady Blue Devils were also the highest scoring team since 1997 while holding opponents to 59.7 points per contest. Balance was a key to the success with nine players averaging 6.2 or more points a game.
With only three sophomores and the only returning starter (Samantha Hurst) lost for the season in the 11th game of the year, the Blue Devils were still 14-1 in December and despite being without their top two scorers for the first five games of January, they still won four of five. Seven of this year’s top nine scorers and rebounders will return next season.
“The WBCA congratulates these coaches on being named finalists for the Pat Summitt Trophy present to the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA Junior/Community Coach of the Year,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. “Each coach helped lead their team to an outstanding season and was selected by their peers to be candidates for this honor. On behalf of the WBCA and its members, I wish all of the finalists the best of luck at the WBCA Awards Show in Nashville.”
This is the first year the award will bear Summitt’s name and is the only national coach of the year award to do so. The winningest basketball coach (men’s or women’s) in NCAA Division I history with 1,098 career victories, Summitt stepped down as head coach in April 2012 after leading the Lady Vols to eight NCAA Division I national championships. She was named Division I national coach of the year three times.
Russell Athletic and the WBCA annually recognizes six national coaches of the year – NCAA Division I, II and II, NAIA, junior-community college and high school. It is the 32nd year that the WBCA has honored the junior/community college coach of the year. The late Kurt Budke, who got his coaching start at KCKCC, was the 1995 Coach of the Year while at Trinity Valley. B.J. Smith of Highland was the 2012 recipient.