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Lady Raiders fill two spots with Swoopes, Vanderbilt coaching wins leader

Posted: July 5, 2017 - 9:27pm
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The Texas Tech women’s basketball program, trying to right itself from four consecutive losing seasons, announced a couple of splashy hires Wednesday.

Tech coach Candi Whitaker named Hall of Fame player Sheryl Swoopes director of player development, bringing home the icon who led the Lady Raiders to the 1993 NCAA championship. A few hours later, Tech announced the hiring Melanie Balcomb as associate head coach.

Balcomb is 473-253 with 15 NCAA Tournament appearances in 23 seasons as head coach at Ashland (1993-95), Xavier (1995-2002) and Vanderbilt (2002-16). She spent last season as director of coaching offensive analytics at South Carolina, which won the national championship.

“We are very fortunate to add Melanie to our coaching staff,” Whitaker said in a prepared statement that Tech released. “Melanie’s longstanding success as a Division I head coach makes her an invaluable asset to our program. She knows how to win at the highest level. Melanie’s a proven recruiter and will benefit our team in all facets.”

Whitaker described herself as thrilled to welcome back Swoopes to the program.

“She brings a wealth of experience playing at the highest level,” Whitaker said, “and will be an outstanding resource for our student-athletes. Sheryl’s passion for our program and for impacting young players will be extremely beneficial for our continued growth. She is a fantastic addition to our staff.”

Tech finished 14-17 last season and associate head coach Matt Corkery and assistant coach Ray Caldwell have since departed.

Swoopes is expected to help develop each player personally, academically and athletically. She also will work with Texas Tech’s academic services, sports performance and sports medicine departments along with assisting the coaching staff in breaking down video and preparation of game strategy.

Her job description, according to Tech, also includes assisting the Red Raider Club, the Marsha Sharp Learning Center and athletic director Kirby Hocutt in community outreach while serving as an analyst for televised games.

“I couldn’t be more excited about joining Texas Tech and the Lady Raider program,” Swoopes said in Tech’s announcement. “I am very grateful to coach Whitaker for giving me this opportunity and I am looking forward to working with the players and staff. My role as director of player development gives me an opportunity to do what I love and help the players develop both on and off the court.”

Swoopes, who had her No. 22 jersey retired on Feb. 19, 1994, has been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame over the past two years.

Swoopes, 46, was head coach at Loyola of Chicago for three seasons before being fired in July 2016 amid allegations of player mistreatment and many players leaving. In June 2016, Swoopes released a statement calling the allegations “reckless reports” and “false attacks.”

In the statement, she said, “There is nothing in my behavior, past nor present, as a coach or professional that reflects anything other than structure, encouragement and respect for others.”

As a senior, Swoopes guided the Lady Raiders to the Southwest Conference regular season and tournament championships and the NCAA championship. After averaging 28.1 points, which ranked second nationally, she was named the Naismith college player of the year and the WBCA player of the year.

As a Texas Tech athlete, Swoopes set 30 women’s basketball records, including four Final Four records, three NCAA tournament records, four NCAA championship game records and eight Texas Tech school records — counting the single-game school record for points (53), which still stands.

Swoopes was one of the first players to sign a WNBA contract and became a three-time WNBA MVP, two-time scoring champion, four-time WNBA champion, three-time defensive player of the year and six-time all-Star. She also was a three-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA.

Balcomb went 135-78 in seven seasons at Xavier, making an NCAA Tournament round of eight appearance in 2001. She’s the winningest coach at Vanderbilt, going 310-149 in 14 seasons. Her Vandy teams made the NCAA Tournament 12 years in a row from 2003-14, reaching the round of 16 four times.

She has a reputation for sound offense after her Vanderbilt teams finished in the top 50 nationally in field-goal percentage every season, including four times among the top four.

“I’m excited to get back on the court and help Texas Tech keep moving the needle forward in a positive way,” Balcomb said in Tech’s announcement. “The opportunity to work with great people at a program with historical success made it an easy decision.”

Balcomb played collegiately at Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey) and served as an assistant at Niagara (1985-89), Ohio (1989-90) and Providence (1990-93).

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Hires???

Now we have 3 'coaches' on staff....all women married to women???? Where is this "program" headed?

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