New Head Women's Basketball
Stephanie Smith, who guided Wabash Valley (Ill.) College to a fifth-place finish at this year’s National Junior College Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament, was introduced April 23 as the new head women’s coach at Cowley. Smith replaces Darin Spence, who left after six seasons to become the head women’s coach at New Mexico State University. Cowley Athletic Director Tom Saia introduced Smith. “I’m really excited to be here,” Smith said. “At Wabash, we had to build a program. Coming in here on coach Spence’s heels, he did such a good job. There are good players and good people, and we want to please everybody on campus.”
Smith has been the head coach at Wabash since 1991. During those 12 seasons, she had a 100-percent graduation rate of her players. Her teams have won at least 20 games per season for the last eight years, and Wabash won Great Rivers Athletic Conference championships the last three seasons. Wabash also finished being ranked in the top 15 in the nation the last three seasons. In 2001, Wabash finished the season with a 30-2 record and a No. 10 national ranking. In 2002, the team was 28-6 and ranked 15th nationally.
Smith told the gathering of about 30 people in the lobby of W.S. Scott Auditorium that her team’s style of play includes tough defense. “I preach defense,” she said. “We’ll use a lot of man-to-man, and occasionally go half-court. Offensively, there will be a lot of fast breaks, some quick hitters and we’ll shoot some threes (three-point shots).”
Smith brings an impressive resume to Cowley. This year, she was named the Russell Athletic/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and her team received the Alberta Lee Cox National Sportsmanship Award at the national tournament in Salina. Heading into the 2002-2003 season, Wabash was preseason ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division I. Her team also qualified for the national tournament in 2002, finishing 12th. Smith was named District Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003, Region XXIV Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003, and conference Coach of the Year in 2001, 2002, and 2003. In 2002, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association named Smith the Coach of the Year. She had two WBCA/Kodak All-Americans this past season in first-team selections Nina Stone and Yelena Leuchanka. And during the last three seasons, Smith has coached four NJCAA All-Americans. “I’m really excited to recruit Kansas,” she said.
The Mt. Vernon, Ky., native holds a bachelor’s degree from Campbellsville (Ky.) College and a master’s degree from Oakland City (Ind.) University. Her master’s degree is in education. Smith becomes the eighth head women’s basketball coach in Cowley history.
Spences leave Cowley after five basketball titles, tennis success
Darin Spence, who guided the Lady Tiger basketball team to five Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division titles in six years, has left to become the head women’s coach at NCAA Division I New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Spence’s wife, André, coached the women’s tennis team to four top-10 finishes at the national tournament in seven seasons, including a third place in 2002.
Darin Spence compiled a 171-26 overall record at Cowley (.868 winning percentage) and a 97-11 (.898) conference record. Cowley finished the 2002-2003 season with a 28-6 overall record, 16-2 in the East. The team reached the championship game of the Region VI Tournament, only to lose to Garden City 85-81. He also earned Coach of the Year honors in the Jayhawk East this past season, the fourth time he’s won that award.
Throughout his community college coaching career, which includes five seasons as head women’s coach at Butler County, Spence has an overall record of 321-82 (.796). Spence also ranks second on Cowley’s all-time women’s basketball coaching lists with 197 games, second only to Linda Hargrove’s 428. Spence also ranks second behind Hargrove in career victories at Cowley with 171. Hargrove won 316 games. But Spence leaves as the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach in Cowley history with a winning percentage of .868.