A photo with Connecticut coach legend Geno Auriemma was one of the highlights of KCKCC’s Valerie Stambersky during her trip to the women’s Final Four where she was one of three nominees for community college Coach of the Year – and Auriemma’s U-Conn team won a record ninth national championship. (KCKCC photo by Damian Stambersky)
by Alan Hoskins
It was a day Kansas City Kansas Community College women’s basketball coach Valerie Stambersky will never forget.
A photo with Connecticut Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma. Sharing the spotlight with Notre Dame Coach of the Year Muffet McGraw. Recognition as one of three community college Coach of the Year nominees.
“It’s such a huge, huge honor and so humbling. I really didn’t feel I deserved to be in the same room with some of the people and what they had done,” said Stambersky of the 30th annual convention of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) held Monday in the Broadway Ballroom of the Omni Nashville Hotel, site of the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Trenia Tillis Jones, who took Tyler Junior College from an 11-19 record in 2013 to a 30-6 season, national tournament appearance and No. 11 national ranking in 2014, was named Russell Athletic-WBCA Community College Coach of the Year award over Stambersky and Ned Mircetic of Ventura College, the Coach of the Year in 2009.
In her 15th year at KCKCC, Stambersky took the Lady Blue Devils from a 10-21 record in 2013 to a 24-8 mark in 2014 with six of the eight losses coming to teams ranked in the Top Five in Division II.
“If I had won, it would not have been what I did but a tribute to my staff and the players for what they did throughout the season,” Stambersky said.
This year’s award was especially special because it is the Pat Summit Award named in honor of the winningest basketball coach (men’s or women’s) in NCAA Division I history with 1,098 career victories. Summit stepped down as head coach in April 2012 after leading Tennessee to eight NCAA Division I national championships. She was named Division I national coach of the year three times.
Stambersky and all other nominees in six coaching levels (NCAA Division I, II and II, NAIA, community college and high school) were introduced via video to a crowd of more than 400 at the awards ceremony. Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw repeated as NCAA Division I Coach of the Year after leading the Irish to an unbeaten season until losing to U-Conn and Auriemma in the championship game Tuesday night.
Both McGraw and Auriemma were interviewed at a reception prior to the awards ceremony Monday night.
In addition to mingling with many of the top women’s coaches in the nation at the reception, Stambersky was able to reunite with her coach at Ferris State University, Tracy Dorrow, now head coach at Valparaiso, and a former player, Brittany Graham, current assistant coach at Berry College.
Stambersky was accompanied by her husband, KCKCC assistant baseball coach Damian Stambersky, and their two children, Taylor and Tyler.
Looking back, Stambersky said it was the highlight of her coaching career – and motivation for next season. “You get a taste of what it’s like and you want to be in that situation of winning next year,” she said.