Thursday, February 22, 2001

Xavier's Balcomb up for coach of year

11 on AP's ballot

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Melanie Balcomb insists she has done the least amount of coaching this season of any in her career. But it may be the year that gets the Xavier women's basketball coach the most recognition.

        “She definitely has to be one of the front-runners for (national) coach of the year,” ESPN women's basketball analyst Beth Mowins said.

  Here are the 11 names the Associated Press suggested voters consider for the National Women's Basketball Coach of the Year award:
  • Geno Auriemma, Connecticut
  • Melanie Balcomb, Xavier
  • Kristy Curry, Purdue
  • Elaine Elliott, Utah
  • Bill Fennelly, Iowa State
  • Gail Goestenkors, Duke
  • Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame
  • Kim Mulkey-Robertson, Baylor
  • Carol Ross, Florida
  • Pat Summitt, Tennessee
  • Charli Turner Thorne, Ariz. St.
        The Associated Press sent out its ballots Wednesday for that honor, and Balcomb was among 11 suggested candidates. XU is 23-2 (13-1 Atlantic 10) and ranked No.12 and can clinch a share of its first A-10 regular-season title with a victory tonight at Duquesne (14-11, 7-7).

        “There's no question she should be considered when you look at some of the blows she was dealt early on,” XU athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “To Melanie's credit, she was able to keep them focused on what was still possible.”

        In preseason, last year's A-10 Rookie of the Year Amy Waugh was lost with a ruptured Achilles' tendon; returning starter Katie Griggs had a career-ending back injury; transfer Charlyn Hawkins tore an ACL, and touted freshman Allison Lipinski left school. All were guards.

        “With the staff I have and so many veteran players, everyone knew the X's and O's, so I was freed up to do a lot more mental work,” Balcomb said. “I knew it'd be more of a mental year than a physical year — being able to handle the pressure of the expectations put on us, the pressure of the injuries, the chemistry when (Waugh) came back.”

        Mowins said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw will be the favorite for the AP award, announced March 30. But she listed Balcomb, Iowa State's Bill Fennelly, Duke's Gail Goestenkors and Oklahoma's Sheri Coale as others probably in contention.

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