Winning Women - A Conversation About Gender Equality in the Midst of March Madness
Email Caroline McCombs at Caroline.McCombs@stonybrook.edu Follow Caroline McCombs on Twitter and Instagram at @CoachMcCombs
Caroline McCombs completed her second season as the head coach of the Stony Brook women's basketball team in 2015-16, becoming the first coach in Stony Brook Division I history to lead her team to two postseason appearances, finishing 17-15 and accepting a bid to the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) for the second consecutive season. McCombs collected her first career win in the America East Tournament when the Seawolves beat Hartford 60-42 in the America East Quarterfinals on March 5.
McCombs has compiled a (.540) win percentage through her first two seasons, the second-best mark by a Stony Brook coach in the program's Division I history, and her 34 total wins are tied for the second most by a Stony Brook coach through their first two seasons.
At Stony Brook, McCombs has groomed four players into all-conference selections. Sabre Proctor was selected to the all-conference first team in 2014-15, while Kori Bayne-Walker made the second team and Brittany Snow landed on the third team. In 2015-16, Snow improved to earn second-team recognition.
Two members from coach McCombs' first recruiting class (Ogechi Anyagaligbo and Davion Wingate) landed on the America East All-Rookie team in 2015-16 with Anyagaligbo earning America East Rookie of the Year. She became the first freshman to lead the America East in rebounding since the 2005-06 season.
In her first season in 2014-15, McCombs led the Seawolves to 17 overall wins and 10 wins in the America East Conference. She also guided Stony Brook to only the third postseason berth in program history, as the program was selected to participate in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI).
Under McCombs, the Seawolves were 11-3 in the new Island Federal Credit Union Arena, including a 68-64 home victory over America East champion Albany.
McCombs squad is not only excelling on the court, but in the classroom as well. Her 2014-15 team earned the NCAA Public Recognition Award, given to programs that score in the top 10% in Academic Progress Rate (APR) in their respective sports. Two players also earned America East All-Academic Team selections.
McCombs came to Stony Brook with more than 15 years of experience as an assistant coach at the Division I level. She had assisted three different programs to a total of five NCAA Tournament berths, including two Sweet 16 appearances. McCombs’ strength in developing players has also resulted in two Associated Press All-Americans and three WNBA players.
McCombs spent from 2012 to 2014 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn University, where she assisted the program to back-to-back WNIT berths. She developed a pair of SEC All-Conference and All-Defensive Team players, as well as one All-Freshman Team performer. In her first season at Auburn in 2012-13, McCombs helped guide the Tigers to 19 wins, the program’s most in four years. As Auburn’s Recruiting Coordinator, she was influential in signing a class that ranked 16th nationally in 2012.
Prior to her time at Auburn, McCombs coached nine Big Ten All-Conference selections in her two seasons as an assistant coach for Northwestern University from 2010 to 2012. Under her tutelage, Amy Jaeschke made history in 2011 by becoming the program's first-ever WNBA Draft pick after being selected 27th by the Chicago Sky. That year, Jaeschke was also Northwestern's first AP All-American since 1998. While at Northwestern, McCombs’ helped coach the team to a WNIT appearance in 2010-11 and assisted in recruiting a top-25 class.
McCombs spent five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh from 2005 to 2010. McCombs helped rebuild the program, assisting the program to five-straight postseason appearances, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament. These appearances in the NCAA Tournament included back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Additionally, the Panthers played in the WNIT in 2005-06 and 2009-10, reaching the Final Four in 2009-10. She also coached Shavonte Zellous, who went on to earn All-America honors and was the 11th overall pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft. Zellous is one of six Pittsburgh student-athletes McCombs coached who went on to play professionally.
Before arriving at Pittsburgh, McCombs spent six seasons from 1999 to 2005 at Valparaiso University, the first five as assistant coach and the last as associate head coach. During that time, she helped the Crusaders to two conference championships and three postseason berths, including back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Among the 15 All-Conference Team honorees she coached was Marlous Nieuwveen, who became the first player in school and Mid-Continent Conference history to reach the WNBA when she made the Los Angeles Sparks in 2005.
McCombs, a native of Medina, Ohio, graduated from Youngstown State in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. While attending Youngstown State, McCombs earned an impressive list of accomplishments for the Penguins' basketball team, including places on the Mid-Continent Conference Second Team in 1996-97 and 1997-98, and on the Mid-Continent All-Tournament Team three consecutive years from 1996 to 1998. McCombs was also a part of two NCAA Tournament teams as a player, including the 1997-98 team that upset the #5 seed as a #12 seed.
McCombs left her mark in the record books at Youngstown State, having started 112 of 115 career games and scoring 1,577 career points, finishing her career as the school's all-time sixth-leading scorer. McCombs is also among the school all-time leaders with 146 career three-pointers, 493 assists, and 236 steals.
After McCombs graduated from Youngstown State, she played European professional women's basketball, competing in the Czech Basketball Federation and European Cup in 1998.
McCombs, who obtained her master’s degree in liberal studies from Valparaiso in 2001, also served as the Head Coach for the 2004 Athletes in Action team that played in Warsaw, Poland. In April 2011, McCombs was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame in Ohio. It was an honor she is familiar with, having also been enshrined into the Youngstown State Athletics Hall of Fame in October 2008.
What They're Saying About Caroline McCombs...
"I'm very excited for Caroline. She has worked extremely hard as an assistant coach over the last several years to get this opportunity. Caroline has proven herself to me, as well as the other schools where she has worked, that she deserves this great opportunity. As our recruiting coordinator, Caroline knew exactly what kind of players to recruit for our system. She worked with our guards, helping develop them as players, and the results showed on the court. Stony Brook should be proud of hiring Caroline, and I think she will do an outstanding job there."
--Terri Williams-Flournoy, Auburn University Women's Basketball Head Coach
"I feel like Caroline will be a fantastic head coach. She has worked diligently everywhere she has been as an assistant and has a broad range of talent from recruiting, to player development to understanding the game of basketball. I think she will be able to jump right in and give Stony Brook leadership in that position and has the potential to do great things."
--Joe McKeown, Northwestern Women's Basketball Head Coach
"I'm thrilled Stony Brook had the vision to hire such a rising star in the collegiate coaching ranks. It's a win for the Seawolves and the student-athletes. Caroline is so dedicated to the student-athletes, and you will not find someone who works harder. She was a great collegiate player; she coached an international team and was a great associate head coach for one of her alma maters. Caroline was a phenomenal resource for me at Pittsburgh when we made five straight postseasons and back-to-back NCAA Tournament Sweet 16s. She is prepared. When preparation meets opportunity, success is the result. Caroline now has an opportunity, and the success will follow."
--Agnus Berenato, Former Pittsburgh Women's Basketball Head Coach (2003-13)
"Caroline McCombs is one of the best young coaches in our game. When I started my career as a coach at Pittsburgh, I was incredibly lucky to be able to work alongside Caroline and learn from her each day. I have never met a more dedicated, organized and hardworking individual with the sharp basketball mind and recruiting savvy that Caroline possesses. As a young assistant, she took me under her wing and was a wonderful teacher and mentor. I have used something Caroline taught me every day in my coaching career. Stony Brook got a steal with Caroline McCombs. She will be a great head coach, and I believe, one day a legend."
--Shea Ralph, University of Connecticut Women's Basketball Assistant Coach and former Pittsburgh Women's Basketball Assistant Coach (2003-2008)
"I'm so excited for Stony Brook to have Caroline McCombs as its new women's basketball coach. Throughout my playing career at Pittsburgh, she helped develop me into the player and person that I am today. Anytime I needed her--whether it was in the gym or help with schoolwork--she was there for me. I think she will do a great job for the Seawolves."
--Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh '09 and current WNBA player for Indiana Fever
"Caroline is an energetic, up-and-coming head coach. She is one of the hot names who had to be given the opportunity to be a leader. I think she has a real strength in recruitment and networking herself into relationships, which will be fantastic for Stony Brook. She has recruited both highly academic and athletic players from around the country. Most impressively, she has a real tireless work ethic and a thirst for learning."
--Dan Olson, Director, ESPNW HoopGurlz and Owner/Director of Collegiate Girls Basketball Report
"I expect Caroline to do very well. She is an up-and-coming head coach who is a very driven, relentless worker and recruiter. I think she will take Stony Brook to new heights and help the Seawolves compete annually for America East championships."