The Lady Raider basketball team is arguably the most storied program at the university, however the past four seasons have not been up to standard. Coach Candace Whitaker is hoping to change that this year.
Wednesday afternoon, Coach Whitaker announced that Sheryl Swoopes would be joining her staff as the Director of Player Development.
Head Coach Candi Whitaker has a special announcement for Lady Raider Nation... pic.twitter.com/sXzl4Runoq— Lady Raider WBB (@LadyRaiderWBB) July 5, 2017
Swoopes comes back to her alma mater where she led the Lady Raiders to the first and only NCAA national championship in university history. Swoopes has widely been considered one of the pioneers of women’s basketball and some have even called her the “female Michael Jordan.”
Swoopes followed up her college national championship with a professional career that included three Olympic gold medals, four WNBA championships, three MVPs, three DPOYs, two scoring titles, and a spot on the WNBA’s top 20 all time player’s list. Once her career was finally over, Swoopes went on to be an assistant coach at Mercer Island High School and was a color commentator for the Lady Raiders before taking a big leap and being the Head Coach at Loyola University in Chicago.
Her time at the university ended in turmoil as 10 players requested to leave as a result of alleged abuse at the hands of Swoopes. The investigation combined with a subpar win record led to Swoopes’ dismissal from the program. Since then, Swoopes has been receiving accolades for her hard work as she was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2016, and the women’s basketball hall of fame in 2017. This new position can be a revival for Swoopes’ coaching career and a way for her to get a new positive head start where it all began.
Swoopes was not the only major announcement the Lady Raiders had in store as Melanie Balcomb was also added to the staff as the Associate Head Coach. Balcomb has had a long career as a Coach in women’s basketball, that includes being apart of last year’s national champion South Carolina team.
Balcomb began her career as an assistant at Ohio & Providence before becoming a head coach at Ashland University and then her big break at Xavier. While at Xavier she led the Musketeers to their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.
This success propelled her to the head coaching job at Vanderbilt, where she made the NCAA tournament 12 times advancing as far as the Sweet Sixteen four of those times. Coach Balcomb currently holds the record for most wins in Vanderbilt program history.
After abruptly resigning from the program in 2016 amid contract negotiations, Balcomb caught on as an offensive analyst for South Carolina last season and now will be bringing her championship pedigree and experience to the Lady Raiders.
This year could be a make or break year for coach Whitaker as she is currently the only coach in Lady Raider history to have a losing record. As she enters her fifth season, she is hoping to improve enough to keep her job going forward. If not, her successor could now be on staff.