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GSC’s Stephens honored as W.Va. top college coach

Led Pioneers to the NCAA?Division II tournament

GLENVILLE — Kim Stephens knows she has a good thing going at Glenville State College.

The third-year head women’s basketball coach for the Pioneers has made the Waco Center one of the toughest venues in the nation to earn a Division II road win.

For the third successive campaign, the Pioneers won the Mountain East Conference regular season crown and advanced to the NCAA tournament. On top of that, GSC also secured back-to-back MEC tournament titles en route to a 30-3 final record.

Despite coming up short of a berth in the Sweet 16, Stephens’ program posted consecutive 30-win seasons after going 31-2 in 2017-18 and became the first MEC squad to go 22-0 in regular season conference play.

Although narrowly picked to win the MEC in the preseason poll by league coaches, GSC did just fine without two-time conference player of the year Paris McLeod.

The run-and-gun Pioneers led all of Division II in points per game (102.3), attempted 3-pointers and made 3s. Glenville State finished second in turnovers forced (25.58) and also was second in turnover margin (10.06) behind national semifinalist Drury University. On top of those gaudy numbers, Glenville State also was third nationally in steals per game (14.2) and ninth in scoring margin (18.9).

Members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association selected Stephens to receive the Furfari Award as the state’s college coach of the year.

She’s just the third female to win the award, joining Nikki Izzo-Brown (West Virginia women’s soccer, 2017) and Marsha Beasley (WVU rifle, 1996).

“It’s amazing, especially that people think that highly of me at a Division II school coaching a women’s sport and you have a bunch of phenomenal coaches in the state at the college level,” said the two-time MEC coach of the year.

“To be picked as the top, that’s amazing and it is hard to wrap your head around. You have some big dogs in the state doing things on a national level and it’s really cool.”

Of course, the coach gave plenty of credit to not only her players, but also assistant coaches Jenna Burdette and Scott Stephens, her father.

“I think everyone works hard. We have a really hard working program and the coaching staff is phenomenal and they’ve taught me a lot,” added Kim Stephens. “Coach Burdette, a new hire, has made me a better coach. We had 17 new players on the roster this year.

“The kids bought in. They won and they responded to us. Now, we got some pressure on us. This was a fun year because we had so many news kids. If we didn’t win the league that was OK, but we did and we’ll have a ton of pressure next year.”

This is Glenville State College’s fourth coach of the year award. Jesse Lilly, who spent two decades as the men’s coach, won it in 1972. That was followed by head football coach Rich Rodriguez in 1994 and then women’s hoops coach Steve Harold in 2002.

“Dad let me know,” Stephens said of how she found out. “It was funny because he told me on April Fool’s Day. He put it in a family group chat and by the time I picked it up on my phone my whole family knew.

“I just kind of figured if it’s true, I’ll find out eventually. I got a letter in the mail on Monday. Dad’s a prankster. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Scott Stephens admitted, “it has just been fun as a father to watch her coach the team and mature. It’s fun to watch her do her thing and develop into a pretty good coach.

“I’ll give her advice and throw things at her. She uses some of it and some of it she doesn’t. She fires me once a week.”

Kim Stephens, who has an 85-11 overall record, will receive the award Sunday, May 5, at the 73rd Victory Awards Dinner at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Charleston.

“We have a great culture here and I’m really lucky to be part of it,” she added.

The award is named for the late Mickey Furfari, a state sports writer whose legendary career spanned eight decades.

GSC’s head coach topped runner-up Bob Williams and Christy Benner, who guided the Wheeling Jesuit volleyball team to an unblemished mark in the MEC and a final 37-4 record with a loss in the national quarterfinals. Williams, who is WVU Tech’s men’s basketball coach, led his squad to the second round of the NAIA Division II tournament, a program best. The Golden Bears finished 30-5 and won the River States Conference regular season and tournament titles.

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