Bentley’s women’s basketball coach on cusp of 1,000 wins

Barbara Stevens
Bentley College women's basketball coach Barbara Stevens. –Bentley College

NEW YORK (AP) — Barbara Stevens couldn’t imagine being mentioned in the same conversation with Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt.

Yet Bentley’s longtime women’s basketball coach has a chance to join those two icons in the 1,000-victory club on Wednesday. A win over Adelphi, which has beaten Bentley four straight times, would give Stevens 1,000 wins, making her the fifth women’s college basketball coach to reach that milestone. Tara VanDerveer and Sylvia Hatchell are the others.

“You look at all those coaches. They are huge names in the sport,” Stevens told The Associated Press by phone. “I don’t see the connection with me and them. I found my niche and I don’t need any limelight. I don’t need anything like that. What I’m trying to do in a small way is create a program that can be successful and that’s it.”

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Stevens has been remarkably successful at the Division II school nestled 12 miles outside Boston. She has 842 of her wins at the school since becoming coach in 1986. She’s had only one losing season in her 32 years there and went 35-0 in 2014. Her coaching career started at Clark when she was 23 years old. She then went to UMass for three seasons before joining Bentley.

“It’s very meaningful to me to have continuity at Bentley,” Stevens said. “I loved my job at Clark University, loved the people I worked with. I left because I thought that careerwise you’re supposed to move up if you have the opportunity. It’s what you’re supposed to do so. If people want you, I had those visions in my head. I left Clark to go to UMass-Amherst. It was difficult, those were three unsuccessful seasons. I was glad to go to Bentley.”

She’s had offers from Division I schools but is happy to stay where she’s had unprecedented success.

“I had some people reach out to me as I’ve been here at Bentley. It would have to take something really special. Not that those places weren’t special. They were very enticing,” Stevens recalled. “What I learned from being at UMass and at Clark was that for me personally it’s not about being a Division I coach, it’s not about the ego. It’s about my happiness, feeling that I could make a difference.”

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Stevens remembers the players she coached more than the wins. Her first came against Western New England on Dec. 1, 1977.

She feels uneasy with the spotlight as she approaches No. 1,000.

“All of us, if you’re involved in a team sport, it’s all about the team,” she said. “The focus on one person, me, is really uncomfortable. I think part of the pressure comes with the fact that the school is putting some things together.”

Stevens said she addressed it with her team at practice on Monday, apologizing for the distraction.

“I’m sensitive to how they feel, sensitive to prepare them the exact same way. I don’t want them to feel this is all on their shoulders,” she said.

At 16-1 this season, Stevens knows the milestone will come soon if not Wednesday. She just wants it to be over so she can focus on the next game.

Stevens is already linked to Auriemma. The two entered the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame together in 2006. She also worked with him at the USA Basketball Olympic Festival in the early 1990s. UConn’s coach is thrilled Stevens is about to join him in the 1,000-win club.

“I have found her to be one of my favorite people in the profession,” Auriemma said. “The way she runs her program is impressive, but the most impressive aspect of her program is how consistently they compete for and win championships. I think, regardless of what division we are talking about, Barb is one of the best coaches in the country and I am so thrilled for her.”