Former Bentley women’s basketball coach Barbara Stevens is expected to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15.

Like millions of New England basketball fans, Southbridge native Barbara Stevens was absorbed in the Celtics’ process to win the NBA Championship in 2008. After the decisive victory, a 131-92 victory over Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden Kevin Garnett, in an on-court TV interview, shouted, “Anything is possible !!!”

It was the Celtics’ 17th record title. For Garnett, a spectacular and highly honored player, it was the first after working with the Timberwolves for a dozen years. Garnett will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15.

Guess who else comes in. Barbara Stevens.

The recently retired Bentley University women’s coach racked up a record 1,058-291.901-200 at Bentley where she made her debut in 1986. To say the HOF honor overwhelmed her is an understatement. “You never think that way, that it will ever happen,” she said recently. “I always shake my head.”

Everything is possible!

It is in quick company that Stevens enters immortality. Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kim Mulkey and the late Kobe Bryant, not to be a name dropper. “It wasn’t even a dream of mine, but I’ll take it,” Stevens said.

His CV just couldn’t be ignored. It exploded in front of voters. Seventeen Northeast-10 regular season titles, deep and consistent playoffs, a pocket of Coach of the Year balls. The icing on the cake was the 2014 Magnum Opus season which ended with a National Division II Championship. The Falcons posted a 35-0 season to get out of my way, beating West Texas A&M 73-65 in the final on ESPN.

National Champions! Bentley!

Former Bentley University girls' basketball coach Barbara Stevens will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, 2021.

Truth be told, Stevens didn’t really have a passion for hoops as a kid. “The only competitive sport available was softball,” she recalls. “Then when I was 10, my dad made a hoop behind the house.

She became addicted. One day in college, she was suddenly recruited to play in college. “I didn’t even have sneakers. I played in the shoes I was wearing. Nonetheless, she raised her heels and soon enough basketball was her new sport.

Stevens started secondary school at Marianhill Central Catholic in Southbridge and transferred to Marian High in Worcester midway through her freshman year. It wasn’t a traumatic life change. “I got to know some of the girls and made new friends right away.”

She also found a mentor in legendary Rita Castagna, who took the girls’ basketball team to great heights. Castagna’s influence over Stevens was immeasurable. It was because of Castagna that Stevens chose to study health and physical education at Bridgewater State College for a career as a coach.

She played hoop at Bridgewater and called herself a “good player”. Along the way, his desire to become a coach caught fire. She went to clinics and absorbed the thoughts of coaches like Bobby Knight and Denny Crum.

Finally, a final decision. Yes, she would train. “I had no idea this would lead me to a 44-year career.”

After graduating from Bridgewater, Stevens became head coach at Clark University. She was 23 years old. “I was training kids almost my age.” She absorbed a lot of Clark’s men’s basketball coach and later athletic director Wally Halas. “He helped me understand coaching. What a program should look like. How the players were going to act. What kind of people they would be.

Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens, originally from Southbridge, has announced her retirement in 2020.

Season after season, Stevens wore this philosophy to the gym. “You have to know a person first before you train the athlete.” Take time. Listen. Learn.

Stevens made a stint as head coach at UMass in 1983-86, taking over a team that had gone 5-22 the previous year. The team doubled their first year wins under Stevens, but the program never got off the ground. During the tough seasons, Stevens never understood that his coaching style and insight were measured on the road to a track. Well, Waltham.

And one day Bentley sporting director Al Shields called. He wanted Stevens to consider coaching the women’s team. “My first thought was that I wouldn’t be interested,” Stevens recalls. “I was in a Division 1 school. But Al was pretty persuasive. She made a visit. “I loved the ambiance of the place.” Shields therefore had his trainer.

Bentley women’s basketball was a winning program before Stevens arrived. “Al said to me, ‘Any coach could win 20 games (at Bentley). »» Don’t put pressure on anything. She won 24 games in her first season, 28 her second. Stevens was just warming up.

“We have raised the national profile of Bentley basketball,” said Stevens. The administration’s favorable budget allowed the Falcons to play a tough schedule across the country, increasing their brand, their profile.

The national title season 35-0? “It all came together,” Stevens said. “Our four-year-olds have improved every year. We had transfer players and two All-Americans. All parts fit. It was undeniable to deny them. They had their eyes on the prize.

“It was a magical year. I still think about it. I feel like I was just for the ride.

Dick Lipe has been Bentley’s director of athletic communications for 44 years. No one in the business is better than Lipe. He has seen it all. “I am delighted to have been able to share the race with Barbara,” he said. “She’s a great person and a great coach. There have been so many highlights. No one deserves to be listed (in the Hall of Fame) anymore. “

Carolyn White takes over from Stevens. You don’t have to remind him of the legacy floating in the rafters of the Dana Athletic Center. White played for Stevens and had been his longtime assistant. “Coach Stevens not only mentored me as a player, but also as a professional and, more importantly, as a person,” White said. “She taught me the right way to do things and what coaching was about.

“I am eternally grateful that my mentor is one of the best (coaches) of all time. … Someone I was able to learn from every day. “

Retirement? “I knew it was about time,” Stevens said. She could see herself doing something with the coaching association or mentoring. It will catch up on the trips that have always taken a back seat. She will play golf more. “But I haven’t explored anything.”

Well, there is one thing. She’s polished her Hall of Fame speech, which she’ll read on a teleprompter. House rules: short speeches. They are looking for 3-5 minutes, with a little leeway. Right now Stevens is six minutes away. No one expects Duncan, Garnett or Kobe’s wife to be asked to speed things up. “They have a lot to say,” Stevens said.

For 24 years, Stevens has lived in Waltham, near campus. She’s hoping to see the Falcons play, but not stand out in the crowd, or stand out in any way. Well, good luck with that.

The Bentley basketball court is named after Stevens. “I am incredibly honored. It came out of nowhere, ”she said.

Specifically, he went out in minutes and hours and days and months and years to nurture his love of the game. The love of teaching it. The incomparable feeling of making it work. From Southbridge’s little kid to the court hoop learning to dribble right and shoot straight, this kid grew up to be a Hall of Fame coach.

So yes, there is everything that is possible.

And there is also fate.

Lenny Megliola can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @lennymegs.

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