December 1, 2022

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‘She’s a legend’: Kathy Delaney-Smith concludes four decades as Harvard’s women’s basketball coach and fierce advocate for women’s rights

6 min read

Under Delaney-Smith, Harvard has produced 15 postseason appearances, which includes 6 berths in the NCAA Event, captured 11 Ivy League titles, compiled 20-win seasons 12 occasions, and concluded with a document of .500 or improved in 31 of the last 32 seasons. Her vocation win totals — 629 all round, 366 Ivy League — rank first in conference background.

“When you imagine of Ivy League women’s basketball, the initially person you believe of is Kathy Delaney-Smith,” stated Barbara Stevens, a 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame inductee who coached Bentley University women’s basketball from 1986 to 2020. “She’s a legend.”

A Newton indigenous and graduate of the previous Sacred Coronary heart Significant College, Delaney-Smith was the to start with feminine in Massachusetts high university hoops historical past to get to the 1,000 vocation-issue mark. She researched physical training at Bridgewater State College, but with no an intercollegiate women’s basketball method at the time, Delaney-Smith competed in synchronized swimming. She to begin with took a teaching and swimming mentor situation at Westwood Superior University following graduating, but the district superintendent at the time before long questioned her to acquire in excess of the battling girls’ basketball method, as well.

From her commence at Westwood Superior to her prolonged tenure as Harvard women’s basketball mentor, Kathy Delaney-Smith has usually been a intense winner of her gamers, packages and women’s sporting activities.Barry Chin/World Personnel

Soon after an -11 debut, Delaney-Smith guided Westwood to a 204-20 mark over the up coming decade. She instituted the higher-octane offense and a varied defensive method — a mix of zone and player-to-player — that she’d later turn out to be known for. But it’s the relationships and software tradition, Delaney-Smith claimed, that propelled accomplishment. Year-spherical one-on-1 participant meetings and summertime camps at Westwood — which ongoing at Harvard — were being foundational components of not just building a method, but also a community.

“It’s often been about the particular person initial, not the player,” mentioned Stonehill mentor Trisha Brown, a 1987 Harvard graduate who performed basketball and softball and afterwards served as an assistant on Delaney-Smith’s team from 1991-2000. “A great deal of people can talk about that, but she walks it.”

Although building a electricity at Westwood, Delaney-Smith submitted four lawsuits below Title IX to guarantee equivalent sources for her crew, ensuing in new uniforms, assistant coaches, and equivalent access and time in the health and fitness center. She ongoing advocating at Harvard, unafraid to connect with a spade a spade.

“I uncovered that making an attempt to be straightforward and genuine to the very best of my skill was my ideal street,” Delaney-Smith explained, “and that’s how I have coached.”

That Delaney-Smith ended up at Harvard is the end result of the school’s determination to gender fairness. The submit she assumed in 1982 was a full-time function with assistant coaches, significantly improved from the section-time positions nearby Division 1 colleges experienced beforehand pitched. The other schools’ men’s head coaches ended up total-time.

“I identified that hoping to be truthful and genuine to the best of my capability was my best highway, and that’s how I have coached,” claimed Kathy Delaney-Smith. Barry Chin/World Workers

“I was pretty, incredibly zoned into Title IX and equity,” Delaney-Smith stated. “Even even though the world however had a great deal of catching up to do, I wasn’t likely to be in an ecosystem where they weren’t hunting to function on Title IX.”

The decision to go from her tenured health and fitness and actual physical training educating and coaching job at Westwood to Harvard originally lifted some eyebrows. In point, Delaney-Smith received criticism for earning the leap to what outsiders seen as a significantly less protected occupation at a pretty much not known method.

“I needed to like my task nowadays and tomorrow, and I do not worry about a yr from now,” Delaney-Smith explained. “I guess I assumed I could do anything if I labored challenging plenty of at it.”

Her Harvard tenure begun out rough, profitable just 10 games in her initially two seasons. But a breakthrough arrived in 12 months 4, a 20-win time and a conference title when her to start with recruiting class — 8 players — blossomed as seniors. Harvard remained competitive in excess of the following ten years, with an additional league title and four next place finishes, before creating 3 straight NCAA Tournaments from 1995-1998.

Kathy Delaney-Smith carved out a location for Harvard women’s basketball in the annals of NCAA Tournament historical past when the Crimson grew to become the to start with No. 16 seed — men’s or women’s — to upset a No. 1 seed, Stanford, in the 1998 tournament.Barry Chin/Globe Staff members

Harvard caught nationwide attention in the course of the 1998 NCAA Match when the 16th-seeded Crimson, led by Allison Feaster (35 factors, 13 rebounds), pulled off a monumental 71-67 upset of top over-all seed Stanford in the first round, the 1st No. 16 seed —men’s or women’s — in the heritage of the NCAA Match ever to do so.

Given her accomplishment, Delaney-Smith obtained a handful of features to depart Harvard over the years, but she didn’t due to the fact Harvard was the “perfect match” — philosophically aligned to her desire for a true stability amongst lecturers and athletics for scholar-athletes.

All the on-court accomplishments go again to the bonds formed in between Delaney-Smith and her players. Massachusetts Legal professional Typical Maura Healey, a 1992 graduate and previous crew captain appreciates what Delaney-Smith did to present a top quality college or university working experience for her athletes.

“She has this fierceness about what is correct, and which is remaining her unafraid to simply call out the powers that be when it arrives to gender fairness,” Healey said. “She experienced to fight just about every stage of the way. She’s been this kind of a winner for gender fairness, and I actually, genuinely recognize that.”

Feaster, a 1998 Harvard graduate and three-time Ivy League Player of the 12 months, referred to as Delaney-Smith her “second mother.”

“It was her perception of humor, electrical power, existence, and loving perspective,” explained Feaster, now the Boston Celtics’ vice president of player development and organizational management.

In excess of her 4 decades as Harvard’s women’s basketball mentor, Kathy Delaney-Smith treasured the relationships she cultivated with her players, previous and existing. Allison Feaster (not pictured), a 1998 Harvard graduate and 3-time Ivy League Player of the Yr, termed Delaney-Smith her “second mom.”Barry Chin/World Personnel

In the back 50 % of her career, Delaney-Smith has guided Harvard to three a lot more NCAA Tournament berths and 9 WNIT appearances, with only a person sub-.500 conference history.

Due to the fact announcing her retirement, Delaney-Smith’s usually fielded the concern, “What’s future?”

“I’ve believed about it a tiny little bit, but not a lot,” she stated.

It is possible that is since, as she’s finished and preached for decades, Delaney-Smith stays present. This year’s team is just one of her favorites, a resilient team that navigates the worries of the pandemic with class, anything the mentor “respects and admires.”

There is do the job left to do. Harvard is hosting Ivy Insanity, the conference’s postseason event, at Lavietes Pavilion March 11-12. If the Crimson can keep on to a best-4 spot (they’re fourth now at 6-6), they’ll have a probability to clinch an NCAA Event bid, the program’s initially due to the fact 2007.

“Truth be informed, I want to earn it,” Delaney-Smith mentioned.

“I think it is made her operate even more challenging to end this yr on a very good take note,” Harvard junior guard Annie Stritzel stated. “Her degree of intensity has not dropped in any way.”

Delaney-Smith announced her retirement early to give the system time to carry out a extensive look for for her substitution. Her successor will be identified as The Kathy Delaney-Smith Head Coach for Harvard Women’s Basketball. She ideas on attending video games in retirement, sitting about 10 rows up from the bench, and baking the team brownies.

“I’m not heading to go away unless of course the new coach sends me out and bans me,” Delaney-Smith explained with a smile.

For the duration of a property recreation versus Penn on Feb. 12, the Harvard group, previous gamers, and household gathered to spend homage to the retiring Kathy Delaney-Smith and recognize her famous vocation as Harvard’s women’s basketball coach.Barry Chin/Globe Staff
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