Barbara Stevens' Basketball Hall of Fame Speech
I’d like to start by congratulating to my fellow inductees. It is an honor to be part of this illustrious class. Thank you to the Women’s Committee for nominating me and to the Honors Committee for voting to induct me. Special thanks to John Doleva, Fran Judkins and everyone at the Hall of Fame for making this weekend very special and for working so hard to ensure our safety.
To be honored tonight for my life’s work is overwhelming. Growing up in Southbridge, Massachusetts, 35 miles from the Hall of Fame, I never envisioned I would be standing here.The game of basketball has taken me on an incredible journey. Tonight, I want to thank those who helped to make this possible.
During my 44-year career, I coached at three universities with three different NCAA affiliations. In 1976, the women’s athletic director at Division III Clark University, Pat Hassett, took a chance on a 22-year old recent college grad, hiring me to coach the women’s basketball team, thus launching my coaching career. Thank you, Pat, for having faith in me! Though flung headlong into a job coaching women nearly my own age and learning as I went along, those early years shaped my future as a coach.
After seven years at Clark, I accepted the head coach position at Division I UMass-Amherst where I first met and had the “good fortune” of competing against my two presenters, Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw. The impact you both have had on women’s basketball is immeasurable. Thank you so much for your friendship and for presenting me for enshrinement this evening.
From UMass, I moved to Division II Bentley University, where I coached for 34 years. Bentley is a special place and it was there that I found my home. I worked under six presidents and two athletic directors – Al Shields and Bob DeFelice – who supported our goals of attaining national prominence. That support enabled our program to reach the pinnacle of success, a national championship in 2014. I will never be able to thank Bentley enough for everything they have done for our basketball program and for me.
There are several people from Bentley whom I would like to recognize: VP for Student Affairs Andrew Shepardson, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Terry Carleton, former VP for Enrollment Management Joann McKenna, VP for University Advancement Maureen Flores and Director of University Events Courtney Hough. Thank you all so much for being here.
I also want to acknowledge my dear friends and colleagues from Bentley’s Athletic Department: former Director of Athletics Bob DeFelice and former Senior Women’s Administrator Cindy Scott – thank you both so much for everything you’ve done for me; also Associate Director Kevin Loftus, Assistant Directors Courtney Finn and Marty McCarthy and Sports Information Director Dick Lipe. Thank you for your friendship and support.
When I retired from Bentley in July 2020, my former player and longtime assistant coach, Carolyn White, was named head coach. No one is more deserving to lead our basketball program. I hope you know how proud I am of you, C.
Representing the Northeast 10 Conference are Commissioner Julie Ruppert and Associate Commissioner Molly Belden. Thank you both for being here tonight.
Many of my lifelong friends are here including my college roommate and teammates from Bridgewater State. Thank you all for enriching my life and reminding me that there is more to life than basketball!!
Coaching was my passion
I loved teaching and mentoring our players and working beside dedicated assistant coaches and support staff. I am here this evening because the people surrounding me committed themselves to excellence.
I was extremely fortunate to work with talented assistant coaches who were smart, insightful, and best of all, wonderful people. I loved working with you! Thank you for your many contributions to the success of our program and for your loyalty and friendship.
To my former players, many of whom are present: simply put, you are the reason I stand here tonight. My greatest honor was to be called your coach. You excelled on the court, in the classroom and in the community. I was always proud of you and continue to be proud of the strong, confident women you have become. You have given me the most treasured memories I could ever have wished for. Thank you for your friendship and continued willingness to include me in the special moments of your lives. I share this incredible honor with all of you.
To my family and my home team: my sisters Janet and Sue who are my best friends; my nieces and nephews; great-nieces and nephews, cousins, and my 90 year-old Uncle Richard, a diehard UConn women’s basketball fan. Basketball took me away from you often, but your unwavering love and support have meant the world to me. I love you all very much.
This night would be perfect if my mother and father, Betty and George Stevens, and my sister Marsha Poirier, all no longer with us, were here to celebrate. Our most steadfast fans, they followed every team I played on and coached. Hardworking people, my parents gave their four daughters all that they could. In my senior year of high school, a fire destroyed our home and all our possessions. We were lucky to have survived. Despite having to start all over again, my parents somehow found a way to send me to college, enabling me to pursue my dreams. My presence here tonight is a testament to their sacrifice and love.
Finally, thank you to the Hall of Fame for recognizing that there are successful coaches at every level of basketball and for including me among them.
I am honored and forever grateful. Thank you.