Column: Former Eagles accept assistant coaching positions
Lewis and Carl make coaching debuts with Scranton and Lehigh
Two American graduates have quickly proven that every rule has its exceptions.
For many student-athletes, life after college can be even more daunting than balancing the athletic and academic rigor that comes with the title. It often involves making difficult trade-offs between academics and athletics that jeopardize certain parts of their future, as they jump into an environment where they lack the proper education or experience.
Sometimes, the opportunity is right back on the court.
Just months after wrapping up senior seasons, former women’s basketball stars Kaitlyn Lewis and Cecily Carl will trade the sweats for suits, as both accepted assistant coaching offers this past week. Lewis will be joining Nick Dipillo’s staff at the University of Scranton, while Carl will stay in the Patriot League, coaching under Sue Troyan at Lehigh University.
The pair of teammates each considered playing overseas after graduating, but both found a rewarding future in the states. While Lewis served as team captain in her junior and senior seasons, she had not given much thought to the prospect until connecting with new head coach Dipillo.
“The process started out with my trying, wanting to play basketball overseas,” said Lewis. “Getting my master’s degree was very important to me, and I was drawn to what would make that possible. Playing overseas was not working out as well as I had hoped that it would, and at a time where I wasn’t sure what was next, I heard from coach Nick Dipillo at Scranton. Coaching was on my mind, but it was not something I was thinking about doing just yet.”
Lewis will join a powerhouse Division III program with the Lady Royals. The team ranked fourth in the nation and reached the Division III FInal Four this past year, before losing to the eventual champion Thomas More Saints.
The opportunity will also give Lewis a chance to return to her roots in northern Pennsylvania. She said she grew up just 15 miles away from the school.
“When I heard from Nick, I knew it was an amazing opportunity because of how much history there is with the women’s basketball program at Scranton,” said Lewis. “Growing up in the area, it was something I really appreciated and was around from a young age. After a few days and meeting Nick in person, it was really a no brainer. This was something I wanted to take and something that could be really special.”
Carl will be on the opposite half of American twice this year, staying in-conference at Lehigh.
“I think the last year helped me take on the role of being a coach on the floor for the younger people on our team,” said Carl. “I really tried to take that on and guide the freshmen as best I could during the year. Also, the guidance that I got from upperclassmen when I was young and from Coach [Tiffany] Coll really made me realize that I want to help young players reach their full potential, like she helped me.”
The Mountain Hawks finished third in the Patriot League at 12-6, falling to American in the Patriot League semifinals. While she said that she knew she wanted to be a coach for a while, the mentorship of her coaches and teammates helped to seal the deal.
Making such a quick jump from scorer to sidelines, Carl said she hopes the skills she learned at American will translate to her new position. Carl was not only a great athlete at American, but an excellent student, winning Scholar Athlete of the Year this past season. When speaking on the types of skills she plans to implement in her coaching, she focused on intangibles rather than specific on-court guidance.
“I think one of the best things that I’ve always possessed but worked even more on during college is goal-setting and working towards achieving those goals, while not only holding myself accountable, but having a staff that would hold me accountable,” Carl said. “I like to pair that goal orientation with speaking things into existence and believing in the goals I’ve set, and I will continue to use that for players that I coach in the future.”
It is indicative of the type of culture that has been cultivated by head coach Megan Gebbia. Dedicating proper investment in student-athletes means not just grinding out the highest quality product on the floor, but creating a foundation that translates to future success. Lewis and Carl will be the youngest members of their respective staff, a certain challenge in and of itself. And yet, I expect both to have little issue transitioning into leadership positions. In that sense, they'll be right at home.