Now That`s Dedication! Again this season, Smesko`s five aides are former eagles
Fans may get an added sense of déjà vu when watching the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team in action this winter. Not only are some of the Eagles players returning from last year, but head coach Karl Smesko’s entire assistant coaching and support staff is made up of FGCU women basketball alums—for the second season in a row.
FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh says that’s something highly unusual and special, and his obser vation is confirmed by a spokesperson for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Smesko adds that it helps turn “team” into “family” and extends the culture of success.
All five aides played for Smesko, who compiled a 404-82 record in his first 15 seasons. Helping extend those winning ways are associate head coach Chelsea Banbury (Class of 2007); assistant coaches Chelsea Lyles (2007) and Jenna Cobb (2015); video coordinator Stephanie Haas (2016), and director of basketball operations Amanda Pierce (2008).
Their academic interests run the gamut—from marketing and finance to criminal justice and hospitality manage- ment. Two have pursued master’s degrees while coaching. But basketball is the glue.
“I love our staff,’’ says Smesko. “It has been wonderful to see each of them blossom from FGCU player to FGCU coach or support staff. We have a tremendous working relationship, which makes it enjoyable to come to work every day. Their knowledge of our system and culture aids new players making the transition to our program.”
Smesko continues: “Many recruits are looking for a family atmosphere. I think recruits and their families leave campus visits thinking this staff really enjoys working with each other. I do think that is an environment that student athletes hope to find.’’
The Eagles’ regular season, with home games at newly expanded Alico Arena, runs through Feb. 24. Post-season play, which has become a tradition, would be in March. A coaching staff with lots of firsthand experience with that is ready to show the way. Jeff Lytle is the retired editorial page editor of the Naples Daily News and former host of the Naples Daily NewsMakers television show.
FGCU women’s basketball head coach Karl Smesko is flanked by all-alumnae staff members (from left) Chelsea Lyles, Stephanie Haas, Chelsea Banbury, Jenn Cobb and Amanda Pierce. Chelsea Lyles works with Eagles players at a preseason practice at Alico Arena on the FGCU campus.