Now That`s Ded­i­ca­tion! Again this sea­son, Smesko`s five aides are for­mer ea­gles

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - EX­PLORER - BY JEFF LY­TLE

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.

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