Returning Home to Bring Us to Glory- Feature Story

Coach McCormick on the sidelines for the game against Brevard.
Coach McCormick on the sidelines for the game against Brevard.

*Published on the Western Carolina Journalist*

A North Carolina hometown girl, new head coach, Stephanie McCormick, is making her women’s basketball head coaching debut at Western Carolina University with hopes to bring our team and program to glory.

The saying goes “third times the charm” and with coach McCormick now returning for her third time we are looking forward to this saying being proved true. “I feel like I cheated the system” McCormick said, “most coaches in my position will say they’ve had a ball in their hand since they were two…but I haven’t.” Growing up with all older siblings, McCormick only played basketball at the local recreational center in her hometown of High Point, NC. Eventually starting to play on a more organized level in middle school only because her best friend played as well.

After fighting going to college for as long as she possibly could, head coach at Catawba College, Gary Peters, and her dad finally convinced her to take the basketball scholarship and travel to Salisbury, NC to start the next chapter of her life.

Graduating with a degree in business she came to the “well what do I do now” stage. Gary Peters once again sought her out to come to Western and be the grad assistant for the basketball team. Working full-time as a basketball coach the process of becoming Coach McCormick started.

“I have such great ties to Western” said McCormick, “that’s why I feel so blessed to start my head coaching career here because to be completely honest this is where I gained my first initial passion for coaching. That first year was incredible. I never expected it to be a staple of who I am.”

She’s not the only one who was excited for her return, many people in the athletic office were more than happy to see her return.

“I love her, she was the first person that came to my mind when the position became available again. She was the very first person I told Randy Eaton we needed to hire. She’s amazing and she is going to bring this program back to its former glory.” Kim Jamison, secretary for athletics.

Leaving with Gary from Western, McCormick, then travelled around the state of NC to many different schools. She has had stays at schools such as University of North Carolina at Wilmington, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Georgia Tech, back to Western for another year, continuing to North Carolina State University, Sienna College in upstate New York only to return back to Cullowhee, NC for the third time and taking the program over as head coach.

“Everywhere she has been she has had success. This is her third trip here and we look for that success to continue as she rebuilds the program. I think Coach Mack has brought a new sense of urgency to the women’s basketball program. During the search process I met with several of the senior players and they said what they really wanted was someone who had an intensity to them and Coach Mack and her staff brought that with them here. I also think a lot of our fans will enjoy a lot of the changes that they see on the court, while maintaining our academic reputation with the women’s basketball program” says Randy Eaton, WCU Athletic Director.

Knowing the challenges that Chancellor David Belcher and Randy Eaton had for taking a chance on a brand new head coach, McCormick is very grateful to be given the opportunity and trust to help the program and school. Returning to what she now considers home was something she has looked forward too for a long time. With family, friends, the community and many sports fans backing her decision, she packed her bags and moved home to Cullowhee.

The coming season is not something that she is worried about or has really crossed her mind. With the mindset of taking it one day at a time and focusing on doing the best the team can do for Cullowhee, WCU and their selves. “I am looking for a renewed spirit in Western Carolina” she says, “the rest will follow in due time when it has to happen. But not without the up and downs in the middle.”

The women’s basketball season is officially underway and Western Carolina as well as the community will watch to see how Stephanie McCormick shapes the team this year to be what is expected to be the greatest season yet.

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