PLATTSBURGH — Cheryl Cole was nominated for one of the greatest coaching honors in Division III women’s basketball.
Cole, who completed her 18th season as the head coach of Plattsburgh State women’s basketball program, was named Division III, Region II Coach of the Year, as well as being one of 10 finalists to receive the 2014 Russell Athletics/WBCA NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year Award.
“It is a tremendous honor,” Cole said. “For me it’s awesome to be recognized by your peers, gives you a lot of satisfaction, (but) none of it could have been possible without our team.”
The Cardinals had an historic season: most single-season wins in program history, regular season conference champs, a SUNY Athletic Conference title and a first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
“Our program’s been around for almost 50 years, and to win the conference out-right and win the SUNYAC championship, those things are tremendous and make me really proud,” Cole said. “We definitely have big goals going forward.”
Cole and the rest of the Cardinals have turned the program around. They have set expectations high and are determined to keep the bar set to that exceptional standard.
“We definitely don’t want to be one and done. That’s not our goal, we want to sustain,” Cole said. “With more success brings more expectations … (we) really changed expectations altogether.”
Plattsburgh finished the year 23-6 overall and 15-3 in their conference. The Cardinals led the SUNYAC in points per game (71.3), blocked shots per game (4.28) — despite being a relatively shorter squad — and were also the best in the conference in defending the 3-point arc, holding the opposition to 27.7 percent from three.
“No doubt about it being our best season ever, as it went along you can see it was going to be special. It was sad to see it come to an end; it was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever had,” Cole said.
The humble coach credited her players for all the success Plattsburgh has seen this season. She expressed how proud she was with the way her team “bought in” to their game plan and how each player “accepted their role.”
“They played all the minutes. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the coach does if you don’t have the players to get it done,” Cole said. “As a coach all you can ask is for them to come together and play well.”
Cole explained how special it was receiving the incredible support throughout the season from fans, friends, family, former Plattsburgh State coaches and former players — even some who she hadn’t coached before.
“I know I had a number of people who have reached out ... (it’s) really gratifying to me,” Cole said.
Cole also reiterated how her players were “excited” and “happy” to hear about her recognition from the NCAA.
“When they’re proud, it makes me proud,” Cole said.
The inaugural Pat Summit Trophy will be presented to either Cole or one of the other finalists for the National Coach of the Year during the 4th annual WBCA Awards Show on April 7.