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he door to Sylvia Crawley’s Convocation Center office is open, but all that’s visible is a young woman with a ponytail sitting in a green chair. For the past 10 minutes her admiring gaze hasn’t strayed from the direction of the head basketball coach’s desk. As the team’s three assistant coaches buzz around the outer office, they can hear Crawley talking about the University of North Carolina, where her team won the national title in 1994. Laughter intermittently bursts from the office. Assistant Coach Geoff Lanier, who heads recruitment for the team, pops his head in to say it’s time for a campus tour. Several minutes pass. More laughter from the office. Crawley finally follows the prospect and her parents out of the office and leans her 6-foot-5 frame against the wall as Lanier swoops in. With a sense of calm that belies the fact that Crawley’s only a few weeks into her first head coaching position, one slender leg crosses over the other and her hands slide into her pockets. For the past 12 years, Crawley has been all over the world playing, promoting and coaching basketball. She was with the American Basketball League for two and a half years and the WNBA for four. She competed in 16 countries in five years with professional European and Korean leagues. The serene look on her face says she’s glad to be home. “I grew up on this campus,” she tells her visitors, referring to the time she spent in Athens with her older siblings, brother Rex, AB ’86, MAPA ’89 and PHD ’99, and sister Helen, BSEE ’84. Later, when she talks about basketball, her face lights up, and she speaks with enthusiasm about how every success she’s had has set her up for her new role.
By Elizabeth Boyle
O H I O
T O D A Y
rowing up in Steubenville, Ohio, Crawley stood out as an extrovert with a sense of humor and a tendency to grab attention. At 6 feet tall in the sixth grade, she was hard to miss. When she began playing basketball a year later, people recognized that Crawley took after her dad. Nicknamed “Slim,” he had been a standout basketball player in that same small town.
Crawley was pretty good too, and people started calling her “Little Slim.” Basketball became her ticket to a college education in a hard-working middle-class family that otherwise might have struggled to afford it. UNC head women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell says that despite a successful high school career,
“They made losing unbearable,” she says of Rex and Helen, who are eight and 10 years her senior. Her competitive nature complements a healthy dose of business sense and an eye for what looks good. She’s done some modeling and owns a clothing company, for which she designs the fashions herself.
Captain Quintana Ward, a junior chemical engineering major, says she and her teammates like the fast game Crawley wants them to play. She was excited when her new coach explained she wasn’t going to tell her what to do every second, but “that I was going to use my brain, and she was going to prepare me to do that.”
Jpcm`X:iXnc\p_XjgcXp\[YXjb\kYXccXkdXepc\m\cjÇXjXd`[[c\jZ_ffc\in_fkfn\i\[fm\i_\ig\\ij#XjX eXk`feXcZ_Xdg`feXkEfik_:Xifc`eX#XjXgfn\i]lc]fiZ\`ek_\NE98%Efn#k_\k`d\_XjZfd\kfZfXZ_% Crawley was “a developmental player when she came in, but by her junior year she was a starter and our captain.” By her senior year, she was one of the best post players in the country. Hatchell, a head coach for three decades (two of them at UNC), says she has never coached a more improved player than Crawley. She remembers Crawley working on her touch by shooting the ball while seated. “She would sit in that chair for hours, and she developed a beautiful shot,” Hatchell says. “The other players respected her because of just how determined she was.” That fortitude produced a successful career. In 2000, her No. 00 jersey was honored by North Carolina, where she ranks among the top 10 in blocked shots and field goal percentage. She was the 1995 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year after helping the United States to a silver medal at the World University Games, and she won the first-ever ABL women’s slam dunk contest by completing a dunk blindfolded. Crawley, now 34, retired from professional ball in 2004 with career averages of 8.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. At that time she added to her coaching résumé — she had been an assistant coach at UNC from 2000 to 2002 — by working as an assistant at Fordham University in 2005–06. The fact that Crawley is direct and decisive has helped her career. Plus, being the youngest of three bright children made her ultra-competitive.
Rex recalls one Sibs Weekend when he took his little sister and her junior high friends to a hip-hop concert at Memorial Auditorium. Their overnight bags concealed makeup, which they weren’t allowed to wear at home. “I remember them getting their outfits on and putting makeup on and trying to look like college-age women,” he says.
ack in her office, Crawley describes how she always knew she would become a head coach, how she has a binder filled with years’ worth of plays and coaching ideas. She says she jumped at the chance to head the Ohio women’s basketball program. (Crawley is the program’s eighth coach, having been introduced in April as the successor to seven-year coach Lynn Bria.) “I feel like I have everything here that I need to succeed, which eliminates a lot of other stress that coaches carry,” she says, explaining that she was impressed by President Roderick McDavis’ perspective as a former athlete as well as the Convocation Center’s women’s basketball suite and locker room — identical to the men’s. Having coaches with a knowledge of what it’s like to win a national championship will help the women’s team, which last won the Mid-American Conference in 1995. Says associate head coach Stephanie Lawrence Yelton, who played with Crawley on the 1994 championship team at UNC, “We can build that same dream that we had as players.”
The coaches demonstrate at each practice the importance of mental toughness. The women also have learned that they are a family. “Always look out for your sisters,” she tells them; championships are built on relationships. Ward recalls that the first time she met her new coach, Crawley asked her to rebound for her in the Convo arena. In that 10 minutes, she says, she learned things about basketball she never knew. “She has a love for the game, and she shares that with us,” Ward says. “She inspires me.” Elizabeth Boyle, BA ’03, is a writer for Ohio Today.
Getting personal Bringing out the best: Crawley owns a clothing company called Ephod Customs, which creates custom clothing for tall, petite and plus-sized men and women. “I love helping you look good being you,” she says. Keeping the faith: She earned a ministerial license at Aenon Bible College, lists reading the Bible as a favorite activity and explains that her company’s name is the Hebrew term for clothing worn by priests. Setting the standard: Organizing the Sylvia Crawley Basketball Camp and working the Michael Jordan Basketball Camp helped Crawley evolve into a role model. So have addressing youth groups, schools and basketball camps, and serving as captain when she played for the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Portland Fire. For the latest on the Ohio women’s basketball team, including the 2006–07 schedule and other updates, visit www.ohiobobcats.com.
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Bball coach profile