Immaculata University Magazine - Spring 2011 - page 138

erhaps best known as the birthplace of modern col-
lege women’s basketball, Immaculata won the first
three national women’s college basketball cham-
pionships contested in the United States in 1972, 1973
and 1974. The Mighty Macs were also the f irst college
women’s basketball team to play (against the University
of Maryland) in a nationally-televised game. Addition-
ally, the Mighty Macs were the f irst women’s basketball
team to compete in Madison Square Garden (against
Queens College).
It should be no surprise that Immaculata won both those
games and so many more. There is a higher power at Im-
maculata and without question, the belief in God and
the steadfast prayer of the IHM Sisters helped fuel those
legendary teams. Of course, having a six-foot center with
crazy ball skills didn’t hurt either.
Immaculata University now celebrates the 40th anniversary
of that first national championship season—the ultimate
“game changer”—and its profound impact and impor-
tance for female student-athletes and coaches.
When I began my career at Palm Beach Community Col-
lege (now Palm Beach State College), I was fortunate to be
there when Head Women’s Basketball Coach Sally Smith
was guiding the Panthers to victory. Smith was a basket-
ball standout from Tennessee.
In my role as an assistant coach, I was privileged to work
with Coach Smith and the team through two winning sea-
sons, a squad that boasted Yolanda Griffith—considered
one of the greatest rebounders and defensive players in the
history of women’s basketball.
Griffith built an illustrious career, winning gold medals
in the Summer 2000 (Sydney, Australia) and 2004 (Ath-
ens, Greece) Olympics as well as being named a WNBA
MVP and seven-time WNBA All-Star.
So it seems fitting that my life appears to have come full
circle, in a way, by my arrival here at Immaculata, the
small Catholic college—the “Ci nderel la” school—that
has played such a pivotal role in shaping women’s sports
history and is now the subject of a major motion picture
reminiscent of
Glory Road
The Mighty Macs defined an era of college women athletes
and, long after graduation, basketball still drove the pas-
sions of many of these legendary players.
The achievements of the Mighty Macs in the face of daunt-
ing odds—no budget to speak of, less-than-ideal facilities
in which to practice, only a handful of fans in attendance
to witness that first incredible victory—are inspiring on
so many levels, we owe them a debt of gratitude for show-
ing us how real champions get it done: by being honest
about themselves, who they truly are and by giving it their
all, on and off the court.
A promising young coach once told me that he would be
coaching in some capacity for the rest of his life. He loved
the game that much.
Today, my response to such a dec-
laration would be,
if your actions spring from a center of
honesty, humility and integrity, then I believe that goal is
. After all, it was the credo of the three-time na-
tional championship Mighty Macs.
Truly, basketball doesn’t build character, it reveals it.
And when it comes to the Mighty Macs, truer words were
never spoken.
Robert Cole
Basketball doesn’t build character, it reveals it.
— A uth o r u n k n o wn
Whoever uttered those wise words could have been
talking about the miracle of Immaculata’s Mighty Macs,
those amazing athletes whose pioneering wins forever
changed the world of women’s college basketball.
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