Weekly Feature



2018-07-11 / Sports

South girls hoops’ Dolan earns Bee’s Coach of the Year honor

PATRICK NAGY
Sports Reporter


Williamsville South’s Kristen Dolan, left, discusses strategy with her players during a timeout at the overall Section VI Class A girls basketball final. Dolan — the 2017-18 Amherst Bee Coach of the Year — has helped transform the Lady Billies into one of the elite girls basketball programs in the state. 
Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Williamsville South’s Kristen Dolan, left, discusses strategy with her players during a timeout at the overall Section VI Class A girls basketball final. Dolan — the 2017-18 Amherst Bee Coach of the Year — has helped transform the Lady Billies into one of the elite girls basketball programs in the state. Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Kristen Dolan’s passion for basketball is infectious and her love of teaching the sport has helped transform Williamsville South into one of the elite girls basketball programs in the state.

Since

Dolan

— the

Amherst

Bee

2017-18

Coach of the Year — took over the coaching reins in the 2012-13 season, Williamsville South has posted a 108-32 record and won the past four ECIC Division II titles and the past five Section VI Class A-1 championships.

The only other girls basketball team in section history to win five consecutive section titles is Grand Island, which accomplished the feat in A-1 from 2009 to 2013. Those teams were coached by Jen Banker, who now coaches the Daemen College women’s basketball team.

South also won the Class A state title in 2015. The Lady Billies reached the state semifinals this past year and finished with a 19-6 record.

“I’m just trying to do my job,” Dolan said. “I like to teach the game.”

Dolan cannot build a successful program on her own. She said she has been blessed with amazing talent and special young ladies, along with great parents and families, and a supportive school administration and staff.

Dolan also credited assistant coaches Mike Del Valle and Jackie Rojas for their help this year, and lauded former assistant coaches Marybeth Nugent and Christine Wing, as well as numerous other JV coaches, for their help in previous years.

“You want to surround yourself with some of the best minds and have a different approach,” Dolan said. “Any coach will tell you that you want to have a difference of opinion sometimes and be open minded. We would not be where we are today without the talent, but also without my staff.”

Dolan loves teaching basketball fundamentals and enjoys seeing the individual growth of her players and when the team displays their collective talents on the court.

“The girls don’t talk about individual achievement,” Dolan said. “They sacrifice a lot for the team. They are more worried about winning and playing together than the individual accolades.”

Dolan said she wants her players to “enjoy the journey.”

“Life is too fast and you have to enjoy the friendships, being together as a team and having fun,” Dolan said. “We expect to get better every day. We have values and beliefs that we talk about, like effort and attitude. They understand a ‘what can I do for the team mentality?’ and that is important.”

Dolan’s players are not strangers to each other outside of the high school season. She said there is a lot of team bonding in the offseason, whether they are meeting for a voluntary workout at the high school, Garrison Park, Brierhurst Park or Forest Elementary School, participating in a summer league at the Clearfield Recreation Center, or attending team camps.

“The girls enjoy being with each other and get the idea of the team first,” Dolan said. “We also stress doing it in a way that it can’t be done any better, which [University of Connecticut coach] Geno Auriemma stresses.”

Dolan tested her players through a tough non-league schedule with contests against Pittsford-Mendon, Our Lady of Mercy and Bishop Kearney from Rochester, and Paul Robeson from New York City.

South went undefeated against Section VI competition. Its only loss against a team from Buffalo was a 55-51 defeat against Monsignor Martin Association powerhouse Cardinal O’Hara.

“I think it’s been so valuable over the years,” Dolan said. “I like to play anywhere against anybody. It’s only going to help prepare us.”

The Lady Billies finished the regular season with 14 wins and had a playoff run that included victories over West Seneca East, 84-32, in the A-1 quarterfinals; Williamsville East, 62-42, in the A-1 semifinals; Hamburg, 72-40, in the A-1 final; Amherst, 62-43, in the overall Class A final and Pittsford

Mendon, 65-47, in the Class A Far West Regional.

South’s season came to an end against Elmont, 70-61, in the Class A state semifinals.

“We realized the accomplishments we made this year and are happy with that, but we know there is still work to be done,” Dolan said. “There are a lot of great teams, so we need to work harder than any other team.”

A big reason for the team’s success was the play of 6-foot-5 forward/ center Amari DeBerry, who went over 1,000 points in her freshman year.

DeBerry — the 2017-18 All-Bee Girls Basketball Player of the Year — is regarded as one of the top players in the nation for the Class of 2021, according to ESPN.

DeBerry, who has received interest from between 25 to 30 Division I schools, was one of the final cuts for the 2018 U17 USA junior national team for this month’s International Basketball Federation’s U17 World Cup in Belarus.

“She is all in it for the team,” Dolan said. “The wins are more important than the individual accolades, and I think that holds true for everyone throughout our program.”

Dolan said it has also been a blessing to coach her daughters, Hannah and Gretchen, who completed their sophomore and seventh grade years, respectively.

“It’s special to have your daughters out on the court,” coach Dolan said. “You are trying to challenge each player, and my daughters are the same way. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Dolan tries to sharpen her coaching skills by attending a couple of coaching clinics a year at a local college or somewhere out of state.

“I love to learn; it’s like any great teacher,” coach Dolan said. “You never know it all, and I am the first person to say it. There is so much to take from other coaches’ bag of tricks and tweak it in your own way. I am always trying to take an open mind. Sometimes I pick something up and it’s not even at a coach’s clinic. Maybe it’s out on the street or in the gym and a different coach or teacher strikes a chord with me.”

Dolan was a guard at Canisius College before coaching girls basketball at Sweet Home for seven years, including three years as the varsity coach.

Dolan returned to coaching high school basketball eight years ago when South needed a JV girls coach. She served in that capacity for two years before taking over the reins of the varsity team.

Dolan was also director of instruction at Pinnacle Sports Academy, a youth travel basketball program that she started in 2008, until it ended this past spring.

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