Just over a month after the women’s basketball team capped its most successful campaign in program history, head coach Marnie Dacko resigned. The void behind the bench only added to the woes for a team graduating two of its most talented players and had just seen its aspirations for a first-ever Ivy League title dashed.
Little is certain of the 2002-03 season other than the teams youth and energy. A two-month long search process, spearheaded by Assistant Athletic Director Bob Chaddock, has produced a coach who is being noted by her players as possessing those same characteristics.
Dayna Smith, most recently an assistant under Kelly Greenberg at the University of Pennsylvania, was announced as the Red’s new head coach on June 19.
“I am very honored to be named Head Coach at Cornell,” Smith said during a press conference last month. “I am looking forward to continuing the success the women’s basketball program has experienced over the last few years and pushing that success to new heights on an annual basis.”
Candidates from Dartmouth and Army were reportedly among others interviewed for the position. Basketball players who remained on the Hill during for the summer were invited to evaluate interviewees.
“She was genuinely excited for the job and it was clear she really wanted it. She is the kind of person I wanted to play for,” sophomore Sarah Lee said.
Smith drew similar accolades from other members of the team. Last season’s tri-captain, Karen Force, an Ivy League Honorable Mention, had high praise for Smith.
“Her personality is very lively. She is young and knows the college scene very well. She has been coaching since she graduated,” she said.
Besides her effervescent disposition, Smith arrives on the Hill with a resume laden with impressive credentials. In her three seasons with the Quakers the squad never finished worse than second in the League, and won the Ivy title in 2000-2001. Smith is credited with recruiting one first team All-Ivy player and a pair of All-Rookie players during her tenure.
She began her career as an assistant at her alma mater, Rhode Island — a three-year term during which she briefly served as head coach.
Having devoted two months to the search process the announcement came as a relief to the squad. The captains were forced to assume coaching responsibilities while the University conducted its search.
“It changed the role of being a captain. We wanted to hold the team together and it brought us a lot closer,” said Force who will be a tri-captain with seniors Ify Ossai and Lynell Davis.
Smith, whose career at Rhode Island landed her in the NCAA top 20 in both total assists and assists per game, inherits a teamweakened by the loss of Do Stevens and Breean Wallace ’02, returns three starters in the tri-captains.
“The attitude of the team is very positive. Expectations are high,” Lee said. Smith gets her first test on Nov. 22 when the team opens its season at the Seton Hall tournament.
Archived article by Gary Schueller