Darlene May of Cal Poly Pomona was already the winningest women’s basketball coach in Division II history, but she reached a milestone with her 500th victory last Friday.
May, in her 20th season, has a record of 501-114. That ties her in victories with Pat Summitt of Tennessee (501-124, also in 20 seasons) for second among active coaches at any NCAA level. Both are behind Jody Conradt of Texas, who is 620-154 in 17 seasons.
May had hoped to win the game in the season-opening Bronco tournament two Saturdays ago, but Grand Canyon upset the Broncos, 67-54. Six nights later, Pomona held off San Diego for No. 500, 70-68.
“I am really pleased because that is some great company to be in,” May said. “It’s a good feeling. But I am glad it’s over so that I can go forward. I also think our players are relieved.”
May started coaching at Pomona in 1974 and turned a team that had finished at 6-16 into a 16-6 team.
“Actually, I kind of stumbled into coaching,” she said. “The former coach (Judy Brame) took another job (at Cal State Northridge), and I knew some people. No one had the job and it was getting pretty late, so they called me in August and asked if I was interested. I was. I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew I loved this game, that I was intense and I hated to lose.”
The Broncos won Division II championships under May in 1982, ’85 and ’86, and are the only Division II school to have earned berths in every NCAA women’s tournament at any level. Against Division I schools, May has a 181-80 record.
Pomona (3-1) is ranked fourth in the Division II poll.
“I’ve always been on a one-year contract,” she said. “I never asked for a multiyear contract. If I don’t do well enough to get a contract the next year, then I will walk away. When I started out, I would never have thought I would be at this point. I guess anyone who stays around long enough has a chance to reach 500.
“What I’m really looking forward to now is 502.”
Tragedy struck at Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 19 when former soccer player Brad Rusche died of a heart attack.
Rusche was a walk-on freshman defender and appeared in two games before he had to leave the team because of an irregular heartbeat.
The night he died, Rusche went dancing with friends in Irvine, collapsed and died without regaining consciousness.
“I knew Brad for a relatively short period of time,” Pomona Coach Brian Weisner said last week. “I knew him in the arena of hard work, discipline and (camaraderie). He was proud and exemplary.
“He cried in my office the day we found out he could not play anymore . . . and I cried this weekend.”
Gary Smith, the men’s basketball coach at Redlands, won his 300th game last Wednesday with a 131-56 victory over La Sierra. “I don’t know about 300,” Smith said. “People ask me what it takes to win that many and I said, ‘You have to be old.’ But really, I don’t feel any different than I did when I started. The sense of accomplishment has been along the way. I’ve been fortunate to be at Redlands for 23 years.”
Smith’s record is 300-273. He led the Bulldogs to at least a share of four Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Assn. titles and in 1985 was voted the NCAA Western states coach of the year.