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Leadership Award

 Van Chancellor 

Head Coach, Women's Basketball
Louisiana State University
East Central Community College, Mississippi

By Evelyn L. Kent
Community College Times
March 29, 2005

Statistically speaking, Van Chancellor has a better chance of winning an Oscar than he did of winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics.

Not bad for a boy who "went to Junior College to get off the farm." That is perhaps not so surprising for the most winning coach in WNBA history.

A graduate of Eastern Central Community College in Decatur, Miss., Chancellor arguably is the most recognizable name in women's basketball in America.

Chancellor has been the head coach of the Houston Comets since the league's inception in 1997. The Comets dominated the league in its first four seasons -- winning the championship and spawning suggestions of a dynasty.

Chancellor moved to the Comets from the University of Mississippi, where he coached the Lady Rebels for 19 seasons with a winning percentage of .74. That record – for those who haven't caught women's college basketball fever – is better than the well-known coach of the Duke Blue Devils, Mike Krzyzewski, whose winning percentage going into the 2004-05 season was .65.

Chancellor's excellent work earned him a spot in the women's basketball Hall of Fame and twice the honor of being the WNBA Coach of the year. In 2002 he was the USA Basketball Coach of the year.

The list of his coaching accomplishments and the attendant honors is long. It seems everyone reveres this man for his coaching ability. But bathed in the glow of Olympic Gold, Chancellor is humble.

"The Olympics was the greatest thing I've ever been involved in, in my life," Chancellor said, careful to put the credit on the players. "It was a great team. Everyone did everything we asked them to do."

That seems to sum up Chancellor's experiences coaching women and girls, something that started early in his career. He had been teaching and coaching boy's basketball when he was offered a deal he couldn't refuse: coach the girls, too, and he could quit teaching. "I started teaching girls basketball to get out of teaching mathematics," Chancellor said.

He fell in love with it. "I found out that the girls played really hard. They were easier to coach, “he said. And they didn't have some of the egos.

Still, women players face different challenges than men do, and Chancellor sees similarities in coaching women and in teaching community college students: Both work with somewhat limited financial resources.

Both do amazing jobs. "I think community colleges do a wonderful job with taking what they have and utilizing it to prepare for life, so to speak,” he said. He does the same with his players, whom he thinks of as individuals first and players second.

Chancellor's favorite part of coaching is practice. "I love the interaction. I like seeing the players develop. I like seeing them be the best they can be," he said. "I think that's what life is all about. Trying to be the best you can be."

Chancellor helps his players do that every day, and he believes that East Central helped him do the same. "If it wasn't for East Central, I wouldn't be where I am today."

And that – enjoying life – Chancellor considers is a very, very good place to be.

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