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SMC Basketball: College to search for new coach

Ken Fowler | Thursday, April 6, 2006

Saint Mary’s athletic director Lynn Kachmarik said in a statement released to the Observer Wednesday the search for a new head coach to replace Steve Bender, whose contract was not renewed after his first season, will “begin immediately.”

“It’s important to find someone who will inspire the student athletes to excel both on the court and in the classroom, and will value the mission of Saint Mary’s College,” Kachmarik said. “The new coach must also understand the framework of college athletics and the governing groups that impact college athletics … in our case the NCAA and MIAA.”

Saint Mary’s Director of Public Information Melanie McDonald has said the College cannot comment on the details of the decision not to renew Bender’s contract because it is a personnel issue.

Bender, who led Saint Mary’s to an 11-15 record (9-7 in the MIAA), coaches tennis at Buchanan High School in his hometown of Buchanan, Mich. Saint Mary’s nine league wins this season were a program record. Bender went on vacation this week and was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Kachmarik informed players of the decision Friday. Several players met with Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney Monday, said a member of the team who wished to remain anonymous.

“Whenever there is a change in coaching staff, particularly the head coach, there will be an impact,” Kachmarik said. “Everyone involved will have some adjusting to do. Student athletes are resilient, however, and we are confident that they will continue to be dedicated, engaged Saint Mary’s athletes who are committed to excellence on and off the court.”

Bender replaced Suzanne Bellina as Belles head coach this season. Bellina coached Saint Mary’s for five seasons from 2000-01 through 2004-05, leading the Belles to a 41-87 record overall record with a 17-55 conference mark.