Head coach Bev Smith is entering her eighth year at the helm of the Oregon women’s basketball program.
Guiding a new era in the program, Smith’s 2008-09 squad will be led by junior guard Taylor Lilley, while the Ducks’ six-member sophomore class is expected to contribute significantly after gaining considerable experience as freshmen.
Smith never wavered last season, allowing her freshman class to gain ample understanding of the collegiate game by playing the rookies immediately.
With a year of knowledge under their belts, along with four newcomers ready to contribute, Smith expects this to be the season the Ducks return to the postseason.
Oregon hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2005, a streak Oregon has faith will be snapped in 2009.
The Ducks had their fair share of ups and downs in 2007-08 with a underclassmen-heavy squad. Oregon finished 14-17 overall and 7-11 in the Pac-10, but won four of its last six to close the season on a promising note. Late in the year, Nicole Canepa and Ellie Manou began providing a consistent presence in the post, while Lilley emerged as the team’s go-to scorer, leading the team in scoring 15 times.
Smith hopes a demanding non-conference schedule will prepare the 08-09 group for the rigors of the Pac-10 season. The Ducks return three starters from last year’s squad and eight letterwinners overall.
Oregon did have a taste of the postseason following the 2006-07 season, as the Ducks were selected to the WNIT and exited the tournament with a 64-62 third-round loss at eventual champion Wyoming.
It was a goal of Smith’s to reach the postseason after a sobering end to the 2005-06 season. Smith’s team enjoyed a significant amount of success, stringing together eight straight victories as part of a 9-1 mark against non-conference foes. The Ducks limited those teams to an average of 51.5 points while scoring nearly 71 points themselves. Oregon failed to carry that momentum into league play, finishing eighth in the Pac-10 and ending the season 14-15 overall.
The Ducks made great strides in 2004-05, jumping from an eighth-place Pac-10 finish the season before to a tie for second and an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. Smith guided the squad to an overall mark of 21-10, the second 20-win campaign of her brief coaching tenure. Oregon achieved more than just an NCAA postseason appearance, knocking off TCU to advance to the second round, where they battled eventual champion Baylor.
mith found success early in her Oregon coaching career. In her first season as a U.S. college coach, Smith and her coaching staff led Oregon to the WNIT Championship in 2002. The WNIT title marked the Ducks’ ninth consecutive postseason appearance and established a precedent for even greater goals to be accomplished in this new era of Oregon women’s basketball.
In 2001-02, Smith guided Oregon to a 22-13 record, a semifinal finish in the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament as well as five wins in the WNIT, including the dramatic 54-52 victory over Houston in the title tilt at McArthur Court.
Smith’s guidance doesn’t only pertain to the basketball court.
During her tenure, her student-athletes have received 24 Pac-10 academic accolades, including first team, second team and honorable mention.
A former Oregon student-athlete who has coached and played in the Olympics, Smith is an exemplary teacher of the game. A Salmon Arm, B.C., native, she served as the Canadian National Team women’s coach from 1997 to 2001 before former UO assistant coach Allison McNeill took over those reins in October 2001.
“I’ve always been a Duck,” said Smith, a recent inductee into two halls of fame—the Canadian Olympic (2003) and Women’s Basketball (2004). “I’ve taken great pride in traveling around the world and hearing about the success of this program at the University of Oregon. And now to be an active member is a dream come true.”
The two-time Oregon All-American (1981 and 1982) also led Canada to a 10th-place finish at the 2000 Olympics at Sydney, in addition to leading the Canadian National Team to its best finish at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1999 with a silver medal.
“The philosophy of our coaching staff is one based on the pursuit of excellence: On the court, in the classroom and in our daily lives,” Smith said. “Our goal is to be the best that we can possibly be, both as individuals and as a team. To accomplish this goal we must work hard, and we must work together.
“Our job then as coaches is to provide the learning environment where our student—athletes can discover what it really takes to be their very best. For true victory is not just about being better than something else—it is about continually striving to be better than our former selves.”
On an international level, she coached and played in the Italian league for 15 years. She coached the Familia Schio Club team to second-place national finishes in Division I in 1999-00 and 1998-99. In 1996-97, Smith led Vivo Vicenzo to a first-place finish in Division II. She also served as the head coach at the University of British Columbia in 1988-89. Her first coaching stint came in 1985 as a player-coach for Ferrara in the Italian league.
As a reward for her tremendous accomplishments as a coach and player, Smith became the only inductee into the 2001 class of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Bev Smith was the Canadian women’s team’s Larry Bird,” former national women’s team coach Don McCrae said. “She was able to do all things on the court. If there were extended statistics kept, Bev would have been in the top three in all categories, such as taking the charge, tips and interceptions, as well as scoring, rebounding and assists.”
Smith became one of the greatest women’s basketball players ever during her four-year Oregon career from 1978-82. A 6-foot-1 forward, she led the program through its most successful era at that time, with the Ducks posting a combined 93-19 record, as well as berths in one NCAA and two AIAW tournaments.
A three-time Northwest Basketball League (NWBL) player of the year, Smith, who received a bachelor’s degree in human performance, remains the Ducks’ lone woman to garner first-team Kodak All-America honors.
She also was a member of the University’s inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class in 1992.
In 1984, she helped Canada to a fourth-place mark at the Olympics at Los Angeles. As a member of the Vivo Vicenza team, she won the Italian National Championship and the European Cup during the 1992-93 season. Smith retired from playing after the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta.
She was born April 4, 1960, in Salmon Arm, B.C.