Women’s basketball coach Deanna Richard, coming off her 10th season at Mercyhurst and the best season in program history, was honored in December as the Erie Times-News Sportswoman of the Year. Now in her 11th season as head coach, Richard said she was shocked when she learned she won the award. She was called into a meeting and named the winner of the award, which is in its 14th year, on her way to an away game.
She joins 13 other successful female athletes such as Erie-native Janine Calabrese, who won the gold medal in swimming at the Los Angeles 2015 Special Olympics World games. Richard, who is from Clarksville, Mich., played college basketball at Oakland University from 1992 to 1996. During Richard’s time on the team, the Golden Grizzlies had three consecutive NCAA showings and an Elite Eight appearance. During her senior year at Oakland University, Richard was named GLIAC Player of the Year and tallied 1,333 career points. She was inducted into the Oakland University Hollie L. Lepley Hall of Honor in the spring of 2007.
Richard would go on after graduating from Oakland to play a season in Portugal for the Clube Desportivo de Povoa. That year the team went to the conference championship. She served as assistant coach at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., from 1999 to 2000 and at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2000 to 2001. She landed her first head coaching position at Olivet University in Riverside County, Calif., from 2001 to 2007. Richards became the second-longest tenured coach in Olivet program history, while leading Olivet to a 13-14 (8-8) mark in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) in 2005-06 and 12-12 (9-7) the following year.
“I think over the years, when you coach at different levels, at Olivet I feel as though the players are a little different because they’re not on scholarship,” Richard said of her Comets players. “They’re not there solely to play basketball, they’re there to get an education.” “When you’re fortunate enough at the Division II level to give out athletic scholarships, … the biggest takeaway is that you don’t always have to get the kids that are just all athletic. That’s the most important thing for me, to carry over into the world as far as (the players) are going to school here for four (years) … but when they leave, they have to have a career in mind.”
Inheriting a young team at Mercyhurst proved to be no easy task. But little by little, under Richard’s mentorship, the team reached its peak in the 2016-17 season with a 24-8 record. The team entered the 2017-18 season with a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) poll, placing them at 9th in the PSAC West. All of these attributes in Richard’s long basketball history made her most deserving of the Sportswoman of the Year 2017 award.
She has left her mark on countless schools, and Mercyhurst is proud to have her.