Nov. 8, 2013
TODAY'S SPOTLIGHT: Melanie Balcomb
12th season at Vanderbilt
When in Nashville, do as the Nashvillians do.
That's the motto that Melanie Balcomb has adopted during the past dozen years since being named head coach of the women's basketball team at Vanderbilt.
Balcomb, the all-time wins leader in the program's history, has fit right in by becoming immersed in some of Nashville's most well-known customs and traditions, such as country music, fine dining and fine art.
And, of course, Balcomb has also embraced - and helped enhance - another long-standing tradition in the Nashville area: The consistent success of the Vanderbilt's women's basketball team.
Since arriving on campus, Balcomb has guided the Commodores to 11 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, and her teams have posted 20 or more wins each season. She has also led Vanderbilt to three SEC tournament titles in that span.
Last February, when the Commodores downed Auburn, Balcomb notched her 257th career victory at Vanderbilt and became the program's all-time leader in wins, surpassing former coach Jim Foster.
Balcomb is being honored for the accomplishment tonight when the Commodores open the season against Appalachian State at Memorial Gym.
Balcomb, who enters this season with a record of 259-106 at Vanderbilt, is in the spotlight as we conclude our Countdown to Tipoff preview package with a Q-and-A with the head coach.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH BALCOMB
QUESTION: Obviously you have had a tremendous amount of success at Vanderbilt. But are there one or two accomplishments that stand out in your mind as being particularly special?
BALCOMB: The three SEC Tournament Championships, (with) the three very different teams, and the three different ways in which we won were all very special. For me the ultimate feeling of satisfaction as a coach is watching the joy of celebration on all of those young ladies' faces while cutting down the nets and holding the trophy over their heads. There is nothing better than seeing your team work that hard to reach one of their ultimate goals.
QUESTION: Outside of coaching, what are some of your favorite things about living in Nashville?
BALCOMB: The first thing I noticed when I moved here was how beautiful it was; very "green and clean." Between the music scene, the sports teams, the fine arts, the great restaurants, as well as the many colleges in town, Nashville has so many things to offer all types of people; so for me personally, my favorite thing is the diverse community. Nashville is by far the friendliest city I have ever lived in.
QUESTION: Since you will be working with a relatively young roster this year, how much will you rely on Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie to be leaders, both on the floor and off?
BALCOMB: A lot! They both have earned the respect of their peers and their coaches over the past three years, but it is their character that stands out the most. On the court, they have plenty of experience and success on a national level, which will naturally translate into strong leadership. Off the court, they are tremendous ambassadors for our program and university.
QUESTION: Injuries are a part of the game, but how tough is it on a head coach to see your players go through that?
BALCOMB: Obviously I hate to see any player get injured, but it's part of the game and something you can't control. The positive is that I have seen so many come out on the other side stronger, tougher, and better for it. Instead of the injury becoming an obstacle, it can become an opportunity to grow and to gain a new perspective; therefore it can actually turns into a "blessing in disguise."
QUESTION: What are a few of the things about Memorial Gym that make it so special and give your team such a great home court advantage?
BALCOMB: The history and tradition of success in Memorial is a feeling you just get when you walk in. The uniqueness of the benches on the end lines makes teams uncomfortable. The consistent and loyal fan base creates a difficult environment to play in. When you combine all of those factors, Memorial Gym can become intimidating and even "magical."