YOUNG HARRIS — Brenda Paul, a member of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame with three decades of head coaching experience at several levels of college basketball, has named the women’s basketball coach at Young Harris College, the school announced Tuesday.
Paul will begin her duties immediately, and the team will tip off the first season of intercollegiate women’s basketball on the YHC campus in nearly 80 years in 2010-11.
“We are excited to announce that coach Brenda Paul will be leading our women’s basketball program, and her engaging personality will surely be an asset as she recruits young women to play for Young Harris College,” YHC president Cathy Cox said. “Our search committee was doubly impressed by her commitment to assuring that her players are good student-athletes by putting a strong emphasis on academics as well as athletics.”
The opportunity to start the women’s basketball program from the ground up was one of the reasons Paul, a Flowery Branch native, said she pursued the job.
“Building a new program from the beginning is exciting because we are laying the groundwork,” she said. “This first team will be the one that starts the tradition that future teams will build upon.”
The tradition of women’s basketball in the area is already well-known throughout the state, a definite advantage for YHC’s program, according to Paul.
“This is a great area to build a women’s basketball program, and I want to start building right here in Northeast Georgia,” Paul said. “I’ll be knocking on doors of coaches in the surrounding counties, and I really want them to be a part of what we are doing.”
Paul’s most previous coaching stint came at Elon University, where she was the head coach from 1994-2008, guiding the Phoenix from NCAA Division-II to Division-I. Her 14 years at the helm of the Elon program makes her the longest-tenured coach in the school’s women’s basketball history.
While Paul’s Elon teams found success on the court, reaching tournament championship games in both the South Atlantic and Big South Conferences, they were just as successful in the classroom. Under Paul’s guidance, every senior that completed her eligibility at Elon earned a degree.
Paul came to Elon after coaching at Georgia State from 1989-94 and, before that, at Mississippi State from 1985-89. While at MSU, she took a Lady Bulldogs team that went 8-20 her first year and turned it into one with a 19-13 mark in 1987-88, the best single-season record in the program’s history. That season, MSU reached the postseason for the first time and Paul was the runner-up for the Southeastern Conference’s Coach of the Year award.
Prior to taking over the Mississippi State program, Paul coached one of the nation’s top small-college programs at Berry College. From 1980-85, her Lady Vikings squads put together a combined 139-28 record and won the district championship every year. While on the Rome campus, Paul led her team to three top-eight NAIA National Tournament finishes, including semifinal appearances in both 1982 and 1984. Eight of her Berry players earned All-American honors.
Paul began her college coaching career in 1978, leading Tennessee Wesleyan to a two-year record of 28-21.
In 2004, Paul was inducted into the inaugural class of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
She is a 1977 graduate of North Georgia College (now North Georgia College and State University).
Paul is the second highly-experienced basketball coach hired by Young Harris this month. Last week the college announced that it had selected former Navy and Georgia coach Pete Herrmann to lead the men’s program. The men’s team will also tip off next fall.
“We are thrilled to now have two incredibly experienced coaches who are ready to build first-class basketball programs for Young Harris,” Cox said.
Young Harris is building a new, state-of-the-art recreation and fitness center, scheduled to open early next fall. The 57,000 square foot facility will feature a 1,000-seat arena, setting the stage for the return of men’s and women’s basketball. The college, which currently competes as a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, has applied for NCAA Division II membership.