Head of the Court

Stephanie Glance ’86 trades law school dream for coaching and scores big.

(Photo by Eric Sucar) (Photo by Eric Sucar)

Thirty years ago, if you had asked Stephanie Glance ’86 where she’d be today, she would have told you she’d be in a court, not on one.

Glance, who has spent more than 25 years as a women’s basketball coach for NCAA Division I, originally dreamed of becoming a trial lawyer and perhaps, eventually, a judge. But one decision she made her senior year changed her future.

In December 1985, Glance, an English major, had completed all of the courses she needed to graduate, but her advisor persuaded her to spend the spring semester finishing a secondary education minor. And she did, becoming a student teacher at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs. Soon after, she received an offer to teach English.

“I thought it would be pretty cool to have a job and have an income,” Glance says. “I thought I’d do that for a few years and then go back to law school.”

Law school never quite came to pass. Instead, a simple question posed to her while teaching high school led to a change of venue for Glance, who is currently head women’s basketball coach at Columbia University and has worked under Hall of Famers such as North Carolina State’s Kay Yow and Tennessee’s Pat Summitt: Can you coach?

“How do you know if you can coach if you’ve never coached and you’re 22 years old?” asks Glance, who played basketball, softball, and volleyball for the Tars. “I said, ‘Sure.’ That’s when I discovered this could be something I liked.”

And clearly, the court liked her. After a few years at Lake Brantley, she went on to the University of South Florida, Southwest Texas State, North Carolina State, University of Tennessee, and Illinois State—all before heading to New York City to try her hand at coaching the women of the Ivy League.

She spent 15 seasons as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at NC State under Yow. During her time there, the Wolfpack went 285-178 with 11 NCAA tournament appearances, and Glance pieced together 14 recruiting classes that ranked in the top 30 nationally. In addition to learning about the value of winning on the court, Yow also taught Glance the importance of winning off the court.

As Yow battled breast cancer, a disease that took her life in 2009, Glance filled in for her as an interim head coach during the games when the legendary coach was too weak to make it to the sideline.

Several days before Yow died, Glance took the entire NC State team to visit her in the hospital, where Yow, albeit slowly, made eye contact with each of them. The team finished that year with a 13-17 season, beating Virginia Tech after Yow’s funeral.

“The hardcore critics would say, ‘Well, she passed a month ago,’ ” Glance said in a New York Times article, regarding the team’s season tally. “But they didn’t realize what she was to them. She was a mother, a grandmother. Really, this is how they looked at her. This wasn’t just their coach. This was far beyond basketball. They really counted on her for so many things in their lives.”

Yow’s impact on Glance was significant. “She was a great mentor for me,” Glance says. “I learned so many things from her.” Yow used basketball to teach her players life lessons. One of Yow’s maxims: Although people have little or no control over what happens to them, they can control how they respond. A glass isn’t only half full, went another maxim, but is overflowing.

Another thing Glance learned from Yow was perseverance, something she’s putting to the test as she undergoes a major rebuilding process with the Lions, whose only winning season since 1986 came when they went 18-10 in 2009–10. The stretch includes a 0-26 season in 1994–95.

The losing streak is paired with the Ivy League’s rule against offering athletic scholarships. Instead, Glance is pushing the opportunity to play in New York City, receive an Ivy League education, and help turn the program around.

“She said we’re going to be a better program than we are right now,” Lions first-year student Camille Zimmerman says. “That’s something that I really liked. I like being the underdog.”

Glance approaches her job the same way Yow did: helping her players prepare for their post-college lives. This season, she allowed all her players to apply to be captains, making them submit résumés and answer questions from coaches and teammates in an interviewlike setting.

“It was so cool to see some girls come out of their shells,” Lions fourth-year student Campbell Mobley says. “[Glance] knows that in four years or so that we’re no longer going to be playing basketball. Coach Glance is giving us life lessons through every practice and every drill and making us better people.”

Glance sometimes plays the “what-if” game, imagining what her life would have been like had she become a lawyer instead of taking that coaching position at Lake Brantley in 1986. But she’s happy she made the decision to coach.

“There are no regrets,” Glance says. “I’ve been very, very blessed to have the opportunities and experiences I’ve had. I just took a different path.”