ATLANTA - The Women's Basketball Coaches Association announced the recipient of the Carol Eckman Award on Wednesday and Gallaudet University coach Kevin Cook is the proud honoree for 2010. Cook becomes the 25th recipient of the Carol Eckman Award that is presented annually to an active WBCA coach who exemplifies Eckman's spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to purpose.
The award is named in honor of the late Carol Eckman, the former West Chester State College coach who is considered the "Mother of the Women's Collegiate Basketball Championship." Eckman organized the first women's basketball championship at West Chester in 1969 and continued to garner recognition and support for the women's game until her death from cancer in 1985.
"It is a pleasure to present Kevin Cook with the Carol Eckman Award," said WBCA CEO Beth Bass. "Your commitment to sportsmanship, honesty, ethical behavior and most importantly, your student-athletes has not gone unnoticed."
Cook is the first Division III coach to be honored since the award's inception in 1986 when Laura Mapp from Bridgewater (Va.) College was selected as the first honoree of the Carol Eckman Award. Any active women's basketball head or assistant coach at the NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA or JC/CC levels are eligible to be nominated for the award. The criteria for the award includes; sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior and courage.
"Coach Cook without a doubt meets the criteria for the Carol Eckman Award and he exceeds all of those expectations," said Gallaudet University Director of Athletics Michael Weinstock. " We are very fortunate to have Kevin here at Gallaudet University. He not only raises the bar for our women's basketball program but also the entire athletic program."
Cook will be formally recognized at the WBCA Awards Luncheon presented by State Farm and Jostens at Noon CT on Tuesday, April 6, at the Marriott River Center Grand Ballroom. This event is part of the WBCA National Convention and is held in conjunction with the NCAA® Women's Final Four® in San Antonio, Texas.
Cook just completed his third season at Gallaudet, the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. He led the Bison to their best season in a decade with a 14-12 record and a sixth-seed in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament. The postseason appearance was the first since the 2006-07 season. GU won more games this season then the past three years combined. The 7-9 conference record was the best since the 9-5 mark set by the 1999-00 team. The seven conferences wins are the fourth most in GU history since it has been a member of the CAC. In fact, the seven wins equals the total amount of conference wins the Bison had over the past nine years combined (7-123). Cook also coached the CAC Player of the Year in junior center Easter Faafiti (Pittsburg, Calif.) as she led the league in scoring and rebounding. She was the first Bison to earn the end of the season award from the CAC since the 2000-01 season. This was also the last year for Gallaudet in the CAC after being a charter member since the conference formed in 1989. GU will join the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) this summer.
"I am honored and humbled by this award. I am happy to accept this award on behalf of our women's basketball program," said Cook. "There are so many excellent coaches in our profession that do so many great things for our sport, the student-athletes and with their time and generosity to help others. It is hard to put into words how much this award means to me. I am deeply touched and moved by the news."
Cook, 49, a native of Fremont, Ohio, has also battled adversity this past season. On December 10, 2009, a house fire claimed the life of his sister, 47-year-old Kelly Preston, in Helena, Ohio. Preston was able to save her 16-year-old daughter and 3-month-old grandson before her passing. The GU community along with CAC schools and officials rallied to help Cook and his family by collecting clothing and cash donations for the displaced family.
In January, ESPN.com ran a lengthy feature, a rarity for a Division III program, on Coach Cook and the Bison titled "Sign of Success - Cook getting Gallaudet back on track." The story showed how Cook had to learn American Sign Language so he could communicate with his deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes plus how in three years he was able to get the Bison back on the national map after a 10-year hiatus. Plus, the piece touched on how Cook has courageously battled Parkinson's disease.
Prior to arriving at Gallaudet, Cook served as an assistant coach with the Houston Comets for 11 years where he was part of four WNBA championships. He also served as a coach on four different WNBA All-Star teams. Prior to coaching in the WNBA, Cook served as an assistant coach with the University of Kansas from 1984-93. Cook was part of four Big 8 championship teams that made four trips to the NCAA tournament. In between his stints with Houston and Kansas, Cook coached two years at Garden City Community College where he led the program to a No. 12 national junior college ranking.
"I have been aware of Coach Carol Eckman and what she has meant to our sport of women's basketball for many, many years. I was lucky enough to sit in the audience in 1991 when Kansas coach Marian Washington was presented this award," said Cook.
Cook's international experience is vast, as he has served as the Nigeria women's basketball national team head coach for the past several years. He guided Nigeria in the 2006 World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The following year he coached Nigeria in the 2007 All-Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria where Nigeria posted a 7-1 record and won the silver medal. In the past five years he has visited six African countries where he has hosted basketball fundamental clinics for coaches and players.
Cook is a proud graduate of Urbana University (Ohio) where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in social science in 1983. He also runs the Kevin Cook Basketball Academy.
Past Carol Eckman Award Recipients
2009 - Muffet McGraw, University of Notre Dame
2008 - Doug Bruno, DePaul University
2007 - Theresa Grentz, University of Illinois
2006 - Gail Goestenkors, Duke University
2005 - Bonnie Henrickson, University of Kansas
2004 - Deirdre Kane, West Chester University
2003 - Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech University
2002 - Barbara Stevens, Bentley College
2001 - Juliene B. Simpson, East Stroudsburg University
2000 - Kathy Delaney-Smith, Harvard University
1999 - Susan Summons, Miami-Dade Community College
1998 - Kay James, University of Southern Mississippi
1997 - Amy Ruley, North Dakota State University
1996 - Joann Rutherford, University of Missouri
1995 - Ceal Barry, University of Colorado
1994 - Sue Gunter, Louisiana State University
1993 - C. Vivian Stringer, University of Iowa
1992 - Jill Hutchinson, Illinois State University
1991 - Marian Washington, University of Kansas
1990 - Dr. Maryalice Jeremiah, Cal-State Fullerton
1989 - Linda Hill-MacDonald, University of Minnesota
1988 - Kay Yow, North Carolina State University
1987 - Jody Conradt, University of Texas
1986 - Laura Mapp, Bridgewater College (VA)
About the WBCA
Founded in 1981, the WBCA promotes women's basketball by unifying coaches at all levels to develop a reputable identity for the sport and to foster and promote the development of the game as a sport for women and girls. For additional information about the WBCA, please visit www.wbca.org.