Southbridge native awaits induction into Basketball Hall of Fame

📸 Barbara Stevens, a native of Southbridge, has announced her retirement after 44 years coaching basketball. She has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Bentley University photo.

WALTHAM — Following a remarkable 44-year coaching career that has included 1,058 wins and the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship and culminated with the announcement of her selection into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April, Bentley University Women’s Basketball Coach Barbara Stevens announced her retirement, effective July 31, on Tues­day.

Stevens, whose induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spent the last 34 years at Bentley, with her tenure on the Falcon bench including a 901-200 record, 31 NCAA Division II tournament appearances and 14 regional championships.

“This is a bittersweet time for me,” said Stevens. “I am stepping away from a profession that has been my life’s work and passion for 44 years. It has been an incredible honor to serve as the women’s basketball coach at Bentley University for the last 34 years. I have been blessed to coach so many incredible young women who were champions on and off the court.

“My utmost gratitude goes to our longtime Athletic Director Bob DeFelice and Vice President for Student Affairs Andrew Shepardson for their unwavering support of our program’s pursuit of excellence.  Throughout my tenure as Bentley’s head coach, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a number of talented assistant coaches.  Associate Head Coach Carolyn White has worked with me for half of my Bentley career, and I cannot thank her enough for all she has done for our program.”

“Coach Stevens has long been a leader on our campus and a mentor for generations of student-athletes,” said Shepardson. “The program that she has created will ensure that her legacy of success on and off the court continues at Bentley. While we are saddened to see Coach Stevens go, we know that she will always be a part of the Falcon family.”

“As spectacular as her record is, her impact on her players was far greater,” praised DeFelice. “Coach Stevens, her teams and Bentley University was a love affair that will last forever!”

Stevens, the fourth winningest coach in NCAA women’s basketball history and one of only six with at least 1,000 wins, concluded her legendary career with a 1058-291 record. It was Jan. 17, 2018 when she became the first non-Division I women’s basketball coach, and the fifth overall, to reach the 1,000-win milestone, with a 78-66 home court victory over Adelphi University.

Following seven years at Clark University (six as the head coach) and three at the University of Massachusetts, Stevens came to Bentley in 1986 and met with immediate success. Under her leadership, the Falcons started 13-0 and finished the 1986-87 season at 24-5 and reached the finals of the Northeast-8 Championship.

Bentley earned the first of five consecutive regional titles in March 1989, a five-year span in which Stevens’ teams were an amazing 156-16, including 31-9 in postseason contests. Her 1989-90 team reached the NCAA Division II national championship game and in 1993, Bentley hosted the Division II Final Four.

There was a six-year record of 173-24 from 1997-2003, and Stevens’ Falcons had another remarkable run from 2010-14 when they were 124-11 overall and 81-7 in the Northeast-10 with three Elite Eight trips.

That latter run featured an undefeated national championship campaign in 2013-14 when a come-from-behind 73-65 victory over West Texas A&M in Erie, Pa. put the finishing touches on a perfect 35-0 season.

Stevens’ career has included a dozen 30-win seasons, 20 or more victories 34 times, 33 NCAA tournament berths since 1982 (including two Final Four trips with Clark), 21 Northeast-10 regular season championships and 17 NE10 playoff titles. As Bentley’s head coach, she’s cut down the nets an incomparable 37 times!

Stevens was the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II National Coach of the Year an unprecedented five times, most recently in 2014. She’s also been recognized as the Northeast-10 Coach of the Year 16 times.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is the latest and most prestigious to call her name, but the Bridgewater State University product has also been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Bentley University, Clark University, Bridgewater State and New England Basketball halls of fame. In January 2019, the basketball court in the Dana Center was named in her honor.

“Although my decision to retire has been an extremely difficult one, I know it is the right time for me to step aside.  As I leave Bentley, I am confident that our team is poised to continue our tradition of success,” concluded the Hall of Famer.

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