HARTSVILLE, S.C. — There were, of course, numerous times during her 14-year stint as an assistant coach at Limestone University that Melissa DeVore could have taken the reins of another program.
“It had to be the right position,” she said. “Having been at Limestone for so long … I’ve turned down five or six job opportunities. And not because I wasn’t ready, but just because they’re weren’t the right fit. They didn’t feel right for whatever reason.
“(The) situation had to be a good one for me to leave.”
That “right fit” turned out to be in Hartsville as Coker University announced Tuesday that DeVore was hired to lead the women’s basketball program.
She takes over for Shannon Johnson, who resigned in August after five seasons.
“It ended up being a little bit of process,” DeVore said. “No one knew if we were going to play or not this season, and once that was settled, Coker was looking to hire. Obviously the position was something I was interested in.
“The more I learned about the new administration, the new president at Coker (Dr. Natalie Harder) and the more I chatted with (Vice President of Athletics and Athletic Facilities) Dr. (Lynn) Griffin, the more I just loved the vision and the direction the university is going.”
DeVore’s experience with a Saints program that has been among the best in the area during the last decade-plus was one of the things that stood out about her, Griffin said in statement released by the school after DeVore’s hiring.
"With the assistance of Dr. Kurt Patberg, we completed a national search for our next women's basketball coach and coach DeVore's name kept coming up," Griffin said. "The success she has had at Limestone will be instrumental in guiding our program both on and off the court. She cares about her players, not only as players, but as people, and we are excited to watch the program develop."
In 14 seasons at her alma mater, DeVore was part of a coaching staff that saw Limestone go 304-123 with seven Conference Carolinas regular-season championships, five tournament championships, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, two NCAA Southeast Regional championships and back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight from 2014-15.
The Saints also finished in the top 25 national rankings four times.
“I really like to play fast,” DeVore said. “…A lot of our success at Limestone has been playing a little bit different than everybody else. I’ve been a part of our run here and developing that system with a guard-oriented group. I foresee that being the same (at Coker).
“…In the future, that’s definitely the way I want to play. I want to run up and down and play with guards and try to score off defense.”
The new tentative South Atlantic Conference Schedule has the Cobras opening up at home on Nov. 21 against Carson-Newman, which means DeVore and her squad will have to hit the ground running as soon as they can.
But her familiarity with the competition and with the recruiting base should make things a little easier, DeVore said.
“I think that’s huge,” she said. “Even being in Conference Carolinas last year, we tried to play a handful of SAC schools in the Conference Challenge every year. You become familiar with them and the coaches, so that’s one thing that’s not so new even if a lot of other things will be new.
“…We recruit a lot some kids from South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. So that becomes beneficial as well. It will nice to become more familiar with the lower state region of S.C., but recruiting our region will be somewhat the same as well.”
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