Dave Sweet Stepping Down as Women’s BBALL Coach
May 2, 2012
There’s a reason why Dave Sweet is the winningest women’s basketball coach in Keuka College history.
Sweet, who has also served as Keuka’s athletic director since 1984, has a knack for finding talented high school players, bringing them to Keuka Park and transforming them into hard-working and productive student-athletes, both on the basketball court and in the classroom.
His nose for talent doesn’t stop with his players, though. Sweet hired Katie Marcella, a wide-eyed 22-year-old assistant coach, back in 2008, hoping to develop another young talent to assist him on the sidelines.
Four years later, Sweet, the longest-tenured women’s basketball coach in Keuka’s history, is stepping down and turning over the program to Marcella, and he’s confident in Marcella’s ability to continue the strong tradition Sweet and his players have cultivated on campus.
“It’s a difficult decision for me, only because I’ve been coaching for such a long time, and I really do enjoy coaching basketball and working with the type of student-athletes we have at Keuka,” said Sweet, who compiled an impressive 179-97 record (.649 winning percentage) in 12 years leading the Green and Gold.
“There have certainly been many more highlights than lowlights in my career, so that’s been fun. But I think Katie is ready to step up and take over the women’s basketball program. We would be doing a disservice to the College if we didn’t allow her to step into that role. She did a great job leading this team during the second semester and you could see the signs that it was time for her to step into the head chair.”
Sweet will still serve as the athletic director for Keuka, overseeing the Storm’s 16 sports teams, a number Sweet helped grow by pushing for women’s golf, which recently completed its first season, and men’s volleyball, which will begin play this fall.
“I don’t want to lose my ability to work with our student-athletes,” Sweet said. “My number one role as director of athletics is to set the tone and the direction of the department as a whole, but because I was coaching, especially a sport that’s spread over two semesters, it was difficult for me to support my coaches. Now I will have more time to support and help them and make their programs better, which in turn helps our student-athletes.”
Sweet’s final game as coach came at the end of the fall semester, Dec. 10, 2011, when he guided Keuka past SUNY Cobleskill 62-37 in the final game of the semester.
In late-December, Sweet underwent full hip replacement surgery and turned the coaching reigns over to Marcella, who was a four-year starter and two-time captain for Brockport while being named to the All-State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) second team as a junior and first team as senior.
It wasn’t the first time Marcella stepped in and assumed coaching duties for Sweet, but it was her most substantial stint, as Marcella coached Keuka to a 15-5 record, a North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) postseason championship and the Storm’s fourth trip to the NCAA tournament in six seasons.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity as my first full-time coaching gig, being only 26 years old,” said Marcella, who also coaches Keuka’s men’s and women’s cross country squads.
“It’s a good feeling. Dave let me step into that coaching role this year, and it was a nice season for us and for myself. Now, having that official head coach title is pretty exciting and I am looking forward to seeing this program continue to grow.”
Under Marcella’s watch, Keuka rattled off nine straight wins to capture the NEAC tournament, relying on some dramatic, come-from-behind wins to advance into the NCAA’s.
Keuka trailed by double-digits in each of its three NEAC games, including a 16-point halftime deficit in the NEAC title game at SUNYIT, but each time, Keuka stormed back to win.
Facing the No. 7 ranked University of Mary Washington in the first-round of the NCAA’s, Keuka fell behind 27-6 at halftime but dominated the second half and had a chance to tie the game late in regulation before falling, 35-32. It was the closest loss of Keuka’s four NCAA appearances.
Sweet’s teams were known for their aggressive defensive, often ranking among the top schools in the country in fewest points allowed, and for their workman-like attitude. While Marcella has developed her own coaching style, she said she plans on continuing the same effective defensive and offensive systems that Sweet installed.
“Dave has built a very successful program and he’s given me that background on how to be successful and how to win at this level,” Marcella said. “Dave has basically been a coaching mentor to me and I feel comfortable going to him when I feel like I need advice. He was always willing to help and I see that continuing.”
While Sweet said he will miss the challenges of coaching a competitive and accomplished Division III program, forming those special bonds with the student-athletes, he admits the timing is perfect to step down and give a talented young coach her shot.
“I would hope this wouldn’t be a hard transition, especially because Katie has been in the program for four years and the student-athletes have really responded to her,” said Sweet, who counts Keuka’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA’s during the 2006-07 season among his proudest coaching moments.
“You couldn’t ask for a better transition time for me to turn this over to her after she’s already been in the coaching chair running the team for a while. It should be a real smooth transition.”