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University Profiles - Teamwork the Key for Alfano, Hokies

By Jessie Hensley, University Relations intern

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 20 - February 16, 1995

Rushing around her office before flying to a game at Tulane University, women's basketball head coach Carol Alfano was supposed to be talking about herself, but she was much more interested in talking about the team.

And well she should. The Hokies have been making progress in leaps and bounds, peaking in last year's competition by taking the 1994 Metro Tournament Championship.

But they couldn't have done it without Alfano. Since she joined the staff 17 years ago, Alfano has displayed her coaching skills by fielding competitive Hokie squads. And though she says she doesn't enjoy administration, she's also concentrated on improving the support structure of the women's basketball program.

Last year the Hokies won 25 consecutive home games in a two-year span with the support of the Diamond Club, the team's own booster organization, and the Kid Force, a club for area youth. Both organizations were formed by Alfano. "Things are so much different now...it's light years apart from what it was then," Alfano says of the athletic department now, as compared to when she started. She cited improvements in commitment, support, and funding from the department.

"I've seen a lot of changes, more so than others because I've been here so long," she says. "(There have been) ups and downs. Now we're very much on an up-swing."

A supportive athletic department, skillful coach, and record-setting team came together in 1994 to produce the best year Virginia Tech women's basketball has ever had. The Hokies won the Lady Waves Tournament at Pepperdine University, and captured the Diamond Club Classic at Virginia Tech.

A stronger team and improved budget have resulted in invitations to better tournaments. The Hokies have been invited to go to Hawaii in December 1996. Alfano says improved community recognition can have a nourishing effect on the team. "Everyone seems to be aware of us and excited about us," Alfano says. "I guess it's flattering right now to receive all the attention."

In the face of all this admiration, Alfano reminds her players to keep their cool and understand they are role models. "You'd be surprised how many little kids know who (the players) are."

Alfano not only coaches the women on the team, she counsels them as well. "We're a close-knit group," she says. "They know they can come in any time."

Alfano says mutual respect is important on the team, because they have to work closely for most of the year. "They're pretty focused from November to March." The team has a Friday curfew to prepare them for Saturday games, and are required to go to every class. Their attendance is monitored closely. "Other kids can sleep in" Alfano says, but not the women's basketball team. "They live a tough life," she says, but "the trade-offs are worth it. They're all on full basketball scholarships."

Alfano emphasized, however, that the scholarships shouldn't be equated with a free ride. "They work hard. It's a job."

Alfano did provide one look into her innermost thoughts, although we could have guessed. She said she enjoys coaching. "Coaching is teaching," she says.

Alfano started out as a high-school teacher in New Jersey, her native state. She started the girls' basketball program there, and her last two squads posted a combined 34-7 record. She moved on to Appalachian State University in 1975. There she earned a master's degree in sports administration and helped the Lady Apps finish second in the state of North Carolina.

Alfano's next challenge was Pasadena City College in California, where the team was only 3-17. After a year with Alfano, Pasadena was 14-6 and posted a second-place finish in the Metropolitan Conference.

The next season, Alfano was head coach at Virginia Tech. Seventeen years later, she is still here. "Virginia Tech is my home now."

She says, "I'd love to achieve a milestone, to coach 20 years. I love interacting with the players, I enjoy being in the gym."

In her limited free time, Alfano also enjoys going to the beach and visiting Tech's golf course. "I have two seasons," she says, "basketball and golf."

But basketball is definitely the longer season. May is the only down time before summer practice begins.

"May is a great time," she says with a smile.