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William S. Paxton: In spotlight moment after 400th win, SHU's Swanson defers to players

Updated 12:34 am, Thursday, February 14, 2013
  • Sacred Heart women's basketball coach Ed Swanson. Photo: Brian A. Pounds, ST / Connecticut Post

    Sacred Heart women's basketball coach Ed Swanson.

    Photo: Brian A. Pounds, ST

 

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Ed Swanson joined elite company Monday night with his 400th career victory, but the milestone achievement is not about to affect the way the longtime Sacred Heart women's basketball coach is living.

When he woke up Wednesday morning, Swanson's wife, Marion, gave him the perfect gift -- spending the morning with their two young sons, Connor and Matthew, since school was closed again -- before he headed to work.

"I've just been around for a while, I guess," Swanson joked once he finally rolled into the office around noon about win No. 400.

The 400-win club still makes him a rookie in this state with former UConn men's coach Jim Calhoun retiring with 873 wins, UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma at 827 and the guy who works across the hall from Swanson, SHU men's coach Dave Bike, at 529. Plus, Fairfield women's coach Joe Frager joined the 300-win club already this season.

"It's a pretty good state to be in," Swanson said. "You look around the state and there's so many great basketball coaches. ... I'm just trying to keep up with the state, I guess."

Swanson went from 300 (Dec. 8, 2008) to 400 wins at almost an Auriemma-like pace while reaching two NCAA tournaments along the way.

"Look at the players I've had over that stretch, like Amanda Pape and then Kaitlin Sowinski and Alisa Apo to Callan Taylor -- it makes it a little bit easier to get from 300 to 400 when you have those types of players," Swanson said.

Pape actually graduated before Swanson even reached No. 300, but the Stamford native was part of the first of the coach's three NCAA appearances and helped pile up plenty of wins before she left.

But even in his spotlight moment, Swanson deferred attention to his players. He raved about what a great senior season the Pioneers are getting from Kiley Evans, who scored 21 points in the 80-48 win over Fairleigh Dickinson Tuesday night, and how proud he is of the team's seven-game winning streak after a 1-3 start in Northeast Conference play.

"It's a players' game and they deserve a lot of the credit," said Swanson, who is a four-time NEC Coach of the Year. "Some of these coaches who compile a lot of numbers, when you dig a little deeper, you find it starts right with the players, the staff and the administration that gives you the resources to get to 400 wins."

The man who took over a tiny NCAA Division II program in 1990, and actually coached on Bike's staff in addition to running the women's program for three years before the job became full-time in 1993, deserves plenty of credit as well.

Under Swanson's guidance, the Pioneers have moved up to D-I, won four conference titles, reached three NCAA tournaments, and produced three NEC players of the year and four rookies of the year. They have also never finished lower than third in the NEC or missed the conference tournament.

And at age 46, Swanson should be around awhile to add to that resume, too.

"I guess," Swanson said, with a chuckle, about another 20-year run at SHU. "I never set out saying I want to get this many wins, I just enjoy what I am doing and coach the game I love.

"It's just great that you can work in a place where you can attract people to reach milestones like that."

wpaxton@ctpost.com; @wspaxton

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