By Enrique Cervantes
From practice every day to making sure her students stay academically sound to home and away games, women’s basketball head coach Danelle Bishop is always on the go. After notching her 100th career win at Cal Poly Pomona, Coach Bishop sat down with The Poly Post to discuss her love of the game, her coaching career, the 100th win and what it means to be a Bronco. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Poly Post: How did you get into coaching?
Danelle Bishop: Well, my dad coached me in high school, and I pretty much grew up watching him coach. He used to coach boys and then the girls’ side, starting my freshmen year. I just loved the game and was passionate about it, and I think my dad was a huge influence in my life on that. I just understood the game really well.
PP: So from the get go, it was basketball.
DB: I grew up playing little league. They didn’t have the girls’ teams, so I played on an all-boys team. In high school, I was an all-sport athlete. I played golf, track, swimming, all that. Basketball was my main love and passion, which I’m sure was influenced by my dad.
PP: Did you know coaching could be your career?
DB: It was what I wanted to do from high school. I wanted to be a coach [or a] sports agent, and then I realized how many years I would have to go to law school. I started with coaching, and I loved it.
PP: What drew you to Cal Poly Pomona?
DB: There was an opening, and of course everybody knows the history of Division II women’s basketball. You think of Cal Poly Pomona and the excellence that it portrays. It was pretty much a no-brainer to at least apply and go from there.
I’m very grateful that they chose me. We’ve had some great players that bought into our system quickly, and we were very successful.
PP: Speaking of success, you’ve always been successful. You were the first coach to post consecutive winning seasons at Cal Baptist in 17 years. You had four straight winning seasons at Azusa Pacific, and you took CPP to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2002. What do you feel like you bring to make that immediate success?
DB: A huge part is that we try to be servant leaders. Ultimately we’re here for the players, and that’s our goal. We try to serve them and be there for them. We build relationships with them.
We’re firm believers of the saying, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
I think when people know you care, they work harder for you.
Our girls work hard for each other. They care about the program. They work hard. They’re relentless.
CPP: Is relentlessness something they bring, or something you can coach?
DB: That’s our key focus word that they came up with. They want to be relentless on the floor, off the floor, on offense and on defense. That’s hard to do for 40 minutes, and when we always have that red target on our back.
We’re not in first place in the conference, and we still have that target on our back because we’re Cal Poly Pomona. They know they have to be relentless on both ends of the court to be successful. We’ve done a good job at that so far.
CPP: Just over the weekend, you got your 100th career win. How did that feel?
DB: I was happy we won. You know, credit to the players that we’ve had and the hard work that they put into it, as well as pretty amazing assistant coaches. It’s a team effort; it’s not me. It’s everybody. I guess you can say it feels good. But I expect to win. That’s what I’ve done in my career.
CPP: You have had key players over the years: J.J Judge, Ariel Marsh, Jada Blackwell, Ashley Lovett and Mary Williams. What’s it like having those players? Does it make it easier to coach?
DB: Definitely. I think we have several players on our team that could start on other teams. They’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for the glory and success of the team. You don’t find that very often. They’re just great to have. They’re hard workers, great people. It makes it a lot more enjoyable.
PP: Last year, the team made it to the Final Four and had that hard loss to Bentley. What was going through your mind at the end of the season?
DB: We had an opportunity to win that game. Jada got in early foul trouble, and Bentley was obviously a very good team. One thing it did was give our players confidence that they could play with anybody. It also gave them a taste of success and what it takes.
It’s a surreal feeling. It happens really quickly. You’re on lack-of-sleep mode playing conference games, conference tournaments, traveling on the road, borrowing heavy coats. It’s something amazing that you cherish, and our players deserved it.
PP: What’s been your favorite memory so far at CPP?
DB: Probably cutting down the nets after the Sweet 16 my first year here. That group had been through a couple of coaching changes. I think Reyana [Colson], my assistant, went through three coaching changes. On paper, looking at us, we probably shouldn’t have been there. Just to see them overcome those obstacles and be successful was a surreal moment.
PP: What does it mean to you to be a Bronco?
DB: Pride, excellence, tradition and humbleness, if I had to sum it up in four words. I think more than anytime since I’ve been here, it’s truly a great time to be a Bronco. It truly feels like that coming into work every day.
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