To the Editor,
Macomb (Ill.) lost not only an outstanding coach but also a valued member of the community March 16 when Western Illinois University announced it would not renew the contract of women’s basketball coach Leslie Crane.
Sadly, in making the announcement that the Crane-era was over at Western, little was mentioned about the many successes achieved by Coach Crane during her 13-year tenure guiding the Westerwinds and Leathernecks.
We, as her supporters and friends, want to remind all fans of her numerous accomplishments and to thank Coach Crane for many exciting women’s basketball memories we have shared throughout the years.
First, Coach Crane has coached the most wins in women’s basketball history at Western. Period. In 2007-2008, she became The Summit League’s all-time winningest coach in league victories. She finished her Western coaching career currently ranked second.
Other notable highlights of Coach Crane’s career:
* Led the Westerwinds to four straight Mid-Continent Conference regular season championships (2002-03 through 2005-06).
* Named Mid-Continent Conference coach of the year three times (2002-03 through 2004-05)
* Coached the Western women to their first-ever WNIT postseason bid in 2003. Coach Crane and the Westerwinds appeared again in the WNIT in 2006.
* After her fifth season, became the first coach in Western history to record a 20-plus win season and a perfect 12-0 record in Western Hall.
* Ended the 2004-05 season with the nation’s longest Division I home-court streak (men or women) with 46 consecutive victories in Western Hall.
* Recruited and coached Zane Teilane, who became the first women’s basketball player in WIU and Mid-Continent Conference history to be drafted by the WNBA.
* Served on conference and national committees for women’s basketball, including The USA Today/ESPN Board of Coaches.
Coach Crane’s influence and presence went beyond the basketball court. She represented the athletic department at Western alumni events, spoke at various service club meetings, and attended many community functions. She could often be found at other athletic events, cheering on all Western teams. As one of the longest-serving coaches at Western, she was also a mentor to other coaches in the department.
Coach Crane was motivated to recruit quality student-athletes. She instilled in them the importance of performing well in the classroom and earning their degrees. She also stressed the value of giving back to the community, encouraging them to participate in reading programs at elementary schools, youth basketball clinics, Bowl for Kid’s Sake, and the Shaymus Relays, to mention a few. Quite simply, she prepared her student-athletes for life.
Former WIU player Doshia Woods, currently an assistant coach at Tulane, describes on Facebook the influence that Coach Crane has had on her career: “(Coach Crane) is a big reason why I coach today. She has remained a mentor, friend and ALWAYS A COACH to me! The bond developed is indescribable between a player and coach. I am fortunate to have experienced her passion and leadership for the game.”
Coach Crane should be appropriately recognized for advancing the women’s basketball program during her 13-year tenure. She deserves our thanks for her enthusiasm and commitment to Macomb and Western Illinois University.
Kathy Orban, Macomb
Kathy Veroni, Macomb
Becky Tyo, Rockford
Shelli Jennings, Macomb
Doshia Woods, New Orleans
Kim and Jim McClure, Macomb
Jeff Laurent, Macomb
Marion Blackinton, Macomb