Crane: Allen has much to offer as she returns home to coach

Long-time basketball coach Leslie Crane speaks about her excitement to get back onto the sidelines. After taking a year off because of the COVID-pandemic, Crane is resuming her coaching career in a familiar place — her alma mater Allen Community College.

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June 11, 2021 - 1:24 PM

Leslie Crane, shown coaching a game from 2014, is headed to her alma mater Allen Community College to take the helm of the women's basketball program. Register file photo

Leslie Crane, like her father before her, has always been a teacher.

Her classroom just happens to be a basketball court.

Crane, an Iola native who has thrived at several coaching stops in her career, is returning to Allen Community College — her alma mater — to resume her coaching career.

She took a one-year hiatus because of COVID-19, “as precautions for my parents, more than anything else,” she said, and is eager to get back onto the sidelines.

That it’s at Allen is even better.

“This is home,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to get back to my alma mater. I have great memories of Allen County, running around the halls, and playing in the gym.”

If the Crane name sounds familiar, it should. 

Small-town America is great. All I have to do is get kids sold on the phone. Once they come to Iola and see the college, it sells itself.Leslie Crane

Leslie’s father, Neil, coached the men’s team to some of its greatest heights from 1975 to 1990.

He retired at just about the time his daughter started making her name in the college coaching ranks.

After a standout playing career in Iola, Allen and then Arkansas State, Crane coached at Turner and Circle high schools before taking over a moribund Kansas City Kansas Community College program.

Before she arrived, the Blue Devil program was riding a 47-game conference losing streak.

She quickly established a new environment on and off the court. She led KCK to 117 wins over four years, and had the Blue Devils nationally ranked in her final three years at the school.

She went from there to work as a recruiting coordinator for the University of Missouri women’s basketball program before signing on to lead the Western Illinois University program.

There, she became the winningest women’s coach in WIU history, as well as the NCAA’s Summit League before her departure in 2011.

Crane then took over at Independence Community College, winning 115 games over a seven-year period before stepping away last summer.

Leslie has been away from Iola for a while, she admits.

“A lot of new people may not even know I belong to Neil and Roberta Crane,” she laughed.

It’s a connection she hopes to stress once again in the community.

BUT FIRST is a whirlwind summer. 

In the days since her hiring, Crane has been reaching out to all 12 Allen players signed for next season to introduce herself, and to discuss her expectations as coach, and to go over summer conditioning programs.

And then there’s the matter of finding an assistant coach.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film the last couple of days,” she said. “I’m still trying to get my bearings straight.”

Allen has much to sell for young athletes, Crane notes.

“This college has great facilities, and has great living options for the students,” she said. “It has great academic opportunities as well. It really leads to a multitude of kids coming in, where they can start here and grow.”

She cherishes the opportunity to get students on campus, which Crane says, will do much of her recruiting for her.

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