SCRANTON, Pa. — In a career that included 815 victories, eight semifinal appearances and an NCAA Division III national title, Mike Strong accomplished pretty much everything one could hope to as the head women’s basketball coach at Scranton. On Wednesday afternoon, he put a cap on his storied career by announcing his retirement, effective Friday, Sept.
“I appreciate all of the help of the administration here at the university, my assistant coaches and, of course, the kids who played for me,” Strong said. “The University of Scranton is a great institution and I’m thankful that they gave me the opportunity to work here for 43 years.
“I’ve had an awfully good run, well beyond my wildest expectations. And now I wanted to make sure that I go out on a high note.”
Strong served the university for more than four decades in numerous capacities, and leaves a lasting impression throughout campus.
“Mike Strong has been an integral part of the rich history and tradition of Royal and Lady Royal athletics during his distinguished 43-year career here at the University,” Scranton President Kevin P. Quinn said. “He played a major role in the men’s basketball team’s NCAA title as an assistant coach in 1976 and built our women’s basketball program into a widely-recognized program that culminated with a national championship in 1985, just five years after he took over as head coach. He has diligently served The University of Scranton community in countless ways as a coach, faculty member, mentor and friend, and his dedication, compassion and love for others has greatly enhanced all those whose lives he’s touched.”
Toby Lovecchio, Director of Athletics, announced that former Lady Royals standout and former assistant coach Deanna (Kyle) Klingman has been named interim head coach for the 2014-15 season.
“I’m very grateful and deeply appreciative for the dedication and hard work Mike has put in to develop our student-athletes into successful young women, both on and off the court,” Lovecchio said. “Mike built our women’s basketball program into a national power by recruiting the type of student-athlete who thrives at Scranton by embracing the ideals of a Jesuit institution. His development of those student-athletes is why his teams were so successful on the court, and why his players have gone on to be successful after their time here at The University of Scranton.”
After three years as head men’s basketball coach and head men’s soccer coach at nearby Keystone Junior College (now Keystone College), Strong began his career at the university in 1972 as an assistant coach on the men’s basketball team under then-head coach Bob Bessoir, including helping the Royals win the national title in 1976. In 1979, he took over the Lady Royals and never looked back.
“I got some good breaks along the way,” Strong said. “Dr. Michael Mould first hired me at Keystone, and then Bob Bessoir brought me here. And then when I went into women’s basketball here, it was already a good team.”
In 34 seasons as the Lady Royals’ head coach, Strong accomplished things nobody else has. He is the all-time leader in career victories in NCAA Division III women’s basketball history with 815. He set the record on Dec. 17, 2011, with his 789th career victory, a 46-43 win against Cabrini in Radnor, Pennsylvania. He is also the only women’s coach in NCAA Division III history and only the second in all of NCAA Division III to win 800 games. He retires with an overall record of 815-182 (.817).
Remarkably, Strong led the Lady Royals to at least 20 wins in 19 of the last 22 seasons and 26 times overall. Those accomplishments pale in comparison to his NCAA Division III championship in 1985 or his seven other teams that reached the Final Four (1987, ’93, ’97, ’99, 2000, ’05, ’06), not to mention a semifinal appearance in the now defunct Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national tournament in his first season in 1980.
Overall, he has led Scranton to 26 NCAA tournament appearances, to 16 of the Lady Royals’ 19 Middle Atlantic/Freedom Conference titles, and three Landmark Conference championships (2008, 2009, 2014). He’s never had a losing season, and the fewest victories he’s ever posted in a year were 16.