Women’s Basketball | Former UConn star continuing legacy at Tufts
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, March 6, 2014 17:03
Nineteen years after she played to clinch a 35-0 season for the University of Connecticut, Carla Berube has resettled in college basketball, coaching Tufts women’s basketball team to a (near) perfect season.
“[My coach] got the most of me as a player, and helped me grow as an individual and leader, and I hope that’s what I’m helping my own players do -- build confidence, build great leaders for tomorrow,” Berube said.
As Tufts pursues its first NESCAC Championship, Coach Berube has already lead Tufts’ resounding 92-55 dismissal of Bowdoin -- who beat them in the NESCAC Championship opening round last year. Berube has helped motivate an overwhelming hunger in the Jumbos to win their first conference championship.
“It’s the number one on our goals, and it’s the only focus right now,” Berube said. “The only thing I’m thinking about is the NESCAC tournament, and never winning the NESCAC tournament is a huge deal.”
Although success has often come naturally to Coach Berube, the transition from star player at a Div. I school to NESCAC head coach has taken a while -- she began in her current position in 2002. From a packed stadium in Storrs, Conn. where fans chanted “Ber-uuuu-beee,” to relative anonymity in Cousens Gym, it took Coach Berube “a little while to figure out Tufts,” Athletic Director William Gehling said.
“But once she figured it out, she realized she is a really good fit,” Gehling added.
The tiny Tufts gym, and accompanying close-knit athletic community, has been more than enough for the long-time coach, she said.
“You’re never going to have the same degree of attention that UConn women [basketball players] get,” Berube said. “We’ll take a little piece of what we got here -- the students, or the local kids who watch us play, or the grandfathers that just really enjoy the game of basketball.”
For Berube, working at a smaller school like Tufts has not precluded her from interacting with big-time successes -- namely Colleen Hart (E ’11), arguably the most talented women’s basketball player at Tufts. Hart still holds Tufts records for most points and 3-pointers scored.
Similar to what her coach at UConn did for her, Coach Berube helped Hart build a future in basketball. Among other things, Coach Berube helped Hart secure a spot on a professional basketball team in Basel, Switzerland, where Hart was the starting point guard and averaged over 11 points per game in her one season there.
“People weren’t really searching for a five-foot guard from a Div. III school [to play professional basketball], and [Coach Berube] got me the contact for the agent, helped me train in the off-season,” Hart said. “She was really supportive, pretty much doing whatever she could to help me.”
Although people doubted Hart’s chances of playing basketball professionally, Berube said she never did.
Perched on the edge of the couch where her players, coaches and friends have gathered over the last 12 years, Coach Berube’s characteristic humble confidence is on display. Not defined by her victorious basketball statistics -- Berube remains among UConn’s top 30 scorers -- Coach Berube is now known for her prowess as a coach.
“I was bred to coach, coming from UConn,” Berube said. “It was ingrained in me that this is the way you have to teach it, this is the way you have to play it. When I’m on the court coaching I feel like it’s my niche, it’s where I feel very comfortable and feel very confident with what I’m saying.”
That confidence, and comfort in the sidelines, has developed over a decade as Coach Berube, who first took the team a 26-year old, grew with the Jumbos’ basketball program that had “room for improvement,” Gehling said.