Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 29, 2014 at 8:03 PM | Page modified June 30, 2014 at 5:20 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Stephenie Wheeler-Smith set to take on new role at Oregon

After guiding the Cleveland girls basketball to three state titles, Stephenie Wheeler-Smith is set to take on a new job as director of operations for the Oregon women’s basketball program.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
Couldn't have happened to better people. Great example for the youth they have worked with, as well as those that have... MORE

advertising

Stephenie Wheeler-Smith encourages young athletes to follow their dreams.

So when she had a chance to pursue one of hers, a most difficult choice became a little easier to make.

Stephenie and her husband, Derrick, sacrificed a multitude of securities to take a sizeable step closer to her goal of coaching college basketball as she becomes the director of operations for the University of Oregon women’s team.

Together, with Stephenie as head coach and Derrick her top assistant, they coached the Cleveland High School girls to three Class 3A state championships the past five years, including back-to-back titles in 2013 and ’14. She enjoyed a successful, nine-year career as a buyer for Boeing. He is the National Director of Youth Engagement at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, a position he must give up next month because he no longer can work out of the national office in Federal Way.

They have a 1-year-old son and a second child due in November.

When new Oregon coach Kelly Graves offered Stephenie this opportunity, there were plenty of reasons to stay, but none as compelling as the one to go — a goal etched on Stephenie’s 10-year vision board to coach in college.

“What do you want your autobiography to be about? It really comes down to living a courageous life,” Derrick said. “And that’s what we encourage our kids to do, to chase their dreams. How does it happen for you and then you don’t model what you’re always preaching to your kids?”

Cleveland players make their own vision boards, and when they came to the Wheeler-Smiths’ Skyview home for a dinner in early May, Stephenie showed them hers as she told them of her decision. No one took the news seriously at first.

“We thought we were getting punked,” said senior-to-be Jayde Christopher, who recently committed to Kansas. “Then everyone was really shocked and we all started crying.”

Eventually, they smiled for her.

“We’re all really happy for her because she’s pursuing her dream,” said Joyce Harrell, another high-profile senior expected to make her college choice in the next couple of weeks.

One big adjustment for Stephenie is that the position of director of operations is highly administrative and limits actual coaching — a definite drawback for now, she admits.

“Kelly knows I want to coach,” she said. “I will be a part of everything they do strategically and meetings and that sort of thing, but I’ll have restrictions. ... It’s a short-term sacrifice for a long-term goal, in a prominent program with some pretty amazing coaches to learn from and glean from.”

Graves, who guided Gonzaga to prominence before taking the Oregon job, has high praise for Stephenie and said she will be considered if an assistant coaching position opens on his staff.

“I’ve seen her teams play for years and always admired the talent she’s coached and the way she coaches the team,” he said. “I just love her manner and the way she works with her team. I just think it’s perfect. The way she coaches is the way everybody should coach. You can tell she has a great rapport with the team. They really respect her, they listen to her, they obviously play hard for her. She’s always kind of been on my radar.”

Graves likened the director of operations to the Chief of Staff in the Oval Office and called it a “great steppingstone” into fulltime coaching.

A big step closer to her ultimate dream.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Sports

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Career Center Blog

Career Center Blog

The power of good manners


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►