Garry Donna had not yet taken his seat inside a tiny Indiana gymnasium in the mid 1980s when it became evident why a friend suggested he go.
Donna, a hall of fame analyst in the basketball-crazed state, watched an eighth-grader, about 6 feet or so, pull down a rebound with one hand and dribble the length of the court. The blond girl stormed past several defenders for a layup and pretended to run back on defense only to intercept the inbound pass and score again.
"I thought to myself, that must be Vicki Hall," Donna, publisher of Hoosier Basketball Magazine, recalls.
Hall, a first-year assistant coach at the University of Toledo, to this day still is on Donna’s short list of top high school players from the talent-rich state. The 1988 national player of the year, Hall went on to enjoy success at the University of Texas before embarking on a 16-year professional playing career.
"She wasn’t a good player," UT head coach Tricia Cullop, Hall’s AAU teammate, said. "She was a great player. No one outworked her. She was always in the gym."
That dogged work ethic enabled Hall to rise fast in a coaching career that got off to a late start. At 39 she landed her first assistant job at Miami University — a position in which Donna promoted her — where she spent two seasons before leaving for New Mexico. Cullop brought Hall aboard last offseason to oversee post play, awarding her the title of associate head coach.
The scouting report Hall constructed for tonight’s game against Illinois is thorough, the result of 20 hours of labor — many of them after midnight. She knows which players Toledo will face in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament are prone to taking bad shots and which are vulnerable to ball pressure. Hall also left her signature on the game plan in a first-round win over Butler.
"The hours are longer than when you’re a player," said Hall, who doubles as recruiting coordinator. "You work hard for four or five hours on your body and on your game. Here, it’s recruiting. It’s working with our kids. It’s a lot more hours."
Cullop called Hall "one of the hardest workers I’ve met," and "there was no question that was going to translate to coaching."
Hall, 43, is fiercely competitive, evidenced by Reggie Miller and his Indiana Pacers teammates inviting her to pickup games. That intensity manifests itself to the bench where Hall often looks like she is about to blow a gasket. Her players refer to her, affectionately, as the grinch.
"She’s very intense, but I love it," center Brianna Jones said. "I think the whole post group loves it."
Added Hall: "I want full-go all the time, and I expect that intensity from our players."
Donna tells another glowing story about Hall, one that blends her tireless work habits with her gift to motivate. Hall had just returned home from a season in Europe and Donna asked for a favor. A talented high school player in Indiana was gaining a reputation among college coaches as being lazy. Donna asked Hall to work out with the girl, and after an hour-and-a-half of drills one of them was lying face up on her back.
"You know what Vicki was doing? She was running sprints and shooting more," Donna said.
The next day the girl called Donna to say she had run six miles. A few years later that girl, Lauren Kenney, was a standout player at Valparaiso. Kenney can thank Hall for that, Donna said.
CULLOP HONORED: Cullop on Wednesday was named the Russell Athletic/WBCA Region 4 Coach of the Year. It is Cullop’s first such honor and makes her a finalist for the WBCA national coach of the year award.
The other NCAA Division I regional winners and national coach of the year finalists include Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame - Region 1), Brenda Frese (Maryland - Region 2), Holly Warlick (Tennessee - Region 3), Kim Mulkey (Baylor - Region 5), Coquese Washington (Penn State - Region 6), Beth Burns (San Diego State - Region 7) and Tara VanDerveer (Stanford - Region 8).
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6160 or onTwitter @AutulloBlade.