Calamity McEntire hadn’t been a Dayton Flyers assistant coach long when she watched the players receive their Atlantic 10 women’s basketball championship rings. She was sitting next to senior center Alex Harris when Harris received her prize.
“Seeing that expression on her face, I could see her going back through the year,” McEntire said. “She was like, ‘Man this is awesome.’ ”
In Shauna Green’s first season as head coach, the Flyers shared the regular-season championship with Saint Louis and then won the conference tournament. Two assistant coaches, Kayla Ard and Jeff House, departed after the season. Green hired assistant coach Ryan Gensler in April. The hiring of McEntire, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, was announced June 20.
In a short time, McEntire has made herself a part of the family. By now, the players know two fun bits of trivia about their new coach: she’s named after Calamity Jane, the famed frontierswoman, and she’s the niece of country music legend Reba McEntire.
The players are also learning why Green hired McEntire. She has an extensive background in the game and has learned from the best — literally, as her first boss was Tennessee legend Pat Summitt.
McEntire’s work on the court has already started. The entire team is on campus for the second session. They can practice two hours a week.
“We hit the ground running,” McEntire said. “Everyone, including the new players, has meshed really well. We’ve already done some team bonding stuff. We’ve been on the court together. It’s easy to gel. There are a lot of returners, and even our new players are a little older. We don’t have any true freshmen. It’s just a mature group that has got in the gym and worked. They have a reputation of caring about each other and working hard and having a lot of energy, effort and enthusiasm. That’s impressive.”
That family atmosphere drew McEntire to Dayton. She coached last season at the University of Hawaii. Prior to that, she spent four seasons at Arizona. She also coached at Boise State, UC Santa Barbara and Fresno State.
McEntire grew up on a cattle ranch in Kiowa, Oklahoma. Her great grandfather John McEntire and grandpa Clark McEntire were world champion steer ropers. Her dad Pake McEntire followed in their footsteps and also had a successful career as a country music artist until retiring from music to work on his ranch.
While McEntire’s dad and other family members still live in Oklahoma, her mom Katy, sisters Chism and Autumn and aunt Reba live in Nashville. They will have a much easier time seeing her coach in person. For the first time in her career, McEntire lives close enough to Nashville to consider visiting them for a weekend.
“They are already asking me, ‘When am I going to bring them Dayton gear?’ ” McEntire said.
McEntire expects a steady stream of visitors to UD Arena during basketball season.
“It’s going to be a problem,” she said. “A good problem to have.”
McEntire’s mom and aunt remain two of the biggest influences on her career and life.
Calamity called her mother a believer and a dreamer. That’s how Katie got the courage to take her daughter to introduce her to Summit. This happened in 2001 when they were visiting Autumn at Belmont University in Nashville.
Calamity attended Eastern Oklahoma State for two seasons and played basketball there. She wanted to get into coaching, however. One morning in Nashville, her mom helped jump start her career. They drove to visit the Tennessee campus in Knoxville.
“She said, ‘Let’s just go see if you like it. Let’s go look at the school,’ ” Calamity said. “Of course, my mom is a bold woman. She walked right into the Tennessee women’s basketball office. She said, ‘Introduce yourself.’ I met Pat’s secretary Katie. She said, ‘They’re down on the court having workouts if you want to go watch.’ We went down and watched. They came over and introduced themselves. We spoke for a little bit.”
Summitt didn’t have a position open at the time but called McEntire a few weeks later to invite her to work at a basketball camp. Then they asked her to stay as a student manager.
“Pat gave me my first opportunity,” Calamity said. “I learned so much. She made me a better woman, a better person. I strive to be a better coach every day because of her. We both coach with the same purpose. All of this is great — the facilities and the wins — but if I’m not helping these young women be better ever day, then this is nothing for me.”
McEntire’s aunt Reba has influenced her career as well. They talk every week.
“Reba is an amazing woman,” Calamity said. “She’s an amazing person. I’m proud of her. I’ve learned from her. I mean this in the most respectful way to my mother because I have an amazing mother: Reba’s like a second mom to me. It’s not like we’re distant relatives. Family is a big thing for us. And family is a big thing for Shauna.”
McEntire admired Green from afar long before she got a job at Dayton. They often crossed paths on the recruiting trail.
“As a recruiting coordinator, you kind of know of who has a reputation of being really good,” McEntire said, “and Shauna has always had that reputation of being a worker, a grinder, someone who builds great relationships with players and has great relationships with all these guys and women out on the AAU circuit.”