(5) Diane Ninemire
Coaches come and go in college sports... even the legends can be temporal. But Diane Ninemire transcends all of that, to the tune of 28 years as Cal Softball's Head Coach, more than 1,200 career victories (one of only eight coaches in the history of NCAA Softball to reach that milestone), more than 11 College World Series appearances, and one national title. All of the above at Cal.
But for the players she coached and mentored, Ninemire means more than just the numbers and the victories. She is a mother figure to 28 years of student-athletes.It is a bond she forged through her partnership with her own mentor and predecessor, Head Coach Donna Terry.
Sean Wagner-McGough of the Daily Californian explains:
In 2002, Ninemire's attention to detail and work ethic paid off when Cal won its first Women's College World Series. But she hasn't built her program by being a drill sergeant like her former boss. The first time Cheyenne Cordes, Cal's junior shortstop, met Ninemire, she couldn't believe how funny she was.
"You expect these college coaches to be super evil because they have these great programs, and in the back of your mind you're wondering how they got here," Cordes says. "But coach is the exact opposite of that. If you take the time to get to know her on a personal level, she'll invest her time into you."
The game has changed since her days spent catching Terry's fastballs in the dimly lit basement of Hearst Gym. Softball season doesn't end in summer anymore. Now, she's working year round. She vacations in Hawaii once a year, but she can't turn off her phone in case someone needs her. She lives on a golf course, but her golf cart sits idle in her garage. When she goes home after a day spent at the Simpson Center and Levine-Fricke Field, she watches film, looking to gain an edge on her adversaries.
"You're kind of married to your job," Ninemire says. "There is no downtime. I never feel like I can walk away from this job anymore and not have it in the back of mind."
Ninemire's happy, insisting that when her passion is gone, she'll step down. She doesn't know when that day will come, but when it does, she'll walk away. But for now, the passion is still there — it still runs deep.
"I have a lot of heart and passion for what I do," Ninemire says. "I always tell people what I do here at Cal is not a job. This is purely being in recess."
(12) Allen Crabbe
norcalnick describes Crabbe's development in our Remembering the Seniors post:
In terms of nebulous descriptions of a player's ability, I thought Crabbe made the transition from 'shooter' to 'scorer' as a junior. His reputation always started with his ability to hit 3s, but it should be noted that Crabbe's 3 point percentage was relatively pedestrian this year at 35%, not even in the top 15 in the conference. I would guess that Crabbe could have shot a higher percentage, but when you're the undisputed go-to-guy on offense, you're probably going to be putting up more low quality shots with defenders draped all over you.
And that's what really impressed me about Allen Crabbe. Here's a quick, simple chart that distills his development as a player:
Freshman Sophomore Junior Usage rate 18.4 21.4 25.4 Offensive efficiency 111.5 112.1 108.7
He was able to maintain his offensive efficiency despite increasingly taking a much larger role within the offense. In the Pac-12, only 7 players had a higher usage rate than Crabbe, and only one of those players had a higher efficiency (Roberto Nelson). If Crabbe shot closer to 40% from behind the arc, as he did as a freshman and sophomore, he probably places above Nelson anyway. Plenty of players carried the burden for their team on offense - few did it better than Allen.
He managed to stay so efficient despite 3 point percentage variance by doing everything else a bit better. He was better getting to the basket, he converted his shots inside the arc at a much higher rate, he drew more fouls, and he became a better passer. The rest of the Pac-12 should be very thankful he decided to head to the NBA.