Ex-Greenwave star leads Miles College
Liz Lewis always wanted to coach when the time was right to hang up her basketball playing shoes.
The ex-Greenwave three-sport star continued her basketball career on the college level at two different schools before transitioning into coaching. After three years of being an assistant coach, the 2005 Fallon grad landed her first head coaching position when she was selected to lead Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont.
“Coaching has always been a dream of mine after my playing career was finished,” Lewis said. “I love the game of basketball and developing student-athletes. I still play once in a while but not as often as I would like.”
Lewis dominated every sports season while in Fallon, from playing soccer and volleyball in the fall to basketball in the winter and then softball in the spring. But her love was on the basketball court as she helped former coach Chelle Dallager’s teams. Fallon made it to the state tournament in the former 4A in 2003 and then reached the postseason again during her senior season. The Greenwave were nicknamed the “Cardiac Kids” during the 2004-2005 season as Fallon pulled off numerous comebacks despite falling short against North Valleys in the regional playoff eight years ago.
That experience led to Lewis playing for four seasons in college before taking three different coaching jobs followed by her first-ever head coaching position. While Lewis is starting at the bottom of the basketball totem pole, she wants to make her way up to a four-year school, but it doesn’t have to be Division I.
“My long-term goals don’t necessarily include coaching at the Division I level,” she said. “In the near future, I hope to make the jump to a four-year program. My goal is to be the best coach I can by helping my student-athletes reach their full potential on and off the court.”
Lewis’ experience in the fast-paced sport has helped Miles College blossom to a winning record after beginning the season last month. Lewis hopes to keep momentum going this season while building the program to become a regular contender in the Region IX conference.
“This season we are working toward finishing in the top half of the conference,” Lewis said. “We have a very young team that works harder than any group of girls I’ve seen. Our goal is to get better every time we step into the gym and to never accept anything less than our best effort.”
Lewis’ college career began at Dixie State, a Division II school in St. George, Utah, for two seasons before she transferred to Rocky Mountain College of the NAIA in Billings, Mont. Lewis was one of the conference’s best guards and attracted the attention of a Greenwave alum, Shawn Nelson, who was coaching at Carroll College.
“I believe that playing basketball has helped me with coaching,” Lewis added. “By playing basketball for many years, I can relate with my players and understand some of the struggles they will face. As a player, I really enjoyed playing the point guard position and being the leader on the floor. I believe this position helped prepare me for coaching.”
But playing the game wasn’t the only thing that helped Lewis become a coach. Lewis has read many of ex-UCLA coach John Wooden’s books and philosophies, while also keeping a keen eye on Pat Summit’s tenure at Tennessee. She also added that her former Greenwave coaches — Caryn Marshall, Anne Smith and Lance Lattin — helped point her in the right direction.
“I’ve read many of his books and enjoy watching documentaries on his coaching legacy,” she said.
After Lewis spent a year as a student assistant coach at Rocky Mountain, Nelson lured Lewis to Central Washington, a Division II school in Ellensburg. Lewis worked on her Master’s degree before moving back to Montana for another coaching opportunity at Montana State-Northern in 2012.
Switching roles from player to coach wasn’t as smooth as Lewis expected. But after gaining experience at both the NAIA and Division II levels, she looks forward to overcoming the challenges at Miles and seeing the results both on and off the court.
“The transition from playing to coaching was more difficult than I thought it would be. However, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone to succeed,” Lewis added.