Girls Basketball: North Shore picks champion for its open coaching position
Glenbrook South legend Dana Leonard, who was recently named the North Shore Country Day girls basketball coach, demonstrates an exercise to her beach fitness class at Tower Beach. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:50AM
Every kid who picks up a basketball has the same dream.
The game is on the line. The ball is in your hands. You take the shot and it falls to win the championship. You are mobbed and a hero for the rest of your life.
It’s March 5, 1994, and defending state champion Marshall takes a three-point lead to halftime over Glenbrook South. It was close during the second half of this Class AA state championship game. At the end, a freshman stepped up and buried a three-pointer to dethrone Marshall and secure a state title for the Titans.
The freshman’s name: Dana Leonard.
“That shot put me on the map,’’ Leonard said.
And 18 years later, this member of the IHSA Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame will bring her hoops wisdom to North Shore Country Day as the new girls basketball coach.
“We have a real commitment to finding strong coaches here,’’ said North Shore athletic director Patrick McHugh. “And it was nice that Dana showed interest in our program. She brings in enthusiasm and that’s something that’s really contagious about her.”
The timing was perfect. North Shore had a first-year coach last winter in Maggie Scannell, but she headed back east with her husband and that created an opening in Winnetka.
Leonard will still keep her day job teaching basketball, but this new position is right down her alley.
“It’s a perfect fit,’’ she said. “I’m excited about this.”
At least the North Shore girls basketball team will get to hear some interesting hoops stories when she arrives for practice. Glenbrook South’s all-time leading scorer (2,461 points) admits to this day that if Libertyville didn’t upset unbeaten Stevenson in a sectional final game, her fairy tale would never have happened.
“We were on the bus when we heard Stevenson lost,’’ Leonard said. “Our eyes all lit up. I remember this stuff to this day.’’
South stopped Libertyville 85-75 to earn a trip to the state tournament. The final regular season poll listed Stevenson as the top team in the state. Libertyville was ranked seventh and Leonard’s club was 12th.
“Even when I was going to college (Northwestern), I realized how special our team was,’’ she said.
After dropping Joliet 52-40 to open play in the Elite Eight, Glenbrook South topped Mother McAuley 60-54 behind 16 points from Leonard. In the title game, Marshall, a club that won three state titles in the 90s, took a five-point lead to the fourth quarter. This freshman hit four three-pointers on the way to a game-high 22 points and the state title went to back to Glenview, 67-62.
North Shore is getting a well-traveled coach and trainer for this job. She has taught her favorite sport at Joy of the Game and New Trier feeder and served an assistant coach at powerhouse Fenwick. She also taught the second-graders at North Shore Country Day.
“What great people,’’ she said. “They must have liked me.”
A year ago, the Raiders posted a winning record at 10-8.
“Dana will have a lot of young and talented players,’’ McHugh said. “We have a pretty good group of eighth graders.”