Ex-Vanderbilt coach Balcomb joins Staley at South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Melanie Balcomb discovered quickly after her tenure as Vanderbilt's women's basketball coach ended that she needed to get back into the game – and fast.

''I found out early in the process that I'm not a stay-at-home mom,'' said Balcomb, the 53-year-old mother of two preschoolers. ''I started thinking about what I could do, what I should do to stay relevant.''

Three months since her dismissal after 14 seasons at Vanderbilt, Balcomb joined coach Dawn Staley's program at South Carolina as an offensive, analytics consultant. The position, director of coaching offensive analytics, is for one season.

''We'll see how it goes after that,'' Balcomb said Monday.

Balcomb felt her relationship with Vanderbilt fading the past couple of seasons. She had led the Commodores to 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances since taking that job in 2002-03 before missing the field the past two years. Her only three losing marks in the Southeastern Conference came the past three seasons. Balcomb did not want to get into details about her dismissal, saying only: ''It was time.''

She wasn't sure what direction to take. She wanted to be home more for 5-year-old son Quincy and 4-year-old daughter Aleya and did not want the traveling another coaching position, head or assistant, might mean with recruiting.

She considered TV – ''I'm pretty candid about stuff,'' she said – with some colleagues and friends telling Balcomb she could be the Charles Barkley of the women's game if she stepped in as a game or studio analyst.

Balcomb believes there will be time for that later.

Almost as soon as she lost her job, Balcomb got offers to join programs as a consultant. Minnesota asked if she'd consider consulting on defense, but that side of the game didn't excite her. It was offense where she wanted to impact the game and found a like-minded coach in Staley, who remodeled the point guard position during her Hall-of-Fame playing career.

For Staley, hiring Balcomb was a no-brainer after competing against her as coaching rivals both in the Atlantic 10 coaching rivals for two years (Balcomb at Xavier, Staley at Temple) and then for the last eight seasons in the SEC.

''There is always room to grow professionally,'' Staley said.

Balcomb believes that, too. She expects to grow from her time around Staley, assistants Lisa Boyer, Nikki McCray-Penson and Fred Chmiel.

Balcomb's new job will keep her at home during the season, something she wanted.

What won't change is Balcomb's instincts. She said she won't step on any toes, yet understands there will be moments she'll want to frantically blow a whistle to stop practice or shout out instructions during a game when something breaks down – and must restrain herself.

Balcomb won't coach on the floor during games and is unsure if she's allowed a spot on the bench this fall. Still, she's is excited about what's ahead and seeing if her time at South Carolina can be a templet for other long-term coaches seeking to stay in the game.

''Everybody said `What's next? What's your next chapter?''' said Balcomb, who'd like to be a head coach again. ''I don't think I could've planned this better.''