Caroline McCombs (right) was introduced on Friday as the Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s new head coach at the Goldstein Family Student-Athlete Development Center. (PHOTO CREDIT: STONY BROOK ATHLETICS)

Over the past few seasons, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team has developed a core group of players that has turned them into one of the major contenders in the America East. And on Thursday, the program hired a new head coach, Caroline McCombs, who they believe can help those players take the next step in their development and lead them to win a conference championship.

“I think she’s absolutely the final piece of the puzzle,” Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said. “We have every confidence that with her as our women’s basketball coach that we will be able to hang many banners, and compete for America East titles on an every year basis. ”

On Friday morning, McCombs was officially introduced as the team’s new head coach, marking the first major move of Heilbron’s tenure at Stony Brook. She replaces Beth O’Boyle, who resigned from the position back on April 28 to take a head coaching job at VCU.

McCombs has 15 years of experience as an assistant coach at the Division I level and has worked the past two seasons as a part of Auburn’s women’s basketball team’s coaching staff. She brings a winning pedigree along with her as teams that she has coached have qualified for the NCAA Tournament or WNIT 11 times.

“We were looking for someone with a proven background,” Heilbron said. “Someone who has been a part of winning and successful programs, and also someone who understood the culture we’re trying to create at Stony Brook.”

The Seawolves are coming off a season in which they won 24 games and received a bid in the WNIT. McCombs is still learning about her new squad, but seemed excited about the talent that is already in place.

“We’re returning 53 points a game,” McCombs said. “We have three signees coming in, and two players who were redshirted last year. So I have five new players to work with, along with a really good core.”

McCombs also said that the things the club has accomplished over the past few seasons are part of what made the Stony Brook coaching position an attractive job.

“The women’s basketball program has been successful,” she said. “It always helps to go to war with some bullets in your gun.”

One major thing McCombs will emphasize with her new group of players is becoming a tough defensive-minded team. Last year, SBU allowed 60.5 points per contest, good for the third lowest total in the America East conference.

“We’re really gonna try and get after things on the defensive end,” McCombs said. “We’re gonna try and create some havoc and give us opportunities to score from our defense.”

If the Seawolves are ready to take the next step they will likely have to go through rival Albany, who has been a powerhouse in the America East in recent years. In March, Stony Brook had their season ended by the Great Danes in the conference championship game.

“You gotta respect them,” McCombs said. “They’ve done a really good job of building the program. You take one game at a time. I’m not gonna blow Albany up anymore than anyone else on the schedule. We’re gonna take everyone that we play against and treat them all the same.”

McCombs was not ready to make any bold statements about beating rival Albany on Friday. But, one thing she was not shy about was discussing her ultimate goal for the program.

“We want to compete for championships,” McCombs said. “That’s why they brought me here, and that’s what the goal is.”

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