Tufts women’s basketball head coach Carla Berube has yet another accolade to add to her already impressive resume in the basketball world. She has been named the head coach of next year’s USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team. She will be assisted by Steve Gomez of Lubbock Christian University based in Lubbock, Texas and Vanessa Nygaard of Windward School in Los Angeles, Calif.
Berube has some prior experience coaching with USA Basketball, but this will be her first time as a head coach.
“Last year, I was involved with USA Basketball as a court coach. [USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director] Carol Callan had called me and asked if I would help out with the trials for the U17 team last year,” Berube said. “So I was out in Colorado Springs for five days, and then this spring I found out that the committee had selected me for the head coaching position. So it changes every year with a new head coach. It’s a two-year commitment — I’ll be the head coach of the U16 team this year and the U17 team next year. So I found out right around the beginning of April and I was really, really honored and really excited about this opportunity.”
In addition, Berube also has experience as a player for USA Basketball. In 1994, Berube was a member of the U.S. Olympic Festival East Team, where she and her team captured the bronze medal.
“This was something they did back then that they don’t do anymore, but I was mostly just with other freshmen and sophomores in college playing against each other,” Berube said of the experience. “It was pretty cool to have USA on your chest and to represent your country. That was a great experience playing against some of the best players in the country.”
This summer, the women’s U16 team will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina to compete in the 2017 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas U16 Championship from June 7 to 11. There, the team hopes to capture the gold medal as well as secure a bid for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, which requires finishing among the top-four teams.
Berube expressed her gratitude for this opportunity and what it means to her to be involved with the USA basketball youth program.
“USA Basketball is kind of the pinnacle of coaching, and you’re representing your country in the world and being able to coach some of the best 15, 16 and 17-year-olds in the world.” Berube said. “So it’s humbling, but also I am just really really looking forward to coaching. I’ve got a great staff with Steve Gomez … [whose team] won a Div. II national championship in 2016, and then Vanessa Nygaard … was a tremendous college player at Stanford and is a really successful high school coach in California.”
Coaching USA Basketball often presents roadblocks to coaches because of the very different style of coaching it requires. With rule differences with the international game and much less time to develop team chemistry, coaches must adjust their styles to succeed. Berube described how she has reached out to past mentors for help with this new endeavor.
“I’ve just reached out to a lot of coaches that I know who have been USA Basketball coaches just to get some input on what it’s like,” Berube said. “It’s a different game — there’s a 24-second shot clock, the lane is different, on an offensive rebound the shot clock goes only to 14 seconds, so there are a lot of differences.”
Tufts’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder, graduating senior Michela North, said that she could not think of anyone better to lead the team than her head coach for her four years at Tufts.
“I really enjoyed the past four years with [Berube] as head coach, and it’s pretty good that she’s been here for so long, understands how student athletes work with our schedules and everything like that. That definitely helps as a coach,” North said. “She’s also very knowledgeable about the sport. She can answer any questions about different scenarios and just apply knowledge in a very confident way that makes you trust her and believe her and want to play for her.”
North also said she was excited at the prospect of Berube garnering national recognition for her years of success at the helm of the Tufts team.
“[Now] other people get to see how great a coach we have and how lucky we are to have her, especially at a Div. III program where she could definitely go [Div. I] or [Div. II],” North said. “I think she’d be able to use her knowledge to provide that to younger players, for them to learn various skills earlier on.”
Since the U16 Championship was created by the FIBA Americas in 2009, the United States has had tremendous success, winning gold in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The women’s U16 team will look to replicate that success this summer under the new leadership, and if Berube’s accomplishments as a college coach is any indicator, it has a great chance.