Monday, August 1, 2011

Old Dominion's Celeste Hill Brockett reflects on moving on

Her heart is heavy.

Former Old Dominion assistant coach Celeste Hill Brockett has the U-haul packed and pointed toward Covington, Ky. -- home. But ODU is home, too. The Lady Monarchs are home. When you accept a job with Wendy Larry, it doesn't occur to you that you might be leaving sooner than you'd like.

Larry, who earned her 600th career win in January, resigned from Old Dominion after 25 years as head coach in May. Larry had one year remaining on her contract and was not offered an extension.

The word Hill Brockett keeps coming back to: sad

"It's sad," she said. "That's what's in my heart: sadness. The way everything has played out. I understand business and life, but what hurts me from the bottom of my heart is Wendy Larry. I understand expectations. I understand what it takes to have a championship team, but what Wendy has done for Old Dominion, what transpired in the last three months, by far is not right because of what she has done the last 27 years, including a 20-10 record last year. I understand it's a business. But what she has done over the years has been unbelievable.
"Wendy should have had a celebration not a resignation."

Hill Brockett said given the success Larry achieved at ODU -- a list that includes 17 straight CAA Tournament titles, NCAA runner-up in 1997, an Elite Eight appearance in 2002 -- she doesn't doubt the program would have reached great heights again. 
"In the past, she has gotten out of that hole," she said. "We were 5-21. You don't want to go back to those years, but look what she has done. Can she get out of a hole like that? Hell yeah."
Hill Brockett, a 1994 ODU graduate, doesn't want to be an assistant for another team. The job wasn't a steppingstone, necessarily, though she has thoughts of being a head coach.She is among the most decorated players in school history, earning Player of the Year honors from the CAA three times.  

Besides her all-conference accolades, Hill Brockett was named the CAA Most Valuable Player in 1994, Player of the Year in the State of Virginia, and she earned Kodak District III All-American honors. She was the first player in Old Dominion history to lead the team in scoring and rebounding all four years of her career.

"I don't think I could wear any other colors," she said. "I have my degree from Old Dominion. Lady Monarchs: You think about homecoming, you think about get-togethers; how do you reconcile? What part of me, Celeste, not coach Brockett, wants to be part of Old Dominion? I'm not bitter. I'm sad. Old Dominion is a part of my life. To be a Hall-of-Famer, to have these accolades all associated with Old Dominion ... I'm empty when I'm thinking about Old Dominion. I'm happy being associated with Old Dominion; I'm blessed with the opportunities I've had with Old Dominion, but I'm sad in the sense of, really, how everything panned out. I really don't know when I will pick up again with Old Dominion.

"I want to support ODU athletics, but how do I genuinely do that?"

Hill Brockett has a job within the Covington School District. She is just shy of completing requirements that would allow her to become certified as a teacher -- education she put on hold to return to ODU three years ago as an assistant. Her degree is in human services and counseling, and, "I applied to every city for a human services position," she said. "I never had any interviews with anybody. Ideally I would have loved to have stayed here."

Instead she, husband Gary, her son, Kingston, 2, and her niece, Zuri will depart for Kentucky on Thursday.

Hill Brockett is particularly saddened that Zuri, who lives with the family, will not be able to graduate from Princess Anne High School. Zuri, who plays for the Cavaliers, would have been a senior this fall.

"She received her class ring at the PA ring dance in April," Hill Brockett said.

Hill Brockett does feel blessed to have great support in Covington. She will complete her master's. Perhaps someday she will return to coaching.

"I will miss fans, co-workers, people I've connected with on campus. I wish the program well. I wish Old Dominion well. Like I said, I'm sad. I know Wendy, the lady who recruited me, I know she will land again .... You know what? This, too shall pass.

"To sum it up, this too shall pass."

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