Orchestrating a Winning Team

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Michele Savage

Coach Michele Savage was a high school and college basketball star, but basketball was not her first love.

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By John Kilgo

Michele Savage ’s first love was music. She was a gifted young pianist who took after her father, a versatile, professional musician. “But when she started with basketball, it was apparent that she was talented,” said her mother, Mary Savage. So talented, in fact, that when McKinley Middle School in Illinois didn’t have a girls’ basketball team, Savage joined the boys’ team.

Today, Michele Savage is Davidson’s 11th head coach for women’s basketball, having brought her impeccable credentials and deep experience to a 31-year-old program that seeks academic and athletic excellence while competing in the tough Southern Conference.

While Davidson is her first head-coaching job, she’s been well trained for success. She was an All-American at Northwestern University, where she was later inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame. She led those Wildcats to the Big Ten championship in 1990 and to two consecutive seasons of more than 20 wins resulting in back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament. Her work as a player and assistant coach earned her a spot in the Illinois Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Just how special was she as a player?

“She was one of the top 15 women high-school players in the country,” said Don Perrelli, Savage’s head coach at Northwestern. “I knew that if we could successfully recruit Michele to Northwestern that we would be in the running for Big Ten championships.”

Savage comes to Davidson after nine seasons with head coach Lisa Stockton at Tulane University, an outstanding academic school with excellent women’s basketball. Athletic Director Jim Murphy ’78 believed she was qualified to understand the culture of Davidson’s academics and athletics.

Savage’s outlook on basketball is to work hard and not make the sport more complicated than it is. She’s a realist who knows that her team is not always going to have the most talented players on the court. But even then, she says, winning is possible.

“I want our team to compete in every single game,” she says. “Teams that work hard and are fundamentally sound are hard to beat. We can control those things, and I expect us to.”

Photo: Bill Giduz

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