Coach Makell


Coach Lionel Makell won a coach of the year award, for coaching the women’s basketball team, that made it to nationals this year.

Arianna Beers, Sports Editor

AACC Women’s Basketball head coach Lionel Makell won the NJCAA’s 2019 Coach of the Year award for Division III District G.

Makell, who graduated from AACC in 1984, has coached for 30 years—six of them at AACC.

“I’m honored to have [received the award], but without those six girls in the locker room that award means nothing,” Makell said. “So if I could split it into seven pieces, I would.”

Guard Caitlyn Stanbery said Makell has taught her not only important basketball skills, but lessons about family and how players are supposed to support each other.

“I came from a team where if I shot the ball and missed, I was pulled out of the game,” Stanbery said. Makell “has taught me that it’s OK to make mistakes. … The important thing is to recover from it. You don’t keep doing it you build off of it.”

Stanbery said Makell deserves the award because of his relationship with the team and the way he coaches.

“He doesn’t talk to us like players; he talks to us like his daughters,” Stanbery said. “I think people nominated him because of who he really is.”

Stanbery and her teammates said Makell taught them to include God on their team and keep faith that everything will work out in games.

“We pray before games,” Stanbery said. “We incorporate God in every aspect of our team.”

Forward Kaley Haensler, a second-year transfer studies student, agreed that Makell’s coaching goes beyond basketball skills.

“The most valuable thing my coach has taught me is to just keep your faith,” Haensler said. “Put everything in the hands of God, and everything will go how it’s supposed to go.”

Stanbery said Makell introduced her to gospel music.

“I have to say he’s got me into gospel music,” Stanbery said. “So during practice sometimes we listen to pop; we listen to rock; but then we listen to gospel sometimes. It’s never something I’ve heard of. I didn’t really grow up in a church … but he’s definitely brought me into that.”

Makell said he wanted to teach his players lessons they could apply not just on the court, but outside of the gym.

“It’s beyond coaching,” Makell said “It’s not just X’s and O’s,” Makell said. “It’s what happens off the court as well.”

Makell said he admires the bond the team’s six players formed this season, and admitted it was challenging to take such a small team to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament in March.

“The camaraderie and bond that they’ve created, it warms my heart,” Makell said. “I told them, ‘You guys are going to support each other through weddings and birthing your kids. You’re going to go through everything together.’”

Makell said he played for the national championship in 1986 at Salisbury University. He told his team about that experience before the first of their three games at the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, tournament.

Assistant Women’s Basketball coach Kenneth Blake said Makell’s award is “long overdue. … It feels good to see him receive [it] after so many years.”

He added: “From seeing where the program was before I got here versus where the program has been in the past few years is just an accomplishment he’s been working towards.”