Great coaches typically have a coaching tree.
Players and those that worked with them go on to become head coaches themselves, using what they’ve learned from said coach in their careers.
While Marion’s girls basketball coach Kollyn McWhinney didn’t play for one of the greatest coaches in women’s basketball history, she could still be considered part of coach Jody Conradt’s tree.
McWhinney spent a year at the University of Texas involved with Conradt’s program.
Conradt was the women’s basketball coach at Texas for 31 years. While there she led the Longhorns to national prominence, turning the team into one of the most powerful women’s basketball programs in the country, winning a national championship, and eventually retiring from coaching with 900 victories.
Conradt was at UT while McWhinney went to school there, and as part of her degree plan, McWhinney worked with the women’s team, as well as the Longhorn’s football team, as a student athletic trainer.
Her position with the team meant she traveled with them, and she picked up some things from Conradt along the way.
“With her it was not so much about the X’s and O’s, as much as it was about the people you’re dealing with and the relationships you develop with them,” McWhinney said. “I think that’s why she was so successful for so long, because of the way she dealt with people.”
Knowing she wanted to coach after graduation, she picked up as much as she could from the legendary coach.
“I learned a ton from her,” McWhinney said. “From simple things like some of the drills she used, to how she dealt with different situations in games and out of games and in practices — to how she organized her practices and how she used her coaching staff — I tried to gain as much (knowledge) as I could.”
McWhinney began playing basketball in the sixth grade, going on to play at Clemens High School in Schertz.
“When I started playing in sixth grade, I didn’t take a shot the entire season,” McWhinney said. “I was still learning, but I kept working. As a freshman I got moved up to JV, and by the time I was a sophomore I was playing on the varsity.”
She started her sophomore through senior years, as a point guard and shooting guard, graduating in 1995.
She loved the sport for a couple of reasons.
“There’s a lot of things that I really enjoyed,” McWhinney said. “I enjoyed the teamwork aspect, competing together, the speed of the sport and the constant action.”
While there she played for some good teams, finishing third in district, which at that time was one spot short of making the playoffs.
“We had a really tough district,” McWhinney said. “My senior year, when we finished third, the two teams that were first and second in our district (Fredericksburg and Sam Houston) played each other in the regional final. As a player I never got to play in a playoff game, so coming to Marion and getting that experience in the playoffs has been a lot of fun.”
McWhinney graduated from UT in 2000, and shortly thereafter accepted a position as an assistant coach at Marion.
“At the time the AD at Marion was coach (Frank) Tobola, and he had been a coach at Clemens while I was there,” McWhinney said. “The AD at Clemens had seen my name, knew me from my time there and talked to coach Tobola, so they contacted me for an assistant volleyball, basketball and softball position.”
She was an assistant for three years, before taking the volleyball head coaching position.
“The next year basketball came open, so for one year I was head volleyball and basketball coach,” McWhinney said. “It was a lot, so it was just for the one year.”
She’s been the head coach for the Lady Bulldogs basketball team for the last 15 years, and has also coached several other sports at the school.
There have been other offers, but McWhinney has chosen to stay at Marion.
“It goes back to people,” she said. “We’ve had some success with the program, which has been fun. My family is here, my kids go to school here, the kids I work with every day and the parents that are part of the community, I really enjoy. I’ve also been blessed to work with some really great coaches in my time here.”
The Lady Bulldogs made the state tournament in 2006 at the Erwin Center in Austin, and finished the year 33-3.
“It was one of those years where we had a team that just had great chemistry,” McWhinney said. “We were tiny, but they had such great chemistry and got along well off the court.
“We started off 8-2, then won 25 in row before we lost in the state tournament.”
It was a special thing to coach in the same building where she had worked with coach Conradt and the Longhorns while she was in school.
“I would say that it’s probably the highlight of my coaching career,” McWhinney said. “Coach Conradt was there and when we left she was outside and we got to chat for a while.”
McWhinney prefers to run with her teams, using full court pressure and pushing the ball to speed up the game, but she adjusts when and if it’s needed.
“We’ve had teams that we’ve done that with and been successful, but we’ve had teams where we’ve had to slow down and play a half court game,” she said. “It depends on the players each year and adjusting to the strengths those players have.”
McWhinney’s teams at Marion have made seven regional tournaments in her 15 years at the school, including five in a row from 2011 to 2015.
The first time they made it under her leadership was 2006, the year they made it to the state tournament. A game at the regional tournament to get them to state was “probably the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of.”
In the regional final, the Lady Bulldogs faced a West Oso team that averaged 80 points a game.
“When we won the night before, we had people tell us that we didn’t need to bother coming back to play,” McWhinney said. “But we played the best defensive game ever — and ended up winning 38-35 to get to Austin.”
A game to get to the regional tournament in 2013 holds a special memory for the coach.
“We had lost four starters to graduation, so we started three sophomores and a freshman,” McWhinney said. “We played a Goliad team that started four seniors, were down by eight with two minutes left, and came back to tie it and beat them in overtime.
“It was a game that stands out in my mind — seeing those young kids really growing up that year. For them to make it back to the regional tournament that year was super impressive.”
The seventh time was in 2017, when a double overtime win got them to the regional tournament.
“We hit a shot at the buzzer to send into overtime, and then another shot with five seconds left to put it into double overtime, when we won,” McWhinney said. “We’ve had some very exciting games since I’ve been here.”