“I am thrilled to welcome Caroline McCombs to GW,” Vogel said. “Our women’s basketball program is rich with history that serves as an outstanding display of both discipline and excellence for the university, winning 23 Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships. Caroline’s passion for our program and her ability to build a culture grounded in love, service and value addition is an ideal match for our program as we strive to return GW women’s basketball to the national conversation.”
The 2020 America East Coach of the Year, McCombs won 130 games in seven years at Stony Brook. This past season, she led the Seawolves to a 15-6 mark, winning the America East Tournament Championship and earning a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“First off, I’d like to thank President LeBlanc, Mark Diaz, Tanya Vogel and John Square for the belief in me to lead this program,” McCombs said. “In all of my conversations, it was evident that my values would fit seamlessly with the established culture at GW. Furthermore, I’d like to thank Shawn Heilbron for the opportunity to become a head coach and the position he put me in to lead the Stony Brook program.
“GW has a storied tradition. Having worked under Joe McKeown at Northwestern, I was able to learn what a special place GW is. I look forward to helping restore this program as contenders in the Atlantic 10 and across the country.”
McCombs had the Seawolves on the precipice of an NCAA Tournament berth in 2020, winning the program’s first-ever America East regular season championship and advancing to the America East Championship game with a 28-3 record before the remainder of the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Seawolves won 22 consecutive games in 2019-20, garnering votes in the national polls for the first time in program history. McCombs leaves Stony Brook as the program’s winningest Division I coach and second-winningest overall having coached 19 all-conference selections.
McCombs’ teams have made their mark on the defensive end of the floor, ranking in the top 40 nationally in scoring defense each of her seven years on campus. This past year, the Seawolves held opponents to just 52.4 ppg, the fifth-best mark in the nation.
“Our expectations for GW women’s basketball are high, and Caroline McCombs clearly displays the excellence that we are looking for in a leader,” said GW President Thomas LeBlanc. “With a proven track record of recruiting and developing student-athletes who excel on the court and in the classroom, Caroline is an excellent match for our program, and we look forward to welcoming her to GW.”
Prior to becoming a head coach, McCombs gained a wealth of experience as an assistant coach for 15 years at the Division I level. She assisted four different programs and appeared in five NCAA tournaments, including two Sweet 16 appearances. She has also developed a pair of AP All-Americans and three WNBA players.
Before her time at Stony Brook, McCombs spent 2012-14 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn, assisting the Tigers to a pair of WNIT berths. She was influential in signing a recruiting class that ranked 16th nationally in 2012.
McCombs came to Auburn from Northwestern where she was an assistant under former GW head coach and Hall of Famer Joe McKeown from 2010-12. Under her tutelage, Amy Jaeschke was an AP All-American and made history as the program’s first WNBA draft pick. McCombs helped lead the team to a WNIT berth in her first season and assisted in bringing in a top-25 recruiting class.
Prior to Northwestern, McCombs spent five seasons as an assistant at Pittsburgh from 2005-10, aiding the program to five straight postseason appearances that included three NCAA Tournaments and a pair of Sweet 16 berths. With the Panthers, she coached Shavonte Zellous, who earned All-America honors and was a 2009 WNBA Draft pick.
McCombs started her coaching career as an assistant coach at Valparaiso in 1999, holding the title for five years before being elevated to associate head coach in 2004-05. The Crusaders won two conference championships and advanced to consecutive NCAA Tournaments under her watch. She also coached Marlous Nieuwveen, who became the first player in school and conference history to reach the WNBA.
A native of Medina, Ohio, McCombs was an all-conference performer for Youngstown State, where she graduated in 1998 with a degree in dietetics. McCombs was a two-time Mid-Continent Conference Second Team selection in 1996-97 and 1997-98 and played in two NCAA tournaments, including with the 1998 team that pulled off a first-round upset as a #12 seed.
McCombs was enshrined into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008 and has her fingerprints all over the Penguins’ record book. She started 112 of 115 career games and finished her career with 1,577 career points, which still ranks eighth all-time in program history. She also ranks sixth in program history in 3-point field goal percentage (37.2), steals (236) and assists (492).
After graduation, she played professionally in Europe, competing in the Czech Basketball Federation and European Cup in 1998. She earned her master’s degree in liberal studies from Valparaiso in 2001, served as the head coach for the 2004 Athletes in Action team that played in Warsaw, Poland and was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame in Ohio in 2001.