Marlene Stollings arrival on June 5, 2012 marked a new chapter for the VCU Women’s Basketball program, including the installation of a fun, offensive style of play. Fans saw flashes of her signature “Fury” brand during her first season with the Rams in 2012-13 despite inheriting a squad that returned just 20 percent of its offense (fewest in the Atlantic 10) and 31 percent of its minutes played (second fewest in A-10).
Perhaps her most impressive work with the Rams came in the form of junior Robyn Parks, who was VCU’s leading returning scorer at just 6.6 points per game. Parks flourished under Stollings’ new brand in 2012-13 as she went on to lead the Atlantic 10 in scoring (18.7 ppg), finished second in steals (2.7 spg) and ranked among the league’s top 10 in both rebounding (7.9 rpg) and field goal percentage (.470) en route to a second team all-conference citation. Meanwhile, freshman Jessica Pellechio earned a spot on the A-10’s all-rookie squad after leading all freshmen in scoring (11.3). The sharp shooter also led the league and ranked 15th nationally with 3.0 three-pointers per game, while her 77 treys were the third most in VCU single-season history.
As a team, the Rams were dangerous beyond the arc during Stollings’ first year at the helm, knocking down a school record 13 triples against UMKC, while hitting double-digit 3-pointers on three different occasions. In addition, Pellechio tied the A-10’s single-game record with nine against the Kangaroos.
Although Stollings shares an offensive-minded approach to the game, her squad proved it could be stingy on defense as well, as the Rams led the league and ranked 23rd nationally with more than 11 steals per game last season – better than three more per game than the previous year. VCU also forced 18.1 turnovers per outing, while causing 20 or more miscues 11 different times. The Rams allowed fewer than 60 points on 13 occasions and held an opponent to under 30-percent shooting six times.
During her introductory press conference, Stollings admitted that recruiting will become the “lifeblood” of her program. Her June arrival put her staff slightly behind on the recruiting trail, but that didn’t seem to matter as just five months later she and her new staff had rapidly assembled a six-player recruiting class, which was tabbed the 38th-best in the nation, tops among all A-10 squads, and third-highest among non-BCS programs by national recruiting service Blue Star Basketball. One of those players – Camille Calhoun – was listed as a four-star recruit by ESPN. The Rams joined nationally-ranked Dayton as one of just two A-10 schools to boast an ESPN Top 100 recruit.
Stollings, the 2012 Big South Conference Coach of the Year, made a splash in her first year as a collegiate head coach in 2011-12, guiding Winthrop University to more than 40 team and individual school records, including just the program’s second winning season (18-13) in 26 years. Prior to joining the Eagles, Stollings served as an assistant at Southeastern Conference power Ole Miss from 2007-11 with the final season as the Rebels’ associate head coach. Her more than decade-long coaching and recruiting career also includes stops in the Atlantic 10, Sun Belt and Horizon League.
Stollings has consistently been recognized as one of the nation’s top coaches, earning invitations to the prestigious Villa 7 Consortium, and most recently the esteemed Center for Coaching Excellence at Columbia University.
In her first year as a head coach, Stollings wasted little time reviving a Winthrop program that had posted a 42-52 record in three seasons prior to her arrival. Her 18 wins in her only season with the Eagles were the most by any first-year head coach in program history and tied for the second most in Winthrop’s 26-year NCAA Division I era. Stollings also guided Winthrop to just its third winning conference record in school history, including a program-best 12 Big South victories. Her squad tied school records for home wins (10), road wins (8) and conference road wins (5), and became the first Eagles team ever to record four-game win streaks twice in a season en route to sweeping a school record four Big South opponents.
Guard development has perhaps been one of Stollings’ best coaching attributes, and it wasn’t long before her up-tempo style of offense took shape at Winthrop. The Eagles set single-season school records for points per game (69.6), 3-point field goals made (236) and 80-point contests (9), while knocking down a single-game record 17 triples, one shy of the Big South Conference mark. Winthrop also drained 7.6 threes per game, which ranked 10th in the NCAA, while Stollings’ first recruit, junior transfer Diana Choibekova, led the nation with 3.9 treys per outing. Choibekova’s 121 threes, the most in Big South single-season history, were five away from the NCAA’s single-season mark. Meanwhile, sophomore Dequesha McClanahan became the first player in program history to be named Big South Player of the Year after finishing second in the country in assists (7.2 apg) and 11th in scoring (21.1 ppg).
Prior to her arrival in Rock Hill, S.C., Stollings spent four seasons at Ole Miss, where she was responsible for overall offense as well as oversight of recruiting, scouting and coordination of individual guard development. Recognized as an outstanding national recruiter, she signed arguably the best Ole Miss recruiting class in nearly 30 years in 2010. Mississippi native Valencia McFarland, who ranked as the No. 14 point guard in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz, highlighted a class that also included highly touted players from Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas. Stollings’ final two classes at Ole Miss ranked 39th (2011) and 42nd (2010) in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz.
Stollings consistently molded Ole Miss’ guards into one of the top corps in the country during each of her four seasons. The Rebels’ offense ranked among the top-five in the SEC in seven offensive categories in 2011 and eight in 2010. Under Stollings’ watchful eye, Bianca Thomas, a 2010 first-round draft pick of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, ranked 10th in the NCAA and first in the SEC in scoring (20.9 ppg) as a senior en route to an All-SEC first-team selection for the second consecutive season. Thomas also became the first Ole Miss player since 1986 to lead the SEC in scoring, while setting a new school single-season record with 100 three-pointers.
Stollings boasts extensive experience as both a player and a coach at the Division I level, having also spent time as an assistant at Saint Louis, Wright State, New Mexico State and Jacksonville.
A native of Beaver, Ohio, Stollings enjoyed a decorated collegiate and prep career in her home state. She earned First Team All-Mid-American Conference honors at Ohio University after finishing eighth in the nation and first in the league in scoring at 22.9 points per game her senior year. She served as team captain for the Bobcats and earned Kodak All-America honorable mention honors in 1998. Stollings remains in the Ohio record books with 10 three-point baskets and 41 points scored in a single game.
In the classroom, she earned the Ohio University Alumni Scholar Athlete citation and Dean’s List honors, and graduated with both a B.B.A. in marketing and a B.S. in sport industry from Ohio University in 1998. Stollings began her collegiate playing career at Ohio State University, where she was a two-time scholar athlete for the Buckeyes.
Following her collegiate career, Stollings played one season professionally for Club ABB Baden in Switzerland. She was later invited to the WNBA’s Utah Starzz training camp in 1999, and also played for the NWBL Mobile Majesty. While playing professionally in Europe, Stollings coached a men’s club team to an undefeated season.
Considered one of the finest scorers to ever play in the basketball rich state of Ohio, Stollings finished her prep career at Eastern as the leading scorer in Ohio high school history (both boys and girls) with 3,514 points, a record that still stands (LeBron James scored 2,657). The 1993 Ohio Miss Basketball was also presented a resolution by both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives for her academic and athletic achievement.
Stollings was a two-time Division III High School Player of the Year and four-time conference Player of the Year. She earned Kodak All-America honors her senior season. Her name currently appears more than 30 times in the Ohio High School Athletic Association record books. In her honor, Feb. 19 was declared Marlene Stollings Day in Pike County, Ohio.