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NIU Hall of Famer Debbie Whitman promoted to assistant coach for women’s basketball team

June 5, 2013
Debbie Whitman and Stephanie Smith

Debbie Whitman and Stephanie Smith

Northern Illinois University head women’s basketball coach Kathi Bennett announced that two members of the women’s basketball staff have been promoted to new roles.

NIU Hall of Famer Debbie Whitman moves into an assistant coaching position and Stephanie Smith takes over as director of basketball operations Wednesday.

“I am, as our entire team is, so happy to announce the promotion of Debbie Whitman to assistant women’s basketball coach and Stephanie Smith to director of basketball operations,” Bennett said. “Anytime there is an opportunity to promote from within with former NIU players and alumni who absolutely love NIU and a great passion to see us succeed, it is a no-brainer.”

Whitman, a 1993 graduate of Northern Illinois University, spent the 2012-13 season with the Huskies as director of basketball operations. A three-year letterwinner for the NIU women’s basketball team from 1990-93, Whitman was a part of a prosperous run for the program. She helped lead the Huskies to a 1991 WNIT appearance and the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Tournaments.

Kathi Bennett

Kathi Bennett

Prior to joining Bennett’s staff in 2012, Whitman spent the 2011-12 season as an assistant coach at North Central College, a Division III school in Naperville, Ill.

A native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Whitman has a long history in the DeKalb community, serving as the head coach of the DeKalb High School girls basketball program from 2005-10 where her teams posted a 95-51 record. Under her leadership, the Barbs captured conference, regional and sectional championships while advancing to the Sweet 16 of the 2006 Illinois High School Association Girls Basketball Tournament. She spent two years as an assistant at DeKalb before assuming the head coaching duties.

“The respect I had for Coach Whitman’s knowledge of the game was great when I hired her as our director of basketball operations,” she said. “After spending a year with her, seeing her in action day to day, the impact she has had on our players and in the community, I’m fired up to have her here to say the least.”

Whitman is a member of several hall of fames as a player. She was inducted into the Assumption High School Hall of Fame in 2004, the NIU Hall of Fame in 2005 and will be inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011.

A four-year letterwinner for the Huskies (2001-04), Smith spent the last two years as a graduate assistant for Bennett. She returned to her alma mater after spending eight years as a high school coach, including two seasons as head varsity coach at Burlington Central where she tallied a 28-28 record. She also served as an assistant at Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights, Ill. and at South Elgin High School in Elgin, Ill. She has coached at the AAU level.

A 2004 graduate of NIU, Smith earned her master’s degree in adult and higher education in 2013. During her career as a Huskie, Smith played in 113 games, starting 36 at guard. She scored 475 points (4.2/game) and held a career .350 three-point shooting percentage, good for 10th best in program history.

“In hiring Stephanie as director of basketball operations, I have hired a unique talent,” Bennett said. “After being our GA, she has built and instilled in our players the positive attitude we need, and shares her love for NIU. Debbie and Stephanie are exactly who we need.”

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