Do not test the basketball gods.
That is Lane Lord's warning to his team. Defy them at your own risk.
"It's something we tell our team," said Lord, the third-year women's coach at Pittsburg State. "If you're not doing the right things, the basketball gods will not shine on you. Fair warning."
And by all accounts, under Lord, the Gorillas have been doing the right things.
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Last season, the former Heights and Barton County coach led the Gorillas to their first 20-win season in a decade as Pittsburg State went 20-7 and finished third in the MIAA, the team's highest league finish since winning the league title in 1996. Lord, who won Class 6A titles in 2002 and 2003 for the Falcons, was named the league's coach of the year.
"We put a lot of emphasis on not just being good at basketball, but doing things right in all aspects of your life," Lord said. "We want our players to do good in school and be good people, too."
The Gorillas are picked to finish third in both the coaches and media polls this season and received first-place votes in both polls. That's in stark contrast to Lord's first season, when Pittsburg State went 10-17 and finished ninth.
"The first year was a struggle, and it was painful at times," Lord said. "But when you're used to winning, that's to be expected. What it did was make us a lot more motivated to work harder and made it a lot more fun to win games.
"I kind of enjoyed the process of rebuilding a team, which was something I hadn't been through in eight or nine years as a coach, since I was at Heights."
Lord won't have to rebuild this year, with All-MIAA center Nicole McCombs back for her senior season. The 6-foot-1 Drexel transfer averaged 15.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last year. The Gorillas also return point guard DePrice Taylor, a Barton transfer who averaged 10.3 points.
"Nicole is just a great, physical presence in the post," Lord said. "She's left-handed, which makes her tougher to guard in women's basketball, and she can find a way to score with two or three people guarding her."