Girls basketball: Stephanie Mickley resigns as St. Bede coach

Led the Bruins to a 29-9 record, fourth-place state finish

St. Bede head girls basketball coach Stephanie Mickley smiles while cutting down the net after defeating Serena in the Class 1A Sectional final game on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 at Gardner-South Wilmington High School.

PERU – Stephanie Mickley did what she set out to do as the St. Bede girls basketball coach.

In two short seasons, she returned the Bruins program to prominence, leading St. Bede to its first state tournament appearance, finishing fourth in Class 1A this past season.

The state tournament games would be her last two games at St. Bede. After two seasons, she has elected to resign as head coach

Mickley, who was named as the IBCA Girls Basketball District 12 Coach of the Year for her accomplishments, said it was a difficult decision.

“We tried to create a basketball culture that put St. Bede back on the map and get these girls to believe they can do hard things. I feel like we did.”

—  Stephanie Mickley

“I had to look at life at all angles, but I had to do what’s best for me and do what’s best for the team,” she said. “I will miss the team and the program. My goal was to improve the program and empower the girls. Teach them life skills they can use after high school, and I think we did the best job we could for them.

“We tried to create a basketball culture that put St. Bede back on the map and get these girls to believe they can do hard things. I feel like we did. It’s still a very hard decision. I will always hold St. Bede dear to my heart. They took a chance on me and I will be forever grateful for that, and I will miss them.”

St. Bede head girls basketball coach Stephanie Mickley talks to the media after the game against Okawville in the Class 1A State semifinal game on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 at CEFCU Arena in Normal.

The Bruins went 9-21 in Mickley’s first season at the helm and made a complete turnaround with a 29-9 record this past season, including an 18-game win streak leading into the state tournament.

Mickley said the first season was a learning year for the team and herself, and despite the record, she saw good things ahead.

“We saw what was coming back and their abilities and their personalities,” she said. “That team you saw something special and I wanted to make sure that we gave them absolutely over 100% and see what happens. The end result was a good one.”

Although they lost their first game of the season by 65 points to eventual 2A state champion Peoria Notre Dame and went 1-3 in the Pontiac Tournament, Mickley’s ambitions were not swayed.

“I did dream of that [going to state],” she said. “We knew their capabilities. We knew they could go far. We didn’t know how far. But there’s a lot of factors that play in to that. Injury prevention, sickness, grades. There’s so many things, the stars have to align for teams to get where we went.

“I told the girls they are a Cinderella story and they might be a little too young to know what that means.”

Mickley, a gastroenterology nurse practitioner, thanked the community for their tremendous support.

Mickley was an all-state player at Kaneland High School before going to play at Rosary College [now Dominican University], an NAIA Division I school. Having coached girls basketball for 23 years, including stops at Orion, La Salle-Peru, Dimmick Grade School and with the Illinois Valley Warriors travel organization, Mickley said she can’t answer at this time if she will return to coaching.

“Coaching is my passion, and I love it,” she said.

In a news release, St. Bede athletic director Michael Armato said, “St. Bede greatly appreciates all the time, energy and effort Coach put into the St. Bede Academy girls program. Her work helped elevate the program as well as allow the program to advance to the IHSA Class 1A State Series in 2024. On behalf of St. Bede Academy I can confidently state that we will forever be grateful for Coach Mickley, and we wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors.”

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